Love Lost, but Not Forgotten
It does the soul good, sometimes, to sit back and reflect. Reminiscing on times past brings back memories, both good and bad, of the events that have shaped our lives, and it is a powerful method of putting the journey of life into perspective. This can be also be a painful experience, however, as the wholeness of life is comprised of both joy and loss, elation and suffering. Old Man’s Journey, a unique and gorgeous offering from Austrian developer Broken Rules, is one such adventure.
The joy in discovery is ours as players.
The story opens with an elderly man throwing a pack over his shoulder and grasping a walking stick in hand. He exits his quaint seaside home and takes a deep breath as he casts his gaze toward the horizon. Breathing a sigh of determination, we watch as he takes the first steps of a long overdue journey. It is not immediately apparent where the man is going, nor why, but the joy in discovery is ours as players. Periodically, the man will sit down for a bit of respite, and we are given the opportunity to tag along in his moments of reminiscence.
Old Man’s Journey is a tale of loss and regret, of soul-searching with consequences. We see a once blossoming love abandoned for the tug of the sea, and how chasing your dreams can sometimes have dire consequences. This is also a story of redemption, and that it is not always too late to make amends. I keep this depiction intentionally vague, as revealing more would diminish the power in experiencing the adventure firsthand. Suffice it to say that this is a quest worth following.
It feels like watching an artist’s rendition of the European countryside come to life.
Visually, this game is absolutely striking; it is pure joy to take in the well-crafted landscapes, which are hand-drawn with intricate detail. It feels like watching an artist’s rendition of the European countryside come to life, and every frame is worthy of being captured. Players join in on the journey by interacting with this environment, and I found it great fun to see what would happen when clicking on each component. Primarily, however, players will spend their time guiding the old man through each idyllic setting by literally moving hillsides up and down so that the man can traverse them. Doing so is not always straightforward, and sometimes requires thinking several steps ahead. The easiest way to describe how these work functionally is that they mimic the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, requiring moving the man back and forth across each hill.
Movement is slow and relaxed, almost forcing players to take everything in rather than speed through, and I think this reveals the mindset that this game almost requires: stop, slow down, appreciate. The journey itself isn’t long, clocking in at just under two hours, but it is also not quick. It can easily be completed in one sitting, but I would most certainly recommend not rushing. This game is at its best when you stop and smell every rose!
Accompanying the vibrant visuals is a delicate and somber soundtrack. It perfectly undergirds the beautiful setting, and immensely aided in pulling me into the world. Background sounds also enhanced every scene and breathed life into not only animals and creatures, but also vehicles and other inanimate objects. Every little piece is a necessary delight.
… it was most certainly a plus to share the journey with another person…
My playthrough was done on the Nintendo Switch, which adds a new element over other platforms: being able to experience the journey with another player. Each player can use a Joy-Con as a pointer with which to interact with the world, and this works surprisingly well. I was initially worried that having to rely on gyroscopes and accelerometers, the Joy-Con’s would be inaccurate and unwieldy. This was not at all the case, and I found the experience to be easy and intuitive. Additionally, it was most certainly a plus to share the journey with another person and be able to vocalize my appreciation for each scene.
I may not go back and play the game again right away, but it is certainly not one that I will soon forget.
As much as I loved playing through this in co-op, however, I did find a few elements to be slightly irritating by the end of my playthrough. Both players have the same level of interaction with the environment, which is good, but I found us constantly selecting the same object or hill and attempting to move it in opposite directions, causing brief consternation. Obviously, this could be alleviated with some simple communication, but that wasn’t always ideal when we found ourselves both lost (in a good way) in the experience. Further, there were times when one player would guide the old man to a certain location while the other would move obstacles out of the way in order to clear a path. This seemed to be a clever way to work in tandem, but we discovered that for some reason the man refused to move while other parts of the environment were being interacted with, and so progress sometimes felt halting and jerky when we were working simultaneously. Ultimately, however, these gripes are minor and only really noticeable by the game’s end.
Old Man’s Journey is a breathtaking look at one man’s life, and it is an important testament to the power of choices. It is a worthy endeavor to see the story to its bittersweet end, and I laud Broken Rules for creating something unique and meaningful. I may not go back and play the game again right away, but it is certainly not one that I will soon forget. Old Man’s Journey is art in action and should not be missed.
Yes, if you:
- Love to appreciate unique and well-crafted art styles
- Are looking for a relaxed and meaningful adventure
- Enjoy simple puzzles
No, if you:
- Want a fast moving and action-packed experience
- Are easily bored and distracted
- Dislike puzzle elements of any kind
Old Man’s Journey is available on PC (Released May 17, 2017), Nintendo Switch (Released February 20, 2018), PS4 (Released May 29, 2018), Xbox One (Released March 4, 2019), and Android and iOS devices. The MSRP of releases ranges from $4.99 to $9.99
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of the Old Man’s Journey on the Nintendo Switch in exchange for a fair and honest review.