Old Man’s Journey Nintendo Switch Review

Old Man’s Journey plays more like a virtual pop-up book than a game. However, that statement should no way discredit the impact of my experience with it. It’s a quick playthrough, with little to no replay value, but is remedied by an endearing illustrative art-style, charming aesthetic, and in the end, left me emotionally shook, delivering a simple and effective tale that’ll surely be true for ages.  

The game begins with a burly old man receiving a letter. With no indication of what it says, it leads him to pack his bags and head out from his quaint seaside home,

The game features no tutorials, nor are they necessary. Intuitively I began clicking around the screen, interacting with the surroundings, and pointing the old man on where to go. Instead of traditionally moving left and right, you guide the old man further into the foreground by shifting and manipulating the terrain.

And though its lack of tutorials are welcomed, it would have been nice to know that there were several ways to play. Which is by touching the screen, using the joystick, or removing one of the joycons and using it in a Wii remote-style.

As you progress, each chapter will end with a beautifully illustrated still,  which are the only point of reference for telling the story, as well as the old man’s past. Some of the stills are worthy of being hung on my wall. And of many times I sat just watching them loop over and over again, accompanied by its worldly folk soundtrack.

Occasionally the Old Man’s Journey will change its gameplay by introducing puzzle elements like herding sheep in order to clear a path for the old man, to toying with its physics, but it never strays far from the core principles of shifting and moving the land around.

These subtle attempts at adding puzzles I found quite easy, but it seems intentional that they’re not meant to feel like roadblocks, but rather a means to add variety and interaction with the story. Again, similarly to a pop-up book.

Herding sheep, however, does get a bit tiresome and repetitive, and was more annoying than endearing later in the game.

As the game progresses and the story unravels, it sways in and out of sadder tones, which is a welcome departure from its otherwise peacefully pleasant aesthetic. And upon its conclusion, I was left emotionally moved and satisfied, which for me  justified the game’s fairly short playthrough.

At its core, Old Man’s Journey is about someone who wants more, to explore, and in doing so harms those closest to him. I, for one, can relate. I have many times chose my own work and ambitions over others, and it was even more eerily appropriate that I played this game while on a trip for work away from a loved one.

Something else I appreciated about this story is that it poses the old man in such a light that makes his morals questionable — something that few games rarely attempt in its protagonist. And to see it done effectively in a game of such small stature, was refreshing.

It’s important to note that Old Man’s Journey was previously released for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, but its many ways to control, as well as experiencing the game on a big screen and on the go is what separates it from its previous release on other platforms.

If you haven’t already played Old Man’s Journey, then this would be the time and way to experience it. Otherwise, it doesn’t serve much of a second playthrough, and aside from control and its hybrid portability, the Switch version doesn’t offer anything new. But despite this experience being a one-and-done, I have a feeling that I’ll be remembering this game well for years to come like an old memory, both pleasant but at times sad.

The Journey Down Chapter 3 Review

The Journey Down first came through my radar years ago when seeking out modern adventure games that weren’t trying to be nostalgia grabs or re-hashes from the past. Though rooted in the genre’s traditions, the first two chapters exemplified a tremendous amount of promise and originality that separated it from its contemporaries. I fell in love its self-proclaimed afro-caribbean vibe, mood setting soundtrack, lovable characters, and its ambitious overarching storyline. Now, five years after the release of its first chapter, The Journey Down Chapter 3 is here, and it delivers a satisfying conclusion to an already great modern adventure saga.

Picking up immediately where chapter 2 left off, Bawana, Kito, and Lina continue their journey, in search for a lost journal that contains secrets and research of an ancient culture that could be the key to a great and mysterious power.

In their search, they come across an abandoned mining facility that contains a secret plan for the big bad corporate St. Armando power company, to drill into the center of St. Armando, a giant metropolitan city, resulting in millions of deaths.

Bawana and Kito, split up from Lina,  while she continues to uncover mysteries in the underworld, and they head back to the overworld to find Professor Moorhead, a vital character from the first chapter.

Bawana joins sides with an underground resistance and band, the “Resistance Rockers,” and a news reporter tired of delivering propaganda, and eager for the “real scoop,” to expose St. Armadno Power Companies dirty secret.

Consistent from the previous two chapters, writer and artist Theodor Waern displays his ability to write a compelling story, that feature characters you’ll love and remember, like Waasi, the leader of the of the Resistance Rockers, all of which play an important part in progressing the story forward. Not to mention Bawana, our star, an often times bumbling goof ball, incidentally turned hero. This chapter, however, is the first time we get to take control of Lina,  which was a refreshing change of pace from the other games.

A welcoming return from the previous chapters is its incredible soundtrack. The production and emphasis on music is unmatched, especially when compared with most AAA studio games. From its perfectly encapsulating Lethal Weapon vibe in the Overworld, to its pirate-esque jig in the Underworld.

And just as varying as its musical arrangement, are its environments. From from the tropical Underworld, shifting into the overwhelmingly congested urban Overworld, the environments are well varied and have character all their own. But in contrast, the underworld lacked the finer, more realized detail of its counterpart. Particularly with some character models, which looked completely 2D and illustrated when compared with the 3D models of the other characters. The production of cutscenes and soundtrack are so high and polished, that seeing these moments felt uncharacteristic with the rest of the game.

One thing seems to be apparent in contrast to its previous chapters, and that is the emphasis on story over puzzles. Though they’re very thoughtfully designed, I never found myself completely stumped. Thankfully, the puzzles make coherent sense, and never fall under the “try every item in your inventory until something works” trope (excluding one puzzle that involves a sticker from a piece of fruit.)

But due to the ease of the puzzles, this may be a quick playthrough for some. The only times I had found myself stuck was because I had missed picking up a vital item somewhere. Of course, all adventure games vary in length depending on the player’s ability to solve the puzzles. But if you’re a veteran adventure gamer, you might blast through this one pretty quick.

It’s a refreshing relief to have a modern adventure game saga have not only a conclusion, but one that feels cohesive and satisfying — especially in a time where most adventure games are done episodically, many of which aren’t yet complete, or cop out for a more cryptic and “up-for-interpretation-style” ending. Other developers should take note on how to properly wrap up a story.

Paired with top-notch voice acting, polished and highly cinematic cutscenes, The Journey Down Chapter 3 is a thoroughly well crafted conclusion to a very fun and surprising saga. It’s impossible to recommend one chapter without recommending them all, since each is a vital continuation of the last, so I don’t recommend jumping into the series here. Those looking for a modern adventure game classic, that’s reminiscent of traditional storytelling, while still maintaining an identity separate from its inspirations, look no further: The Journey Down Saga is great. Sky Goblin have proved themselves exceptional storytellers and world builders with the series. I’m eager to see what they do next