No matter what point in life you decide to pause for a moment, one look out the window may remind you to keep moving. Old Man’s Journey is a relaxing, yet touching experience that generally gives off an overall warm feeling even through the wind & rain depicted during your adventure. Publisher and developer Broken Rules utilized the Nintendo Switch’s capabilities making this port the definitive version.
Do you remember flipping through colorful storybooks when you were a kid? Whether you were at home getting through a bedtime story or checking out a book at your school’s library, the illustrations alone could spark your imagination. In fact, it isn’t until the end credits roll where you will get any text as Old Man’s Journey has no dialogue at all. The only glimpse of text you’ll see is within the art itself, such as a sign. Everything is meant to be conveyed through the art itself and Old Man’s Journey greatly succeeds in doing so. Even the menus just use symbols. There are no lines of text to get in the way of the game’s flow and this in turn provides a much more observe & absorb approach to its story. Animated like a family cartoon, hand-drawn art with colors that pop are pieced together to create an experience that needs no words.
Not even instructions are given. The title screen is your journey already in-progress. Seamlessly zooming into the scene, players’ only form of gameplay is to move the cursor and click. Much like a point & click adventure, players can place flags on the landscape to guide the old man, but the entire game revolves around actually placing the edges of various parts of the environment together in order to form a path for him. Landscapes to which the old man is currently standing on cannot be moved and each piece has a limit to how far they will move. It’s pretty basic for the most part and it never gets difficult, but some levels do try to be a bit illusory, but to a minor effect. While your only goal is to guide the gentleman, parts of the levels, be them characters or set pieces, can be grabbed or clicked on, but they serve are only for cosmetics which doesn’t serve the gameplay.
It’s simplistic gameplay, but there are moments in levels where a bit of thought is required instead of simply only moving forward. You may even need to take a few steps baa-aack. You cannot pass a group of sheep. Likewise, you will block their path as well. There are also instances where you will to need to alter the environment to guide a rolling stone. Creating a proper slope with the right momentum might be enough to have it break down a wall. These ideas are implemented quite well. I just wish there were more of these types. Sometimes gameplay changes to a much faster pace such as riding in a train, for example. Here, players will need to piece together incoming tracks to guide the train and its passengers forward. One thing is for certain, Old Man’s Journey is meant to be a peaceful and relaxing experience. While certain sections like these are faster, you are never penalized during this and every other part of the game.
Old Man’s Journey is meant to be a comfortable experience for all types of players. Broken Rules has taken advantage of the Switch and has allowed for various controlling methods. Players can play traditionally with the Joy-Con Grip setup or a Pro controller. The same can be done when in handheld or kickstand mode, but playing with the touchscreen only is entirely possible and it works great. That’s not all. As a Switch exclusive, a 2-player mode is also available. Although 1 player can use this exact control scheme, 2 players are also able to use a single Joy-Con as a pointer. The cursor can be calibrated with a single press on the shoulder button at any time and also functions as it should. While there isn’t too much of a focus on rumble in general, HD rumble does have its effects such as being able to feel the thunder when lighting strikes. The music is also charming and folk-like, pleasant to the ear sometimes causing an emotional resonance.
The art is absolutely beautiful and detailed. It seems like there’s a few methods of painting combined into one. Some pieces lean towards a water color style while others look more like pastel brush strokes. The colors are bright in a way that doesn’t try to grab your attention just for being bright, but by being naturally part of the scene. A level’s end has the old man reflect upon a memory in his life and it’s these scenes which offer some beautiful pieces of work. Each memory is like a vignette still, but with certain elements moving to highlight the scene. The lighting during these memories are fantastic. At any time, you are also able to choose from a level you’ve already played. Levels are usually pretty short.
There’s no major issues with Old Man’s Journey. The one nitpick is that the overall experience was rather short. About 2 hours. Also, if puzzles were more frequent and difficult, that might create a longer experience and add the effect of hardships that the elderly protagonist went through to solve it, but the art and memories alone already give it that context and succeed. Old Man’s Journey is cute with a bunch of other emotions tied into it. I won’t hide the fact that I teared up at the end.