|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.