Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In The Pale Moonlight: YEAR WALK Review

In Swedish folklore, the Year Walk was an ancient and mysterious vision quest embarked upon by those who wished to peer into the future, sometimes against all wisdom. Abstaining from food or drink or human contact for an entire day, the Year Walker would venture out in the dead of night on New Year's Eve, often encountering guardian spirits who tested the fortitude of the traveler--if he survived, he would be granted a vision of things to come in the next year, for good or ill.  Year Walk (iOS, $3.99), a recently released adventure by Simogo, puts the player in the snow-crusted shoes of a lovesick wanderer on one of these journeys.
A pale horse is a pale horse, of course, of course.

Year Walk works best going in with as little information as possible, though a free companion app is available that fills in the folklore background and contains hints to uncover the "true" ending. But there are no instructions, no tutorials, and no menus here. You begin in the snow-covered woods outside your cabin, and from there you wander the maze-like, phantasmal forest, stumbling across artifacts, mysterious etchings and symbols, and abandoned shelters, all under a palpable sense of foreboding. The art style and ethereal soundtrack--with its grim papery cut-outs and dissonant strains--contribute to the feeling of being warned away by increasingly hostile presences.

Unfortunately, Year Walk is only about as long as an afternoon stroll, easily completed in less than two hours. The game makes good use of the interface possibilities on the iPhone or iPad--though none of the puzzles are particularly difficult, they occasionally require some lateral thinking about the device you're using. (It also helps to keep a pad and pencil handy.) But there's no denying the game is more of an "atmospheric experience" than anything else. As such, its appeal hinges on how immersed you feel in it, and one might reasonably wonder how creepy a game can be on a four or five-inch cell phone. With headphones plugged in and zero distractions, however, it is possible to feel like that lost journeyman trudging inexorably toward a final, awful revelation.


Sky Horse Interactive said...

Absolutely loved this game, and really enjoyed reading all your blog posts. Thanks!!

Mike said...

Very belated thanks for the comment!