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App games we love: 'Year Walk' and 'Penumbear'

Penumbear, from Bullypix, is a portmanteau of “penumbra” (the area along the edge of a shadow) and “bear” (the protagonist).


Year Walk ($3.99)

With Year Walk, the Swedish developers at Simogo drew from weird and ancient cultural traditions. The practice of undergoing a "year walk," a literal translation, had disappeared by the 20th century, but used to be a vision quest of sorts, taken by oneself late at night.

In this game, you are the walker, venturing out of your house and into the cold at the stroke of midnight to try and get a glimpse of the future. You move through the environment by swiping left and right to move from side to side and you move forward or backwards by swiping up and down. As you move through the maze of the world, you'll be confronted by all manner of supernatural creatures lifted out of Scandinavian mythology.

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This is a puzzle game, but Year Walk is scary in the classic sense. It creates an environment of possibility from art and sound, and lets the player's imagination and anticipation do the work. Also available as a free download is the Year Walk Companion, a mini-encyclopedia of sorts that provides the historical context for the creatures and setting of the game. The full effect will have you playing the game on an iPad and referring to the Companion on your iPhone. (Platform: iOS; Developer: Simogo)

Penumbear ($1.99)

The title of this clever and challenging platformer-style game is a portmanteau of "penumbra" (the area along the edge of a shadow) and "bear" (the protagonist). In each level, you must guide the bear to the exit using paths of light and shadow. The firefly that accompanies you can turn certain lights on and off to manipulate the shadows and the paths available, and some lights pulse, which require you to carefully time your running and jumping.

You'll have obstacles to navigate around and deadly creatures to avoid. You can collect teddy bears that are scattered around each level and which can later be traded in for the privilege of skipping levels. Having to use the on-screen buttons to run and jump is occasionally infuriating, especially as the game doesn't really provide checkpoints in the middle of levels. But with 100 levels to conquer, there's lots of game to explore. (Platform: iOS; Developer: Bulkypix)

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