Simogo’s Year Walk ruined me two years ago, when it was first released for iOS (review). I’ve always been a sucker for games that explore folklore I’m not familiar with, and having a game centered around the obscure Swedish tradition of Årsgång, or "year walking", made for a really unique and ominous experience. There’s just nothing like this legend in modern times, and thus you start off the game completely unsure of what's going on. The more you read about it the more you fear what will happen next.
Year Walking is a tradition that saw a person temporarily losing their Christianity, as they fasted for a whole day at the end of the year before heading out in the dark to face all the supernatural creatures that lived in the woods and rivers. They then headed to the local church, and safety, all in order to catch glimpses of the future and perhaps change their destiny.
This plot combined with haunting picture book art and creepy puzzles to make for a remarkable game, one which combined with a separate companion app to fully flesh out the world and mythology.
Now Year Walk is available for Wii U, in what the designers are calling the definitive version of the game. After playing it, it’s clear that it is. Let’s just get this out of the way first- if you haven’t played Year Walk, this is the version to get. If you’ve already played it, you might still want to pick this up, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve played the original version and the puzzles are fading in your memory. It’s still just as effective, still just as chilling, and it does change up a few things.
While anyone who’s played through the iOS original will find much of the same here, the Wii U version includes a few additions that were created for the Steam version. For instance it uses the nicer art from that version, as well as a map that tracks where you are and what landmarks you might find. I’m actually not a big fan of the inclusion of a map; while it does make navigating a lot easier, it erases that frantic feeling you’d get as you trudged through the snow, hoping that you knew where you were going. It’s much less frustrating with a map but you do lose a feeling of exploring the woods, having to remember and use landmarks in order to mark your progress.
But besides the map, the Wii U GamePad also offers you a bunch of features via its second screen; a place to jot down notes, which is indispensable for a couple of the puzzles; the full encyclopedia of creatures from Swedish folklore (which came as a separate companion app on iOS that you had to switch between); a hint section that allows you to get a couple hints for each portion of the game if you’re stuck; and a mysterious final section, which may be well-known to anyone who played through Year Walk before. Here that part is implemented in another way... you'll just have to see for yourself.
So this is no mere slapdash port! It fully understands the Wii U’s strengths and takes advantage of all of them. You can explore the game using the motion controls of the GamePad, which is remarkably intuitive, and there are a few puzzles that have been re-imagined and utilize the various features of the GamePad in creative ways. To say any more would ruin the surprise (and also the shock) that you’ll experience. This is one of those games that makes you happy to own a Wii U, because it’s genuinely something that couldn’t be replicated on another platform. Lately it seems as if more and more developers have realized that the key to success on Wii U is using the GamePad cleverly, as the wonderful Affordable Space Adventures proves. While the rate of release of such titles is still far too slow, the trickle of great games like Year Walk make you happy to still be an owner. That this comes from Simogo lends us hope that they next turn to porting their other well-regarded games (like Device 6 and The Sailor's Dream) to the starving platform.
So for now pick it up, turn off the lights, crank the sound. Another walk beckons.
Year Walk was developed by Simogo with help for this port from Dakko Dakko, and is available today on the Wii U eShop for $6.99.