Game review: Old Man’s Journey – walking for miles in an old man’s shoes has never been so absorbing
Gorgeously designed and with real narrative depth, Old Man’s Journey is a simple puzzle adventure in which nothing really happens – save for almost everything in a person’s life
Old Man’s Journey
Old people – what are they good for? Your average game-playing millennial might not have many positive answers to this question as the long-held tradition of respecting and learning from your elders seemingly becomes more a thing of the past.
But here’s Old Man’s Journey (for Android, iOS, PC and Mac), which shows us all a little of what it’s like to live a full and satisfactory life. It’s available for computers, but plays infinitely better on mobile devices, coming alive as if one were interacting with a long-forgotten, wonderfully written diary.
The game starts simply enough, with you as the titular mature gentleman receiving a letter that sets you off with a backpack and a walking stick on an unknown journey. Along the way, you encounter a series of obstacles in your path – hills that have to traversed, stone walls that must be torn down, sheep that have to be avoided – and through point-and-click guesswork, you work your way past each diversion.
And that’s it. The game is a series of puzzles that comes off like a platformer, where the landscape is manipulated more than the actual character ever is. At the end of each chapter, or when other characters are encountered, you’re treated to a flashback from the old man’s life, often a heart-warming little vignette about love and regret.
You continue along the journey because you want to know what happens, despite it seeming like just an ordinary existence. And it’s in its simplicity, its sheer everyman telling, that the game reveals itself as being absolutely beautiful.
It helps that the game is gorgeously designed, with a foreground in the hand-painted style of a children’s book that couples perfectly with the quaint villages, rolling country hills and detailed little side streets that you encounter throughout. There’s no dialogue, and there really shouldn’t be – it’s a classic case of “show, don’t tell” done right, and one that adds to the game’s quiet verisimilitude.
Old Man’s Journey is a minor triumph – a melancholy adventure in which nothing really happens, save for almost everything in a person’s life. As you literally walk for miles in this old man’s shoes, you’re offered a narrative depth that relives past glories while encountering new adventures. The game is small and open to everyone, but beautifully encompasses all that makes indie games so inventive.