Emer: A walk in the woods

It’s getting cold here in New England — not as cold as snowy Canada, granted, but the really mild October is finally giving way to a seasonal November chill. I like the cold, and I like winter, especially when it snows. Cape Cod goes an awfully dull color without it — it’s all brown pine needles and pine bark, dull brown oak leaves still stuck to their branches, blank grey skies. What I’m saying is, I would give a lot for just a little bit of snow, to reflect the light.

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Year Walk isn’t lacking in snow. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric game that takes the form of a walk through some woods. Some spooky woods. Some really, really, really unsettling woods. There are THINGS in the woods — not things that want to kill you, but things that make you question whether you are sane or not. The ghostly goat who has you collect baby souls, the singing lady in a tree (pick the correct note to move forward), the dark bern where your vision is limited to a tiny circle in front of you in which runes and signs are carved…it all conspires to an uneasy experience.

It’s not scary, in the traditional sense. This isn’t Silent Hill. There aren’t really jump scares, just puzzles to be solved among falling snowflakes and the crunch of your feet in the snow. But it is my favorite type of game, the one that leaves me feeling … odd. A little like the actual real world, in which I’m sitting on my bed with an iPad in my lap, is not in fact real. That the game world is overlapping, somehow. If I went for a walk in the woods now, would I see something from the fictional scandinavian woods?

(As a side note, woods every-fucking-where are creepy. I love them for it. In my own local woods I have found: a knife stuck into a tree next to a still smoldering camp fire. A weird lean-to, too small for an actual person. An altar of feathers and other found treasures on top of a tree stump. A Christmas ornament, a beaded doll, hanging from a tree. Want to know why Blair Witch was scary? Because it was BELIEVABLE to anyone who has spent much time in a forest).

Year Walk takes it a step further. When I downloaded it, I downloaded the Year Walk companion to go with it. It tells the story of some of the legends that the game refers to — the creatures and mythology. It also, if you pay attention to the game, hides a secret — and the explanation for everything the game includes. I won’t spoil it, because you should play this game. I will say it’s another entry in the grand history of internet creepy pasta — The Dionaea House, Ted the Caver — things that might be real, if you tilt your head the right way, especially if you are reading late at night, in a cottage not so far from those woods.

 

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