Once in a blue moon, a game comes along that engages both mind and soul. One that challenges me just enough to be rewarding, yet pulls at my heartstrings gently enough so I don’t completely unravel. Old Man’s Journey weaves such a tale, and does so in a way that still leaves me smiling.
The concept of Old Man’s Journey is a basic yet relatable one. It is a quirky, unique puzzle game following an un-named elderly gentlemen who, after receiving a troubling letter, sets out on a trek down memory lane. It operates similar to a point-and-click game, but with a twist.
Each panel that Old Man traverses (I’ll just call him that from now on) contains multiple layers. These layers can be manipulated in various ways by simply clicking and dragging the landscape itself. When you select various hills and buildings and drag them, the game reveals bold white lines that represent where Old Man can walk. Each of these lines become connected when you overlap them, which is represented by a dot at their intersection. Believe me when I say this sounds more complex than it actually is. The mechanics are incredibly intuitive.
Earlier I mentioned that the game resembles a point and click game, but I didn’t say this simply because you point, click, and go. Old Man’s Journey is a bit of a digital pop-up-book, as almost everything in the environment reacts to your presence. Simply moving the mouse around the screen inspires curiosity. Trees flick out of your way when you move past them. Power lines, birds, windmills, waterfalls; everything seems ever-aware of your direct involvement in the world.
All I felt was a soft warmth in my chest, and a light tingle on my face from smiling so much.
And what a world it is. From the wispy-winded hills, to the sand-sprinkled bays by the coast, Old Man’s Journey is lovingly drenched in a festive bath of pastel. The water-color aesthetic turns every section of the game into a living, breathing art piece. This is especially apparent in the animation, as the colors within each object swirl and pulse, as if painted slightly different for each frame. Most impressive of all are the flashback sequences, when Old Man sits to rest at one of the various stops, and reminisces about his life. These are presented as finely-detailed snapshots of a particular memory, which only further served to light up my eyes.
That for me, was the most memorable aspect of Old Man’s Journey: the way it made me feel. The entire way through I didn’t feel a hint of worry or frustration. All I felt was a soft warmth in my chest, and a light tingle on my face from smiling so much. This was partly due to the superb sound and wonderfully-composed soundtrack. Closing your eyes and simply listening to the wind blow paints just as vivid a picture as the art itself. Everything from the purring of a happy cat to the live folk-band approach to the music instilled a deep sense of joy, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
From the wispy-winded hills, to the sand-sprinkled bays by the coast, Old Man’s Journey is lovingly drenched in a festive bath of pastel.
I had to part with these feelings quicker than I’d like, unfortunately. Played at a steady, reasoned pace, I was able to complete Old Man’s Journey in just over 1.5 hours. It became more clear why this was when I learned it was also being released on mobile platforms, but it still really bummed me out. If I had one plea though, it would be to buy this on PC instead of the mobile platforms. It is admittedly the most expensive route ($8 on Steam vs. $5 on mobile), but I feel playing it on even an iPad would be doing yourself a disservice. Also, I feel that the developer Broken Rules deserve the extra cash for crafting such a wonderful experience.
Old Man’s Journey is a game about self-reflection, nostalgia, and making the best of the life you have left to live. No matter how difficult or dark things get, Old Man continues on with his journey. And most importantly of all, he moves along at his own pace. You are not there to control him. You are there to assist him; to guide him on his way. Old Man’s Journey may come to its conclusion earlier than I would have hoped, but just like life, not everything can be a perfect picture.