August 1, 2021

This hidden gem of a game will make you want to hug your grandpa

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The elderly rarely feature as the protagonist of a video game. I mean, it’s hard to imagine a kindly old man blasting aliens or chainsawing zombies.But the peaceful, gorgeous, easy-to-play iOS title ($4.99, also available on Google Play and Steam) Old Man’s Journey will make you rethink the kind of stories that games can tell. And it will also definitely fill you with the burning need to call the old man in your life, whether father or grandfather, right away to tell him how much you love him.Described as a “soul-searching puzzle adventure,” you embark on a wordless journey across memories, dream-like landscapes, and quiet moments of reflection. With an art style inspired by postcards from real places in France, Italy, Spain and Greece, you must toy around with the hills and buildings in the handcrafted 2D terrain to clear a path forward for the titular Old Man.

But the real heart of his voyage is felt through the wordless narrative you uncover, bringing a surprising weight as it deals with the challenges of love, family, and forgiveness.

“While designing it, we always talked about Old Man’s Journey being a game for the reading nook,” said lead designer Felix Bohatsch. “Where you cuddle up with a cup of tea and are ready to feel.”

And man, if a reading-nook game about forgiving your family doesn’t scream “perfect for the holidays,” I don’t know what does.

The inspiration for the game arose from the real-world, everyday struggle of the Broken Rules’ team to find the work-life balance between their passion for game-making and their families. They weren’t the only ones struggling, either. The team had noticed that, as both gamers and games themselves began maturing, more and more of them were now turning to iPhones or iPads in search of meaningful play experiences.

So, Bohatsch and his team thought about how “family is a universal value. Everyone knows what it means to have one (or not have one), so the topic let us create an experience that touched people all over the world.”

Anyone can pick up and play Old Man’s Journey, and anyone who’s ever wrestled with the complexities of familial love will recognize the true trials of his expedition.

For Bohatsch, he hopes players walk away feeling empathy for their protagonist. “Because decisions in life aren’t always easy, and sometimes there is no right decision. But you have to make one anyway.”

So as you gather round the table with your family over the holidays, wondering how you’ll stay sane around your parents or brother or grandparent — give this lush and poignant play a try.

“We believe that it’s never too late to ask for forgiveness of the ones you love,” said Bohatsch. “And that there always is potential for happiness.”


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