Old Man’s Journey: A Gentle Exploration of Hope

Old Man’s Journey is a puzzle adventure game developed and published by Broken Rules in 2017. It follows the titular old man’s travels following a letter containing sad news. The player is tasked with manipulating the path to enable the old man to reach his destination, just in time to say goodbye to his ailing ex-love.

This game is entirely without dialogue, and the player must infer the old man’s backstory through the old man’s still flashbacks. It’s not a happy story: torn between his love for the sea and the love for his family, he chooses the sea, and, in turn, loses them both, at least as of the start of the game.

Quick summary: Old Man grows up loving the sea, meets a woman he loves just as much, marries her, buys a boat without consulting his new wife, has a daughter with her, teaches his daughter to love the sea as much as he does, takes constant trips around the world, sees amazing and beautiful sights, and returns home after one particular trip to find that his wife has left him and taken their daughter. He then chooses to settle down in a ramshackle house by the sea, and it’s implied that he never goes sailing again, at least as far as this player is aware.

I have to respect that the game doesn’t go the tired route of Spurned Man Tracking Down Wayward and Understandably Pissed Ex-Wife, Begging Her to Take Him Back, and Somehow Succeeding Despite Changing Absolutely No Aspect of His Behavior. In fact, they go the opposite way – he respects her decision, grows to understand his fault in contributing to it, and actively works to correct the behavior (potentially over-corrects, but that’s a different discussion). And then he waits until he’s invited back into her life, and rushes to be reunited with her, even if it is at her deathbed. And then, at the very end of the game, he’s given a second chance with the daughter his behavior drove away, and does the smart thing by uniting his to great loves – he’s shown sailing with her and her own child, something he’s never shown doing with his wife in flashback.

I very much enjoyed this game – it’s not very long, only taking me a few hours to complete, and the puzzles weren’t anything overly complicated, and didn’t make me feel stupid, even when it took me a few tries (and discrete walk through searches; waterfalls, dude) to figure them out. The music is soothingly nostalgic, and the art charmingly simple. The greatest beauty, however, is in the story itself. The game doesn’t spoon feed it to – as I said, there is absolutely no dialogue in this game – but the creators have enough respect for the player to expect them to be smart enough to figure it out through implication. And while my interpretation is by no means the only one – this game is three years old, and you can find any number of reviews and analyses for it through a quick google search – I appreciate that it allowed me to draw my own conclusions.

I strongly recommend that you give this game a try for yourself and draw your own.

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