Life is full of love, dreams, regret and many potential paths. How, who, and what we choose can have major effects on the outcome. It’s easy to regret our actions, and just as easy to feel remorse knowing we can’t go back and change them. We live with our actions, and how we choose to move forward following them defines who we truly are. We all make mistakes, but some can last a lifetime. Old Man’s Journey explores these very themes while being presented in a stress free, visually breathtaking puzzler.
Developed and published by Broken Rules, this puzzler about an old man’s sudden travels first made waves on Steam and mobile app stores. Now out on the Switch, it is open to an ever booming market, one where many other indie titles seem to make a big splash. I think the same can come about this tale of a hopeful sailor, assuming people find the short experience appealing to their senses. The game is only about two hours long if you take the time to appreciate some of its beautiful scenery. But within that small timeframe, you are greeted to an emotional driven journey and story. The old man’s purpose as well as his past is revealed along the way, and vivid scenes (both sad and uplifting) are shown in some beautiful moving portraits. How you get to your destination is the standout focal point of the game, one that lets you experience its beautiful art style in quite the engaging way.
Old Man’s Journeys puzzle play aspects come by way of environmental manipulation. The game takes place from a 2D perspective, so often you will come to a point where the old man is stuck, unable to get to where he needs to go. So to remedy this, you can raise or lower certain landmarks in your general area, like hills and roads. If you can get them to line up to a near level plane with your current path, the old man can jump perspectives, raising himself forward and pushing back to a new path on the screen. It’s probably not as complicated as I may make it seem, but it is a really cool dynamic, reminding me of the route Super Paper Mario on the Wii took, which let you change perspectives to not only find secrets but also find ways to get past obstacles. I think this style of gameplay fit really well with the title, which plays like a point and click as opposed to a platformer. It can be played with both a mouse pointer and button clicks or entirely with the touch screen, the latter of which I preferred. The simple puzzles kept the game engaging while keeping the focus on its story and aesthetic.
Speaking of the aesthetic, the art style is by far the standout of the show. The hand crafted visuals are so beautiful and crisp, you would be crazy not to appreciate them. The colors pop in every inch of your screen, and background characters and objects animations make everything come to life. Art in motion comes to mind when playing this, as it is almost like an interactive exhibit. Take it all in, and let the music help you do so. The soundtrack was created by the very talented SCNTFC, who also worked on one of my favorite game OSTs for Oxenfree. He nailed it again, bringing adventurous as well as subtle melodies to a game that is all about sensory. I enjoyed the narrative arc as well, but it is (at points) easily predictable, making the ending fall short of having a lasting effect. The story is worthy of your time none the less, especially the revealing portraits I mentioned earlier which display some top notch art.
Design is Old Man’s Journey’s strong suit, and as a whole, a strong showing of what the team at Broken Rules can accomplish. At $10 on the Switch eShop, it is a solid experience for those into narrative driven titles (like many walking sims, this will deliver a similar experience) or someone looking for a shorter title. At a runtime of two or less hours, I would have liked to see a lesser price on the sales tag, but the art is quite the experience so take with that what you will. Aside from some much too dark underwater sections, and a few annoying sheep that did not want to comply with my movements, I have no complaints. The game is a fine piece of interactive art, and I enjoyed being a part of the heartwarming (and heartbreaking for that matter) portions of it. It has a strong resonance with its subject matter, exemplifying a lifestyle of those small-town dreamers scattered on hillsides and coastlines around the world. But dreams sometimes come at a cost, and that is something worth considering when pursuing them.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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