During the pandemic, my usual way of keeping walks interesting doesn't work. I'd hop on a bus/train so I could walk someplace I hadn't visited recently. But nowadays, public transit is for essential trips only. I haven't left the city in more than a year and don't stray far from my neighborhood; I re-walk the same routes. It would be dull, but I fortunately found activities to distract me. (You might be thinking, wasn't RandoWalk supposed to make the walks interesting? RandoWalk gives me a destination; but it doesn't give me something to do as I walk towards that destination. I've probably visited that destination once a week lately. RandoWalk is helpful, but it doesn't occupy my mind.)
It's a phone app. It's kinda like an audiobook, but you "earn" the ability to listen to the next clip by walking. Walk a few minutes; listen to a minute of audio; walk another few minutes; listen to another couple of minutes of audio. The "book" is a suspense thriller radio play—an audio drama. You experience it from the point of view of Walker, a courier who's walking from town to town via forest trails and cowpaths because bad guys are watching the roads. Along the way Walker meets folks who talk; but mostly you listen to Charlie, Walker's controller who communicates through an earpiece, directing towards goals, warning of hazards, etc in the manner of Theora Jones. This earpiece communication feels natural, assuming that you're wearing earphones. (I shelled out for fancy-pants USB earphones so I could use this app. My phone doesn't have an audio jack. Probably the toughest challenge in playing this game was overcoming my reluctance to shell out more than $20 for a pair of earphones.)
As I said, Charlie's earpiece communication feels natural, assuming that you're wearing earphones. This can be disorienting. In the drama, Charlie orders Walker: "Go quick, hurry up!" I hear this, start forward—bringing myself quickly to a halt, since I'm waiting for a crossing light to change green. Charlie orders Walker "Quick, back the way you came!" and it's all I can do to force myself to keep walking in the same direction. It felt weird in much the same way that Janet Cardiff's Telephone Call felt weird.
Is The Walk a drama? Is it a game? Is it a fitness app? Is it an immersive art experience? It's all of these; it's any of these. Call it whatever you think will most impress whoever you're describing it to.
I enjoyed it. Sometimes I wished that there wasn't quite so much walking required to unlock the next clip. There were some long minutes of silence, just walking along with audio to listen to, walking along some street I'd grown bored with. There wasn't much to think about except the plot. This was a suspense thriller. Normally, you don't pause in a thriller, you keep going. But this app forced some pauses. This gave me time to think about holes in the plot. I'm walking along and thinking Wait, if Charlie's supposed to be such a frickin' genius, why doesn't she think to just call up those people to ask if they're OK?. If I were just listening to plain ol' audiobook, it wouldn't pause for that kind of contemplation. But but I don't have the patience for audiobooks—I just keep thinking It would be so much faster to read this than to listen. But that means I can't use a book to distract me while I'm walking. So thanks to The Walk for keeping me occupied: there's no book of it, so I forced myself to listen to the audio instead, for a while experiencing the bliss of an audiobook fan.