Adventure Game of the Year 2013

By Owen Faraday 12 Dec 2013 0
It is pitch black. It is pitch black.

Would you have been surprised to learn last year that the makers of cute, casual fare like Beat Sneak Bandit and Bumpy Road would be making some of the most interesting, genre-subverting games of 2013? I sure would have.

Even honest folks avoid the church at night. Even honest folks avoid the church at night.

Released in January, Year Walk is the tonal opposite of Simogo's other 2013 standout, Device 6. Where Device 6 is campy and fundamentally unserious as it vamps on The Prisoner, Year Walk is tense and sinister and channelling Ingmar Bergman -- but a little Terry Gilliam, too.

You are alone in the woods of Year Walk, undertaking the årsgång, a uniquely Swedish vision quest from pagan times gone by. This is an adventure that you navigate in first person, which enhances the solitude of your surroundings and accentuates the unease when you find one of the supernatural creatures you're seeking out.

The visual aesthetics of the forest and the immersive sound of your footsteps in the snow combine to make one of the most extraordinary experiences I've ever had with a game. Year Walk is also necessarily a mobile experience: on a PC or a console it wouldn't work nearly as well. It's a game that benefits tremendously from the intimacy of being held in your hands with headphones to focus you.

If Device 6 is a story about choice and freedom, then Year Walk is about trust. The monsters that you meet walking through the Swedish forest at night are stories told to children -- lies intended to compel good behaviour. But even within the lies there are further questions about trust: the Brook Horse invites the innocent to ride on his back, and then gallops into the river to drown them; the Huldra lures you deeper into the forest that she guards where she might bless you, or drink you dry of blood. Can anything be taken at face value?

The world of Year Walk is a magical, dangerous place -- but not a place beyond your understanding. Every horror in Year Walk is a myth; a story told long ago by someone like you. The most powerful magic, Simogo tells us, is learning about yourself and where you came from.

Runner-up: Gemini Rue

Honourable Mention: Papa Sangre II

To see all the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2013 Awards, visit the awards index page.
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