Sometimes, a game can get a whole new lease of life on the right platform. Old Man’s Journey fell a bit by the wayside on PC, but on mobile it’s considered one of the greats.
And now on Switch, Broken Rules have found another loving home for this beautiful adventure. It’s not just the touch and swipes, but the gentle buzzing of the HD Rumble in the palm of your hand and gorgeous aesthetic shining through on the bigger screen.
Old Man’s Journey says so much without offering a single word. The game’s strengths are in its simplicity as you sculpt the hills and mountains to trace a path through each storybook scene. But it’s the moments of reflection that really punch you in the gut.
The Old Man enjoys the simple pleasures. Looking out on the ocean, admiring a sunset, peering out of a train window. But it’s more than just appreciating the elements of nature. Each sequence holds a special meaning to him, the day he met the love of his life, the birth of his first child.
It all begins with a letter, one that prompts him to collect his belongings and dash out of the door. The contents remain a mystery throughout, so it’s up to you to put the pieces together by solving puzzles and exploring the varied terrain while paying close attention to the cut scenes. Interestingly, there’s no tutorial with the game, the developers instead preferring players to acclimatize themselves for the road ahead.
It’s all simple enough, though, and well suited to touch. Hold your finger down on a mountain or slope to adjust it’s height and depth so the Old Man can jump between areas seamlessly. Sounds straightforward, but puzzles gradually get tougher as you get deeper into the game, with unexpected animals and items to move past and waterfalls to glide through. This is definitely a game that plays better in portable mode, though. Docked and using the Pro Controller never really felt right, even if it did look the most beautiful on my 47″ set.
But the puzzles almost seem to part of the background as the visuals truly take the center stage. Old Man’s Journey is an astonishingly beautiful game with clouds moving slowly against a light blue sky, and trees flowing gently in the wind. The animations are also superbly crafted, conveying enough emotion in each character’s response that no word has to be spoken in order to get a point across. Old Man’s Journey is like watching a living, breathing painting come to life, while enchanting you with heartfelt beauty.
And that is so masterfully accompanied by the beautifully composed score which really manages to bring out a sense of awe and wonder. They immediately co-join to create this truly special atmosphere, along with the seaside caws of a seagull and the trickling of running water. In this, the game gives you the tools you need to see what you want to see in these stills and scenes.
That’s the magic of Old Man’s Journey, it will mean something different to everybody. Each person has their own idea of what a great adventure should be and people can slot into each of the games’ major life events, recounting their own stories or the stories of someone they love. There’s a message here for everyone, whether it’s love, heartbreak, parenthood, loss.
Old Man’s Story is over quickly, but it’s the appropriate length for you to feel something. You will find yourself reflecting on its messages, smiling back at some of thoughts it brings out of you, feeling sad with others. Prepare to come away from this one feeling something, but don’t expect it to tax you for any real length of time.
This Old Man’s Story is charming and brief, but also gorgeous and memorable. I caught flashes and glimpses of my own grandfather’s life here, time lived on the open seas as part of the merchant navy. Also my grandmother who loved the beach and watching the tide come in, surely significant to her relationship with her husband. And me, a grown man who’s never really grown out of a good old train ride, admiring the views as they whiz by. When a game gets you like that, you know you’ve been part of something special.
So thank you for the beautiful and personal message, Broken Rules, and for the gift of this lovely game. Of all the reviews I’ve done this year, Old Man’s Journey has definitely been the most pleasurable experience and given me a lot to think about.
+ Sensational graphics and animations
+ Reflective narrative
+ Some cute puzzles
+ Gorgeous sounds and music
– Playing with a controller doesn’t feel quite right
– Short, so price could be an issue, especially as it’s pricier than other formats
Old Man’s Journey
8.5 out of 10
Tested on Switch