App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Tap and drag the background to move the scenery up and down. That's essentially all there is to Old Man's Journey, but the game is also so much more than that. It's a beautiful adventure game that tells a moving story about an old man and his life leading up to that point.
Given the title, it's perhaps unsurprising that you play Old Man's Journey from the perspective of a traveling old man. The old man travels through all sorts of environments–towns, mountains, plains, seas–and he's reflecting upon his life as he goes.
Moving the old man through these environments just takes a simple tap, but the core of Old Man's Journey's gameplay is in building the way forward. Any piece of scenery that the man is not currently standing on can be moved up and down, and even shaped to a certain degree. It's up to you to connect these pieces of the background so that the old man can pass safely on his way.
Sections of Old Man's Journey are broken up into their own vignettes, complete with their own environments and some unique puzzle mechanics. Punctuating each of these sections is a scene where the old man pauses, which triggers a memory. These memories are displayed to the player via some gorgeous artwork, and the story reveled through these pieces of art make Old Man's Journey special.
This isn't to say that everything between these scenes is forgettable. Quite the contrary, actually. Every environment in Old Man's Journey is completely gorgeous and packed with detail that reveals itself the more you poke and prod at its environments. There's also something to be said for the way the entire game animates. There are moments in Old Man's Journey where the man simply looks off into the distance and you can tell exactly what he's feeling because of how well directed his movements are. It's arresting.
One not-so-beautiful thing about Old Man's Journey is that it isn't always the easiest game to play, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost of these is the fact that moving terrain in the game is a lot harder than it should be. Precision and timing aren't things that Old Man's Journey really demands, but it can still be frustrating when tapping and dragging sometimes registers as a movement tap instead or grabs the wrong piece of scenery.
In my time with Old Man's Journey I also noticed some performance issues. The game's framerate occasionally drops slightly when playing and I also encountered a bug that I only solved by force quitting and restarting the game. This led me to discover that Old Man's Journey isn't the most generous with checkpointing, as I had to replay a section of the game over again. The game isn't terribly long or difficult, but these issues certainly hampered some of my enjoyment.
The bottom line
In a lot of ways, Old Man's Journey is a lot like its own protagonist. It's precious and fascinating, but has its fair share of wrinkles as well. I wouldn't let any of the technical issues with the game stop you from picking it up though. Old Man's Journey more than makes up for its shortcomings through its unique mechanics, breathtaking visuals, and emotionally affecting story.