In Old Man’s Journey, you play as an old man living alone by the cliffs facing the sea. You received a letter one day and chose to read it on the spot. You mulled for a bit before heading back into your house to grab your backpack and walking stick. You’re now prepped to go on a journey! The backpack honestly look really heavy, and should an old man go on a journey in the first place? Regardless, whatever it is that’s written in the letter seems to necessitate the need, so off he goes with a grunt.
Immediately after the scene, the game then gives you control. Moving the left joy-con stick moves the cursor on the screen. Place your cursor carefully, then press the A button to place a walking stick icon on the ground to guide the old man across the map. There are limited ground and pathway that the old man can walk on, so you’ll need to hold down the A button on a potential pathway to see where he can go. The game highlights the current path he is on with stripes, while path he is not on is only highlighted with a thick stroke.
Guide the old man to benches or interesting landmarks, and he’ll sit down to reminisce on the past. Now this is probably one of the highlights of this game! The flashback scenes are wonderfully drawn and animated to make it feel lively. You can easily piece what's going on by piecing these flashbacks together. These scenes give us strong clues as to why he weathers the rain and storm to get to his destination. Plus, it is really lovely to look at.
From a gameplay perspective, Old Man’s Journey is super barebones but they make it up with interactive elements on screen! Make sure to click onto anything that seems clickable! Moving the cursor through a tree moves it’s foliage. Clicking on windows closes it while doing it to a door or shutters would knock on them, causing the NPC to come out peeking at the troublemaker. Cables sway according to your cursor direction as you move through them. I often find myself clicking on everything I see, just to see what will happen next.
Old Man’s Journey is essentially a puzzle game, so the game throws you a ton of blocking elements to confound your guidance. As you continue to guide the old man through towns and hilly landscapes, you’ll be presented with hills that you can drag up and down to raise it or lower it, flock of sheep that blocks your path, a simple momentum puzzle to destroy walls with wheels and even falling down from one level to another. You will need to work out these puzzles to create a path from Point A to Point B to help the old man move to the next map.
I was barely lost throughout the game despite the lack of voice acting and dialogues. The storytelling was done purely through wordless scenes so you’ll have to piece things together yourself. The game subtlely guides you through the areas (which happened to be a delight to look at) initially, but as you go deeper into the game, you’re left to figure things out on your own. The puzzles are not tough in general as long as you experiment and understand the puzzle rules. Though as I play, I feel really bad making the old man go up hills and down. I even made him slide down mini waterfalls! Are your kneecaps okay, grandpa?
All in all, the game felt short and I’m left a bit dissatisfied since I was expecting more puzzles and past scenes to look at even after I reached the ending. The story is nothing too convoluted to figure out, but the beautiful art makes up for it. This is definitely not a heavy-handed indie game, but a well-done and short indie game that you don’t mind paying a couple of bucks to try.