Tuesday, February 20

Review: Old Man's Journey [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the evolving genres in the industry is the “walking game”, where the emphasis on the play mechanics takes a back seat to the desire to tell a worthwhile story. While there is gameplay, and it can be evaluated, the reason to play these games is to either be entertained, horrified, touched, or perhaps a little bit of all of the above. Old Man’s Journey would probably be described as a puzzler based on its gameplay but that isn’t what makes it special. It is instead an emotional journey told through the vignettes of a man’s memories, played out as he revisits locations and specific phases of his life.

Without revealing too much about the story, aside from saying it is the product of someone who has lived a life with both joys and regrets, I would say that in order to get the most out of it you should probably be a bit older. While even younger gamers could likely relate to some of the themes the more experiences you’ve had in life the more likely elements of the story will make a greater impact on you. Nobody lives a perfect life and makes no mistakes along the way, and decisions that make sense to you at the time can lead down lonely paths. Learning the man’s story along the way and carrying things through to the end will carry different weight for different people, but there are themes that just about everyone should understand.

The gameplay over the pretty brisk 2 - 3 hours is interesting, mainly because of the beautiful hand-drawn landscapes that are featured. You’ll need to manipulate the environment, raising and lowering hills most of the time, in order to move from place to place. The rules are generally quite simple and are each introduced to you organically before becoming mildly more challenging as you go. You can’t move the ground you’re standing on, you’ll fall down when crossing waterfalls, sheep will move when you bump them but not very far, and down the stretch to get through walls you’ll need to roll what I assume are barrels through them. For the most part everything is straightforward, and even if you get a little stuck the good news is that there are only so many ways you can manipulate the limited number of elements on the screen. Overall the puzzles are satisfying but then again there’s not a great deal of opportunity to apply some of the skills you acquire since the experience is on the short side.

I’d say the moral of Old Man’s Journey relates well in a somewhat tangential way to my review thoughts. Your time is precious, so be sure to make the most of it and try not to give yourself things to regret. The further along in your own life and experiences you are the easier it is to recommend it wholeheartedly as its story will likely hit you quite a few ways right in the feels. The younger you are it is probably harder to justify since that shifts more responsibility to the adequate-but-not-incredble puzzle aspects of it. Old Man’s Journey fits well into the Switch library with its own distinct story to tell complemented by outstanding art and satisfying puzzles.

Score: 8

  1. Fantastic hand-drawn art
  2. A compelling story to tell, especially for people with more life experiences
  3. Puzzles that work well and generally complement the story’s journey

  • A quick 2 - 3 hour runtime
  • Will be harder for younger players to relate to and get as much out of
  • Generally introduces and then makes little use of new mechanics

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