Year Walk Will Make You Grab Your Notebook

Year WalkI’m not a very patient man.

I have a fondness for games that feature complex puzzles, but I almost always end up resorting to an online walkthrough when I get stuck. I never would have finished Fez without help, and I’m pretty sure I spent more of Ocarina of Time pouring through walkthroughs than I spent actually playing it.

Admittedly, I made it through Metrico without help, besides one cryptic clue I found in a forum somewhere that I had to decode in order to draw any value from it. For those of you who, like me, would rather find an easy solution than get stuck on the last couple puzzles in that game, I’ve provided walkthoughs for both the final chapter and the epilogue (both of which had me stumped for a good while before I actually solved them).

But when I started playing Year Walk, I made a very conscious decision to avoid getting any outside help. I wasn’t very deep into the game before I found myself grabbing a notebook so I could write things down. As of this writing, I’ve filled an entire page with hastily scrawled clues.

The best puzzle-based adventure games speak their own language. I don’t mean this literally, though there are games in which a made-up language features prominantly in the solving of its puzzles. What I mean is that these games feature their own style of logic, and that logic feels consistant throughout the game world. Once you start solving puzzles, patterns begin to emerge. You start unravelling the thought process behind the various creative decisions in the game.

Year WalkSo the challenge becomes interpreting the data you’re given in order to find the patterns that will eventually guide you to a conclusion that feels like it works. The most satisfying puzzles are the ones that encourage you to obsess over the clues until they eventually start making a weird sort of sense rather than the ones that have you randomly clicking things until something happens.

Year Walk definitely features its own sort of logic, and, in writing things down, I eventually got to a point where I felt like I was beginning to undertand bits and pieces of how its world functions on a fundamental level. I worry that non-Year Walk-ers will see my notebook as evidence that I’m involved in some weird ass cult or something, but those scribbles have helped me sort through the game’s strange clues.

And I love that. That makes Year Walk more effective. The amount of time I’ve spent attempting to pull meaning from a bunch of vague scribbles serves to underscore the game’s creepy elements. The eerie feel is more effective when I’ve been absorbed into that world.

If you end up playing Year Walk, I would strongly advise avoiding walkthroughs. After all, a journey through the forest is much spookier when there’s not someone holding your hand through it.