A game’s length regularly finds itself in a catch 22. If a game is too long, its mechanics can get stale and repetitive, if it’s too short, people don’t feel like they get enough value for their money. Old Man’s Journey is at the extreme end of this being under two hours long, but it hits its own sweet spot.
Old Man’s Journey has you assist an old man as he ventures to an important place for an event that I won’t spoil. To do this he travels through a diverse set of locales, most of which tie back to his life in some way.
The story is told without a word of dialogue. Instead, occasionally the old man sits down and strokes his beard, resulting in the game cutting away to an image of the old man at a different time in his life.
This weird way of telling the story cuts out potential issues with voice acting, or without explicitly telling you everything, even context. Instead you get brief glimpses of his life that slowly let the old man’s character develop, yet he remains mysterious.
The gameplay involves the old man venturing on a 2.5D plain, and you click where you want him to go in the foreground or background and he will do so. You are also able to manipulate a lot of the environment, the bulk of which involves lifting or dropping hills, so that their lines connect allowing the man to jump between these layers.
The puzzles aren’t that hard, except for an occasional one where I forgot that water can drop the man between layers. For the most part, it’s a relaxing gameplay loop that is interesting enough to keep you going, but not so challenging that it will stop the narratives flow.
There are times that the game shifts it up, such as when the old man is on a train and you need to move the land to keep the tracks in line. But there is no fail state, even with a full speed train, it comes to a stop when there is no track in front of it.
The relaxing gameplay loop is cemented with a soundtrack that is simple, elegant, and again, relaxing. This coupled with a gorgeous design makes the game a treat to the senses. Every moment you stop the game it looks like it could have been hand painted by someone with far too much talent.
As previously mentioned, it is a short game. This works in its favour as it has a short story to tell and dragging it out would either pad it out with unnecessary plot or dilute it with more puzzles in between the plot points. At its cheaper price it is worth the cost even for your two hours, not to mention the gameplay gets a little repetitive by the end. Even an extra hour could make it boring.
Old Man’s Journey is an absolute must play for anyone wanting a simple puzzle game, with no dialogue, yet a powerful story. While short, it is the perfect length that ensures the game doesn’t overstay its welcome but gets across what it needs to.