Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.
Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:
First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.
Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.
Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…
A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.
Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.
Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.
The game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.
The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.
While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.
All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.
“To see if they would be wealthy”
“To see if they would be happy”
“To see if they would live”
“To see if they would be loved”