Let’s not beat around the bush… I’m old, I’m a man, and I’ve been on many journeys. In fact, I can fully relate to the title of this game.
Sometimes though, when you take in the headline of a game, or maybe just the one image, you have some kind of idea about what you going to experience across the next few hours of gameplay. With Old Man’s Journey though I had no idea what to expect, at least not in regards to the general gameplay idea or genre, instead leaving me with the feeling that it would bring a tear to my eye; one way or another.
Old Man’s Journey is a game that has previously released on all manner of formats, from the PC to now the Xbox, and on phones/tablets. I do feel it is probably more suited to the latter formats though – mainly because of the touchscreen elements and the hold and drag gameplay. But it works fine on Xbox One, and it’s a very unique and simply lovely game.
You play as the white-bearded Old Man of the story who, at the start of the game, is living alone in his house by the sea. He gets a letter from the postman and this troubles him, so he sets off on an epic journey, thrust on because of the words written on that paper. We don’t know what these words are, because there are no subtitles or voiceover in this game, instead with everything told through the visuals. Thankfully this element works brilliantly.
The journey takes you through walking on land, through towns, taking to the air, navigating on a ship and even down under the waves in one manic, trippy sequence. As you progress, the old man thinks about his past life and this is told through a series of still image flashbacks. And it is as you reach the conclusion, you’ll find the whole story revealed; depending on the frailty of your soul you will cry a bit, or just sniff and forget. Personally, I loved the story and it’s a brilliantly told tale, which is a whimsical and beautiful commentary on the course of life. It reminded me of a French film like Amelie, with its characters and resonance to the whole game.
The gameplay is so very basic, but not simple enough to be boring. The old man will walk along, moving to wherever you point with a marker on a map. The tricky bit is that there might be an obstacle in your path – running out of road or having to put up with a hill, a house or large rock. What you do to solve this problem is to click on a layer of landscape and push it up, or pull it down in sections, all with the use of a grab button that allows you to make a pathway. You can also click on objects, people and items as well. Later on, there is a whole section set aboard a train, moving fast along the track. It is up to you to move the landscape and bridges around you, connecting the track so the train can move smoothly along.
It’s a lovely mechanic that offers up a relaxing piece of gameplay, while also leaving some intriguing puzzle elements to work out along the way. At first, the controls need a bit of getting used to, and working out how to grab the landscape and not keep directing your old man back and forth takes a bit of time, and it is for this reason that I feel this Old Man’s Journey is probably more suited to a touchscreen.
The game looks delightful though, like a pop-up storybook come to life. Each screen you arrive at feels like a painting – the characters are well drawn and the colours used throughout are fun, bright and cheerful. There are a couple of sequences, like the underwater bit and the train section, that give Old Man’s Journey on Xbox One the sense of a grand epic journey and mystic adventure. The menus allow the ability to go back and replay any section again if you want to, allowing the chance to pick up more of the secret achievements that are on offer. The cutscenes to the old man’s past life are something I really loved; little pictures giving clues to the decisions he made and why you’re venturing onto this path at this time in his life. The soundtrack is also an absolute delight, beautifully composed and working brilliantly with the action on screen. It also tugs at the emotion of the scenes, especially towards the end.
Old Man’s Journey is a wonderful little addition to the Xbox One family. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, however if you’re a fan of story, puzzles, and innovation, and are happy to take it all in at a gentle pace, then it’s well worth you giving this a try. This is especially so at the price asked; something which is perfect for this couple of hours long adventure.
From one old man to another… thank you for the trip.