“I am sailing, I am sailing, home again, ‘cross the sea. I am sailing, stormy waters, to be near you, to be free.” – Rod Stewart
Developer: Broken Rules
Released: May 2017
Price: £4.59 – £8.99
Old Man’s Journey is a quaint but emotional puzzle game about the soul-searching adventure of an elderly bearded gentleman. Players must literally shape the various whimsical landscapes to create a path for the wandering OAP as he progresses on his purposeful and pensive expedition.
The game begins with a visit from a postman, after receiving a letter the protagonist quickly packs a bag, grabs a walking stick and ventures out at an appropriately slow walking speed for his age! Each scene is made up of a layered landscape, often stretching far into the distance or with a hidden depth to them.
Players can reposition layers that aren’t currently being stood on in order to create a path for the old man and help him reach his destination. This is made challenging by the fact that each layer can only be moved in a limited way and it is often necessary to plan ahead and walk back and forth between the layers to reach the goal in each scene. Old Man’s Journey also has a slightly sharp difficulty curve though this is partly a result of the short playtime.
In addition to the main game mechanic, there are a couple of other obstacles that the old man must circumnavigate. These include small herds of sheep that need to be repositioned to other grassy spots to clear the way, or walls that need to be broken by stone wheels being rolled down the correct hill. There are also little cute but superficial interactions along the way such as, opening windows, shooing birds and rustling trees.
Old Man’s Journey tells a story of love, family, regret and reconciliation, which it does by revealing short animations representing the protagonist’s memories as he reaches the end of each puzzle section and sits down for a bit of a rest. The aged adventurer also has an obviously nautical past and love of the sea, this is carried through the game in the scenery, objects and general theming.
There is no dialogue or voice acting in the game and the only text is largely insignificant signage in the landscapes. This not only makes it universally understandable and very accessible but also allows a little more room for interpretation, potentially allowing the player to make Old Man’s Journey to have a much more personal and relatable overall experience.
Old Man’s Journey has charming visuals that perfectly fits both the lighthearted and more poignant moments in the game. Colours and the hand-drawn art-style with pastel and painterly textures are used to great effect to create atmosphere and ambience across a range of scenes and environments such as a lighthouse, a derelict windmill, an underwater escapade and a picturesque hotel. The short animated memory scenes have a slightly more abstract feel to them and complement the general aesthetic very well.
While there is no need for voice acting in the game, it does feature some delightful pieces of music ranging from a delicate but captivating music box number and jolly little ditties to sombre piano tracks and more dramatic numbers. There is also a lovely selection of ambient sound effects and background noises such as animals and weather that really help bring the beautiful art and story to life.
Old Man’s Journey is a short but complete, well rounded and wonderfully concise experience without superfluous interaction that will take around 2 hours to complete. The puzzles become more challenging as the storyline gets more intense and the environments and general styling become gloomier creating a cohesive progression across the various game elements and highlighting the innovative narrative design.
Overall, the game is a heartwarming experience with fun gameplay, beautiful styling and emotive and relatable narrative. These things, in addition to the very reasonable price tag and lack of written or spoken word, mean that it has great potential to be enjoyed by a whole range of different people and make it easy to recommend.