Sawbuck Gamer

Year Walk

Night Terrors

Year Walk is a muted stroll through sobering horror.

By Steve Heisler • February 25, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Without saying a word, your character in Year Walk conveys a desperate need to know about his future. His rash decision begins this moody, Tim Burton-tinged puzzle game. In a fictional past, those wishing for a glimpse into their future lock themselves away in darkness for an entire day, without food and water. They later venture outside at midnight, encountering mystical beasts and ghosts who provide omens of what’s to come. Before you begin your own Year Walk, your girlfriend warns you, via silent movie titles, that the results cannot be good— those who’ve done this before you have all gone mad. You try anyway.

You’re thrown into a terrifying alternate-reality version of a snowy, woodsy village with only a vague goal in mind: knowledge. This nameless man seeks the answer to a question he has yet to articulate, yet it’s you who learns as you go, controlling the man’s movements with simple swipes across the screen. Abandoned sheds by day turn to demonic dens for serial killers at night—a doll hangs by its neck surrounded by owls etched into the wall with a knife. And after twilight the babbling brook, scenic even in the overcast daytime light, is now home to a dead-eyed horse in a tuxedo, searching for the ghosts of children.

It all might seem too idiosyncratic if Year Walk attempted to explain the images with exposition, but the openness of the quest lends itself to these striking visuals. Without expectations, you’re free to piece together the story in your own mind and on your own time. And it ain’t pretty. The only time Year Walk explicitly spells anything is at the end, when you’re warned that the game is not over and there are still secrets to find. After so much time at your own pace, this direct contact feels like a jump in an icy river: It’s a shock, but it’s refreshing nonetheless.

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17 Responses to “Night Terrors”

  1. PaganPoet says:

    What awesome art direction. Too bad this isn’t available for Android, I would probably buy it based on that alone.

    • Hey @PaganPoet:disqus , I remember you saying you had an Android tablet in a comment a few weeks ago, what model was it again?  I am currently shopping around.  An Asus of some kind?  How is it?  What O/S is it running?

      • PaganPoet says:

        I have this Samsung model:
        I highly recommend it, it’s incredible especially for such a low price. The O/S is Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwhich

        • Ok, thanks for the info!  That is a great price for the specs, but I’m looking for something in the 10 inch range.  I’m pretty enmeshed in the Android phone ecosystem, and looking for something at the opposite end of the size spectrum.

    • Hrm, tried to reply once, so sorry for the double post if I’m just not seeing it, but:

      Hey @PaganPoet:disqus , you have an Android tablet right?  An Asus of some kind?  How do you like it?  What O/S is it running?  I’m currently shopping around, was gonna go for a Nexus 10 but I was not wowed.

    • Razz Matazz says:

      I was just about to complain about the same. I don’t regret going the Droid route, but every once and a while I do get pissed that I’m missing out on a lot of games that are Apple exclusive.

    • George_Liquor says:

      That screengrab looks like something out of Twice Upon A Time

  2. The existence of this makes me wish I had an iPhone/Pad more than any apple commercial ever could.

  3. valondar says:

    You know I actually own an iPad, but I’ve never put a game on it. The idea of being able to play games while not sitting in front of my computer interests me as a hypothetical but it just involves a suspicious amount of effort in finding the kind of thing I might actually like.

    Well, that half of the job’s clearly done. Thanks Gameological.

  4. dmikester says:

    One thing the review doesn’t mention is the Year Walk Companion, a separate (and free) app that both acts as an explanation of the symbolism of all of the scary and haunting creatures and contains secrets of its own that coincide with the game.  I love the interplay between the apps (something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before), and I really hope that more developers think outside of the box like this.  Also, even if the game is very short, the art direction, atmosphere, and the innovative puzzles more than make it worth the price.

  5. Raging Bear says:

    I just started this yesterday, and I’m officially a fan. Like Amnesia, it can be too dark to play in a lighted room, yet too insanely creepy to play in the dark. The atmosphere it wrings out of such simple (but not really, of course) visuals is absolutely masterful.

    That’s twice in a month I’ve broken my semi-unspoken rule of never getting a paid iOS game unless I’m really, really sure about it, and for 4$ and 5$ no less. The other one (Little Inferno) was also quite worth the money.

  6. Chip Dipson says:

    This looks like good creepy fun. The art style reminds me of the equally creepy and fun Gretal and Hansel flash games. Look ’em up on Newgrounds if you need to kill an afternoon.