One of my favourite showcases back in June during the not-E3 glut of presentations was the Wholesome Direct, a roughly hour long presentation that highlighted more than 50 upcoming indies of the cutesy, charming and wholesome variety. Despite being amped at the showing of games such as Coffee Talk Episode 2 and Paper Animal RPG among others, the game that stood out to me the most was a game called, A Walk with Yiayia.
A heartfelt looking indie story about a young man and his Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) heading out on a walk together and just talking, complete with a beautiful piano soundtrack and a stylish black and white 2D-3D hybrid pixel art aesthetic, A Walk with Yiayia looked absolutely gorgeous. I immediately wishlisted the game on Steam and eagerly anticipated its release.
Five months on from that trailer and I’ve finally got my hands on A Walk with Yiayia, and I’m happy to say that it’s exactly as pleasant as I expected it to be.
With your mother out for the afternoon, it’s up to you to keep an eye out on your Yiayia, and after a brief conversation inside, you head out for a walk despite her initial hesitance. Yiayia has been apprehensive about leaving the house ever since a recent fall, one that seemingly hasn’t just shattered her confidence, but also made it clear to her that she’s in a period of her life where fragility unfortunately is a just par for the course.
Anyhow, the two head out on a walk around the neighbourhood together, and the game essentially plays out as a walking and talking simulator where you just chat to your grandmother about life, a simple concept that is kept engaging due to the solid writing. You also assist Yiayia in getting over bumps in the road by holding her hand, which I thought was very sweet.
Conversations with Yiayia cover her childhood, her regrets, moving from Greece to the US amidst war, and her difficult relationship with her mother to name a few. These chats are intriguing, and often quite emotional, with a couple poignant moments staying with me after the game had ended.
It’s not all just about Yiayia however, as conversations also reveal a bit more about the young protagonist also. Like many graduates, he’s struggling to find a job in his field, and has post graduation depression, a symptom all too relatable to many university students who aren’t lucky enough to find a job in the field right away. I found him to be very relatable for this very reason, which in turn drew me further into the narrative.
While many of Yiayia’s interactions play out purely through dialogue boxes that you then interact with by selecting one of the few dialogue options, some of her most powerful stories are accompanied by little minigame style experiences that serve to further engross you into the story. An example is seen when Yiayia recounts how her mother forced her into playing classical piano, which is coincidentally enough the instrument that spearheads the games beautiful soundtrack.
As she recounts a song she wrote for her mother, the keys of a piano appear on screen, prompting you to play her song as she delves deeper into her relationship with her mother. It’s a powerful moment, and there are a few more like this throughout the game that I’m not going to spoil here.
Spending the hour I did with Yiayia made me reflect on my relationship with my own grandmother, and that maybe I should be more present and listen to the plentiful stories I’m sure she’s more than ready to tell, and for that, I can’t help but feel grateful.
Visually, the game also looks fantastic, with a black and white pixel aesthetic that has a mish mash of 2D characters amongst 2D/3D visuals. My explanation probably doesn’t do it justice, but it’s definitely a neat looking indie game with a strong sense of style.
Other than talking to Yiayia, walking throughout the neighbourhood to prompt further conversation, and playing through the little microgame segments, there are also some little optional side activities you can complete throughout the neighbourhood. They’re very basic and basically just boil down to recovering an item for a character in the neighbourhood for the sweet reward of more Yiayia and grandson interaction, but they do succeed in providing at least a little bit of freedom in what is otherwise a linear walking simulator.
One such example is seen with the cat you find while walking about, who can be befriended and returned to their owner if you manage to find the cat some treats and then find its missing poster.
A Walk with Yiayia serves as a welcome reminder that bite sized indie titles can pack a powerful punch. Even though the game can be finished in merely an hour, which is undeniably short no matter how much I can try to justify it, its unique visual aesthetic, emotional and thought provoking storytelling, fantastic soundtrack, and neat gameplay shifts make for a quality experience that’s best played in a single sitting with a warm cup of tea.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron