Year Walk is being favourably compared to ace indie horror sensation Marble Hornets around the web. Well, being the only person on the Lolocaust payroll who has taste and likes good things, I am naturally a massive MH freak and therefore the obvious candidate to tell you whether the parallel is a valid and relevant one.
Yes it is. There you go.
Having said that, the two are very, very different beasts. Year Walk employs a lot of Marble Hornets’ favourite tropes (such as spooky forests, visual tearing, layered meta-storytelling, timey-wimey fuckery and unspeakable but strangely well-dressed monstrosities lurking in the water), but the similarity is arguably skin deep. Hornets is a sprawling AR game slash horror soap opera which is painfully drawn out over months at a time while the fans whip themselves up into a frenzy over what the next shocking plot reveal will be. Year Walk takes an hour to finish, maybe three if you’re not paying attention.
Incredibly, though, an hour of Year Walk will leave you feeling as gut punched as several months worth of The Slendy Gang’s exploits. Without spoilering too much, the game comes with a short companion on Swedish folklore. The companion feeds into the game which feeds into the meta game via the companion again, and then they all meet up back at the game for the proper ending.
In terms of specifics, it begins with a conversation in a windmill between a boy and a girl. The girl, it seems, is on the verge of having to make a difficult choice between the protagonist and his rival, so our hero is setting out on the Year Walk – a fast followed by a run around the forest in the middle of the night on New Years Eve, during which one is meant to meet one’s own future.
Over the course of the game he finds himself encountering five creatures of Swedish mythology (the Myling, the Raven, the Brook Horse, the Huldra and the Grim). The game then ends and the backplot begins, as the facts behind what has just actually happened unfold themselves before the player.
How the hell to quantify what happens next in terms of gaming? Is the way in which Year Walk loops and folds back on itself an end sequence? An Easter egg? A new game plus? A meta game? A secret level? More importantly, is there any point trying to classify something so genre-defying with generic labels?
Last year, I was quite harsh on The Room because it cost a fiver and could be finished in several hours. Well, Year Walk costs two fitty, took me an hour, and I adored it, so egg on my face says me. Go get this one – it’s a must have iOS exclusive that doesn’t just throw out the rule book on writing game plot, it drop kicks it into the creek, Blair Witch style.