Preview: Year Walk

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Very few games seem steeped in the culture behind them. In many cases the opposite is true, as worlds full of bland uninteresting cityscapes populated by bland uninteresting characters have become an accepted model. However there are those that shine out, crafting entire worlds, settings, and characters out of an imaginary history. It is increasingly rare that an interesting and narratively sound product appears anywhere near the mobile market, but around twelve months ago one did. Year Walk released to critical praise, and has since raked in numerous awards from numerous outlets. The iOS gem finds its history in Swedish lore, and expounds upon it masterfully. The basic story is that once a year, villagers who wished to glimpse the future would fast for a day and then venture out at midnight. The creatures of Swedish legend then encountered the Year Walkers and granted bits of the future. Players found themselves taking one of these ventures, encountering these legends. The game is built around the mesmerizing, even tantalizing idea that should one go far enough, they could peek into the future.

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Some may wonder how anyone can learn about an entire culture’s religion by playing a game, but its creators anticipated the problem. Understanding the many myths players interact with in the game can be difficult, so developers Simon Flesser and Magnus Gardebäck teamed up with folklore and ethnology expert Theodor Almsten. The result of their collaboration, the Year Walk Companion, is a separate app essential to making it through the game.

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With both Year Walk and the companion app downloaded, iOS players prepared to undertake a chilling journey in a quiet, brooding Swedish forest. The simple swipe and tap gameplay lent itself very well to a mobile platform, while the beautiful scenery and unsettling imagery became a landmark in mobile gameplay. Unique puzzles utilized the IPhone’s gyroscope and touchscreen in ways that made players feel smart. For fans of the horror genre there was finally a legitimately scary game on the go. The title felt like something new and different in a market of clones and copy-cats. Unfortunately, the game was iOS an exclusive, so many who would love the intriguing adventure missed out. Those who did now have a reason to celebrate, as the game is set for a Steam launch.

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Starting on March 6, millions will finally have access to Year Walk through Steam. In the lead up to launch, developer Simogo is boasting over some key differences in all aspects of the game. Graphically, updated art can be seen throughout the game along with a map for easier navigation. For playability a hint system and new areas were added. A smaller addition, the achievements, actually manage to change the game by creating ‘meta’ puzzles and interesting ways to play through the game. While many of these bullet points may seem like marketing jargon, most if not all of them actually represent worthwhile additions. Within minutes of jumping in, the ‘updated art’ materializes in nuanced fog and delicate snowflakes. The puzzles exclusive to mobile, genius as they were, have been replaced with somehow better versions (at least in the section we played). Year Walk has become more efficient as well, combining the companion app with the base game. While immersion is a term often thrown around marketing departments, the fact that players don’t have to open a separate app provides a bit of captivation absent from the previous edition.

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With today’s expectations, a port is good when it works like the original game. What the duo at Simogo is doing goes above and beyond. The craftsmanship put into every aspect show the devotion the team has, and is a great foundation to build expectations on for when the game launch’s in early March. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or tweet them to @CometIndy, and I will answer what I can. Check below for some more images from the game, and the latest trailer check Simogo’s blog. Thanks for reading-
Ethan Horn

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