One of the first things that people notice about a game is the name. Whether you’re looking through the Xbox Store, your favourite games website (obviously Xbox Enthusiast), or in your local games store, a game’s name is often the first thing you spot. A title can really help to sell a game. Whether it is used to describe the game (eg DiRT Rally) or to inspire you to find out more (eg Apex Legends). I have to say, when I got offered the chance to review Old Man’s Journey, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to do it. Always the team player, though, I stepped up to play through the game and I’m glad I did.
Let me tell you a story
Every week we seem to get a new indie game that focuses on telling a story in a 2D environment with hand-drawn visuals and light platforming elements. To stand out from the crowd you either have to do something radically different or deliver every element perfectly. While Old Man’s Journey doesn’t really add anything new, what it does it does at a high level.
The story of Old Man’s Journey is told entirely through images. There is no speech or text at any point in the game (barring the z’s of a cat sleeping). One of my favourite movie reviewers, Mark Kermode, often says that he wants filmmakers to ‘show, don’t tell’. This is something that the developers of Old Man’s Journey have taken to heart. Despite the lack of speech or text, I understood why the Old Man was embarking on his journey as well as his backstory and motivation. It is a story that has joy, sadness, and tugs at the heartstrings.
Things to see and do
Visually, the game comes to life thanks to its art-style. It’s as though everything has been painted by hand. The little imperfections in the colouring help to give it a vibrancy that, though not unique, helps to set it apart from its contemporaries. The animation may be rudimentary but it’s never rough. The colour palette may be vibrant but it’s never excessive or unrealistic. The whole feel of the game is one of warmth and draws you into the adventure.
The one area where the game finds itself slightly lacking is gameplay. You control a pointer with the left thumbstick and you select with the ‘A’ button. It’s basically a point-and-click adventure. However, there are puzzles that you must solve by clicking on platforms/hills/rail tracks and dragging them around. There are also puzzles with sheep that you will need to navigate your way past. It might sound rather dull but this isn’t a game for fans of twitch shooters. This is the kind of title that wants to take you by the hand and lead you on a gentle adventure.
Old Man’s Journey is a short game but one that I really enjoyed. The puzzles, while never particularly hard or complicated, got me thinking. The story had me invested in the characters and made me think. The way that story is told is simple but tells you all you need to know and makes you root for the Old Man. The sound design is pretty basic but provides all the game needs and has a nice soundtrack. I have to say that on my first playthrough I didn’t unlock any achievements. Well, except the one for watching all the way through the credits. However, with the game only taking 90 minutes for my first playthrough I was happy to go through the game again to unlock all the others (with the help of a guide). If you fancy a heart-warming meander through the countryside then Old Man’s Journey may be for you.