1ST2H: Old Man’s Journey

1ST2H: Impressions on the first two hours of gaming, working through some of my unplayed titles. Less about the overall game, more about that first experience.

Platform / Released: Switch / 2017

Developer / Publisher: Broken Rules

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In the first two hours of this game… I finished it. Now, this isn’t actually a bad thing – but it was something of a surprise. I picked up the game with no preconceptions and just assumed the game was going to be longer. It does make sense, though, that it finished at the two hour mark (probably less if you play in one sitting) – it’s not meant to be a long game. And I’m glad that I played it.

As those that game regularly will know, games should not be lumped together under one umbrella when being discussed. They can be varied in as many ways as can be imagined, and can be played as anything from a light dabble to a serious lifestyle choice. They can be competitive, they can be a challenge, they can be an adventure. They can set a puzzle to solve, or tell a story. Old Man’s Journey is very much of the latter genre, and asks you to set aside some time to take part in a tale. A really pretty one.

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Old Man’s Journey is a 2017 point-and-click game, published by Broken Rules, and cheap to pick up on most platforms. Through solving terrain-based puzzles the player helps to navigate the titular Old Man on his way in small, beutifully painted, world. The puzzles are not brain-bendingly hard, and they are not meant to be. This game is a simple and interactive story; encouraging you to engage and help the Old Man as he explores his life in periodic rumination.

Broken Rules tell a good tale, though you’ll see where it is going pretty quickly. The game pulls at heartstrings through recalled youthful hope and love, set against the melancholy of loss and regret. It tells a tale of how an Old Man, living alone by the sea, came to be just that. And adds a reminder that life isn’t over: it’s there to be lived.

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There is no text in this game and no vocals acomapny the charming back ground music. The controls are simplicity, being only a pointer and a single button. Periodically, on your small adventure, the Old Man pauses to recall a cued memory, dwelling on something from a different time in his life. These drift into view as partially animated single-frame pictures.

Through these memories and the ambient soundtrack Old Man’s Journey will very easily engage you in its story. You’ll want to see just how it ends, even if you get a little frustrated from time-to-time when a bit of landscape-puzzle won’t quite move correctly. Or if, like me, you’re getting in-game lightning flashes and real-world ones at the same time – that was a touch unpleasant.

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The game is presented as an artful, beautifully imagined world. The atmospheric weather draws you into the scenery, letting you enjoy picturesque moments of perfection experienced, set against an imperfect life as led. Between the two contrasts, though, is both a regret that it turned out the way it did, as well as the ongoing joy taken from the path that was followed. There are some delightful moments within this game – I had some gleeful fun on a level where the Old Man rides a train.

Old Man’s Journey is worth checking out, just to kick back and relax into some storytelling for a time. While you do, you’ll likely find yourself thinking about your own life and where it has been, as well as where it may yet lead. It is worth playing to remember that not every game needs to be mainstream, nor about a complex challenge. Some games are meant to be part of this new artform; eliciting emotion and calling for your thoughful response. Old Man’s Journey does that, in its brief but heartful way, very well indeed.

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