Old Man’s Journey by Vienna-based Broken Rules is equal parts game and story. You play as an old man who receives a letter that seems to upset him. He immediately grabs a backpack and walking stick and sets out into the countryside on a journey. Along the way, you clear a path for the traveler by manipulating the landscape to solve a series of puzzles. The puzzles aren’t difficult, but they help draw you into the beautiful interactive environment and pique your curiosity about the man’s story. Before long, I found myself completely absorbed by Old Man’s Journey.
There is no dialogue in Old Man’s Journey, just a pleasant soundtrack supplemented by sound effects as you interact with your surroundings. As you progress through each stage, your character’s story is told through memories revealed at the end of each stage of the game.
Interaction with the game’s environment is the central element of Old Man’s Journey. To advance through the countryside, you need to move hills and other parts of the landscape into positions that the old man can traverse, which is complicated by the fact that you cannot move the ground on which he stands. As you master moving hills, the game adds variety by requiring you to do things like use wheels to knock down walls and transition from hiking to taking different modes of transportation, all the while clearing a path through the landscape.
The scenes in the game are beautiful and have a storybook feel. The images are two-dimensional but layered in a way that gives the game a sense of depth.1 Coupled with the lack of dialogue, the overall effect gives Old Man’s Journey a dream-like quality that works well with the flashbacks that slowly tell the story of the man’s past.
There are some interesting gameplay parallels between Old Man’s Journey and a couple of my favorite games of 2017. Most of the puzzles in Old Man’s Journey involve manipulating the landscape around the protagonist to allow him to reach the next stage of the game, which immediately reminded me of Stagehand, which Federico reviewed earlier this year. The two games couldn’t be more different in most respects, but there’s something about manipulating the environment to help your character advance that is compelling in both games. It’s a mechanic that requires a shift in perspective and focus that drew me into both games.
Almost everything in Old Man’s Journey is interactive too. Tap on a bird sitting on a wire, and it flies off, or tap on a door, and it opens. Each interaction is accompanied by wonderful sound design that helps bring the story to life in a way that is similar to Hidden Folks, which I reviewed earlier this year. Again, this is a very different game, but it’s a common approach that makes Old Man’s Journey more dynamic.
Old Man’s Journey is a relatively short game that can be completed in a few hours. Unlike many mobile games, this is one that is better played for longer stretches on the biggest screen you have. In some respects, the experience of playing Old Man’s journey is closer to watching a good movie or reading a book than playing a game, which I liked. If you want to lose yourself in a good story this weekend, Old Man’s Journey is an excellent choice.
Old Man’s Journey, which is an Apple Editors’ Choice game, is available in the App Store.