I will never not find the term “walking simulator” to be incredibly stupid.
I mean, if we want to get technical, just about every game is a walking simulator, and a jumping simulator, and a talking simulator… and so on and so forth. Of course, when the term is thrown around, it’s due to the implication that a game that involves walking without holding out a loaded weapon is somehow wrong. In my experience, most of the games I’ve seen have this criticism thrown at them have been incredible at best and interestingly flawed at worse. Off-Peak has earned a way into my personal favorite games of all time list and Kitty Horrorshow’s games are almost always about listening to audio logs as you walk around a creepy environment, and every one I’ve played has managed to be memorable and uniquely different from the last.
That said, Into Blue Valley is mostly on the other side of that spectrum. There are a lot of good ideas at work, even flashes of brilliance at points, but it’s marred by technical shortcomings and questionable design choices. The game is presented as a piece of found footage narrated by nondescript buddies Matt and Ryan. Though I initially liked the idea, it didn’t take long for their role to feel rather useless. Typically all they had to offer were hints like “this is the part where he finds the item” and bits of commentary on the story delivered in a manner that no human beings would ever actually speak. It gets even worse when the mystery of the titular valley actually does unravel and they feel the need to punctuate the moment with “what’s going on” and the like.
For a game that’s clearly intended to be such a directed and linear experience, I had far more trouble than I should have actually finishing the game. Like with Slender, the only real objective is to collect eight key items to trigger the ending, but since invisible walls only seem to exist in very specific places, I found myself wandering into a lot of woods that didn’t actually have anything in them. At one point I’d found myself at the top of a mountain range that I was clearly not supposed to be able to reach. I then simply looked around, since the I’d been spending the last 15 minutes looking for the final item. I wondered what our friends Matt and Ryan thought about watching a tape of a dude just walking in circles and breaking the environment, but at that point all of their dialogue had been exhausted and I was left to look for a white glowing thing in a snowy settlement.
But there’s potential there. Occasionally the recording would distort and throw me off from what I was looking at. In the distance, I would occasionally see the forms of people that would then disappear as I got closer. One item sat on a frozen lake that I suspected may have broken when I walked over it. I was interested in the mystery, even if I immediately knew it would probably end in with something unfulfilling. I didn’t care. I wanted to give it a chance. It was different and it looked cool.
It’s still those things. It’s just not at competent at them as I would have liked.