There’s many ways to tell a story, but to tell a truly gripping story takes considerable amounts effort and insight. That said, many a times we see developers branching off from the core pillars that typically come attached to traditional story-telling, and to some degree, that’s how Old Man’s Journey goes about its business. Here, you take on the role of the titular old man, who just so happens to have received a letter from the chirpy postman, and he doesn’t appear to be too happy with its contents. Indoors he goes and immediately starts packing a large rucksack.
This is what shoehorns you into the journey at hand. The game shows you some back-story through several photographs of the old man’s past; further lending you an idea as to what the contents of the aforementioned letter held. Now, this is a game that relays no wording whatsoever, and by design alone that might be hard for some folks to follow. Still, the game does a good job at feeding you into its plot as best it can. To its credit, and overall, it rarely misses a beat thanks to its beautiful artwork and its delightful, quite fitting soundtrack.
The game’s twelve levels are connected in one form or another, and allow you to replay them individually via a level select should you feel the need to return to previous areas to see if you missed something. There’s no tutorial present, nor is there any general advice on what you should be doing or where you should be going. You’ll control a cursor and will need to point and click the old man to and from place to place, and as progression is made, you’ll eventually discover that you can interact with specific objects throughout the game’s rather lush world.
This is how the game’s puzzle aspects feed into the fields of play. Old Man’s Journey is a 2D side-scrolling puzzler, one that has you solving some fairly challenging brain twisters along the way. Puzzles are largely relayed through environmental manipulation, meaning that you’ll have the ability to shape and alter the landscapes within. You’ll do this to ensure that the old man can freely maneuver around the game’s world – removing any obstacles that may prove too much work for his tired legs to traverse. It’s a simple, yet very effective system to soak up.
It can take a small while to gel with, and I’ll admit it took me some time to bond with the game’s mechanics. That being said, the fundamentals are highlighted quite nicely. Whenever you’re interacting with a hill or a piece of the environment that can be manipulated, a thick yellow line will inform you of the mass that you’re controlling. From there, you’ll either alter its height or its width in order to aid the old man on his journey. You’ll also connect parts of the terrain together, as made apparent by a large yellow circle that informs you of a connection to utilize.
Things start out quite simple; make this hill higher to reach the next hill, stand on this bridge whilst you extend it to reach the next area, and so forth. Though, before too long at all, the game’s complexity makes an appearance. This typically comes in the form of needing to manipulate the environment swiftly, such as when you’re on a train and you need to quickly align its tracks. You’ll also use several objects to clear pathways, or even suss out something as seemingly straightforward as bypassing a flock of sheep. There’s more to it than that, but I wont spoil it for you. I will say that it makes habit of catching you off guard.
Despite that it’s a fairly short game, lasting roughly two hours in length, it does well at introducing new and interesting mechanics to keep things fresh. I only wish there was more longevity to it. I managed to run through it in one sitting, and although it’s got an important message buried in the story, I felt a bit disheartened by its lack of bulk. If you can forgive its short running time and you’ve a taste for puzzlers of this type, Old Man’s Journey is unlikely to disappoint you. It’s unique, that much has to be said. It helps, of course, that the game looks wonderful from the get-go to the credit roll.
The game’s pastel-like visuals truly play wonders with the mind, with a nice variation of colorful and meaningful environments backing that up. It’s unsurprising when we take into account that the game has won a number of awards based on these factors alone. I’ll extend the same level of appreciation to the game’s audio design, putting forward a score that feels perfect for the journey at hand. It sets the mood alongside its gorgeous aesthetic, and does so in such a way that ensures that you’re not likely to forget this old man and his emotional trek any time soon.
Old Man’s Journey is a decent brain teaser that manages to relay such a beautiful and meaningful story without ever uttering a single word. The game intertwines its gorgeous landscapes with its intelligent puzzle framework to great effect, ultimately pushing forward an experience like no other. That said, the game’s lack of basic guidance and its short running time is bound to disappoint those that seek something more grounded and lengthy.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.