Old Man’s Journey Brings a New Meaning to Landscaping

There’s a great satisfaction in dragging the beautiful landscapes of Old Man’s Journey to move into or out of an image rather than past it.

It starts with the Old Man looking out to sea from his cliffside home. He receives a letter, but the contents remain hidden to the player. You can tell the news isn’t good, and within seconds the Old Man is ready to leave. What follows is a journey by land, air, and sea. Along the way you encounter moments that trigger memories of the Old Man, taking you back to important moments of his life; memories that are realised through a single animated image that are as gorgeous – if not more so – than the rest of the game.

The game’s soundtrack, brilliant by itself, proved me wrong in an early thought that it would possibly get stale. By scntfc, whose previous work includes the soundtrack to Oxenfree, it accompanies the visuals so well, and at one stage I didn’t want to leave a level behind thanks to its beautiful track. The fully animated hand-drawn world is gorgeous and rich in colour. The world is alive too: mousing over birds causes them to flee; clicking a radio turns it on; clicking on an old lady gets you a stern telling off.

Old Man’s Journey has a relatively short run time of around 90 minutes. Its aesthetic never gets tiring, but the gameplay was just starting to wear thin when I got to the end. Almost comically, the Old Man sits on most chairs he finds along his journey for respite, and it’s in those moments that something tends to trigger an important memory from his past. Through his memories you start to get a sense of his past and perhaps a general idea of why we are going on this long journey with him – a journey by walking, car, truck, train, boat, and hot air balloon.

Old Man’s Journey reminded me of a couple of movies – even if for just a second. Song of the Sea slightly, but mainly Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist. It’s almost like the latter’s travel sequence – but 90 minutes long. Similarly again to The Illusionist, everything is expressed through image rather than dialogue. Developer Broken Rules has created something incredibly impressive; when I think of the success of an indie title like Monument Valley and then look at Old Man’s Journey, I see a vastly superior game on every level. The mechanic of moving the landscape around you to move further into the world was so uniquely clever.

The end is rather beautiful as well; it’s sad, happy, heart-wrenching, and heart-warming all at once. Old Man’s Journey isn’t just the Old Man’s journey to where he’s going, it’s also about where he’s been. It’s a game I can certainly recommend here and now; its point and click gameplay may grow stale for some, but the journey, the landscapes, the soundtrack, and the story are more than worth it.