Old Man’s Journey is a side-scrolling, puzzle narrative where you join an old man on a trip down memory lane. The first and most notable thing I must say about this game is that it is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. The environments of the French countryside pop with colour and never failed to take my breath away, with their being times when I would just stop and stare at the scene before me. The artwork is so incredible and stylised, that I felt that I was playing a painting. Or, it would be more precise to say, a moving storybook. And it is the story that is the real heart of Old Man’s Journey, being told solely through flashback visuals.
Without leaning too heavily into spoilers, as the joy of Old Man’s Journey is the slow reveal of the man’s backstory, and learning the mystery of why he is undertaking this journey. The saying, ‘It is not the destination that matters, but the journey,’ is applicable here, with it being a short (you are able to complete it in roughly two hours or so) and a little bittersweet. The ambience of the game is soothing, perfect for a time if you want to turn your brain off for half an hour or so. In combination with the music, Old Man’s Journey reminds me of the animated Christmas classic, ‘The Snow Man’.
The gameplay follows in the vein of a point and click adventure, which at times, admittedly felt a little slow and clunky. The main game mechanic is the ability to shift the layers of the environment so that the old man can proceed from left to right, and continue on his journey. Puzzle solving in the game starts out simple and—well, unfortunately, stays simple throughout, only varying in elements toward the end of the game.
One such element is a herd of sheep that you cannot pass, and right up until I finished the game, I never learnt how to successfully manoeuvre around them. I can honestly say that every time I encountered them, I somehow managed to glitch my way through. Which as you can imagine, took all the joy out of it and soured a would-be puzzle into a chore. I’m saddened to say that my disappointment extends into the rest of the game’s catalogue of puzzles. The most interesting one that you come across is when the old man boards a train, and you must be quick to fix the broken tracks so that the train can run.
As a die-hard fan of Level-5’s ‘Professor Layton’ and Capcom’s ‘Phoenix Wright’ series, I am used to being challenged when it comes to my puzzle solving in games. I adore brain teasers and the rush of satisfaction that comes when you eventually crack that seemingly unsolvable riddle. When I picked up Old Man’s Journey, this is what I thought I was getting. But no. When I realised when I wouldn’t be getting what I had expected, it left a rather foul taste in my mouth for the remainder of my playtime. It might be admittedly unfair of me to an indie to the aforementioned titles, but it is still ultimately how I felt. The game does not offer me enough variety and enough challenge to keep me engaged. I played to the end, not because I wanted to continue playing, but rather out of the ‘Finish what you started’ sense of duty.
Old Man’s Journey is a beautiful, but shallow game. It’s colour, charm, and heartbreaking narrative carries it far, but unfortunately in my case, is not far enough to make me look back on it with the same fondness as the old man did with his journey.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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