PEGBRJE: Old Man’s Journey and Rym 9000
A game of empathy, and a game of… really not.
Old Man’s Journey is a narrative puzzle story done by the devs at Broken Rules, a studio in Vienna that has published a few titles before, and composed by scntfc. Players follow the journey of an old man (gee wow never would’ve guessed that one) as he attempts to reach a destination unknown to the player. To do so, players must manipulate the levels given to them so that he can safely reach a bench to rest, which ends the level and gives players a memory fragment of his past. The journey continues onwards, with players finding new ways to move mountains and bridges to allow the old man to continue forward towards his goal — something that if spoiled, kind of ruins a lot of the fun.
To avoid spoiling said story, which is somewhat hard to talk about without doing so, I instead am going to discuss my personal favourite aspect of this game: the level manipulation. Each set piece is drawn in an individual layer, as many perspective pieces in a flat environment would be. However, upon dragging the mouse around and grabbing one of the floors, players find that they can stretch these individual perspective layers in different ways into different shapes, glowing yellow to show the outline of the terrain — this is where the puzzling begins. The old man cannot magically jump from one area to another, but he can jump from one set layer to another if they have a connecting section, highlighted by a yellow dot when two set pieces collide. Sure, perspective wise it doesn’t make much sense that the old man can jump to the farthest layer from the closest, shrinking him instantly upon doing so, but for the puzzles it works fantastically. There are only a few instances that yellow highlights cannot be moved, the biggest being the layer that the old man has been currently moved to. Other areas are flat, usually signifying a rocky outcrop or building that cannot be moved that provides challenge.
This sets up the puzzle environment for the players to expect all landscape and moldable to their will. While there are boundaries that all pieces have, by bending either side players can find ways to solve puzzles and uncover secrets that may be hidden by a hill that doesn’t need to exist where it currently is. Puzzles are relatively casual (thankfully for me), and mostly can be worked with a little trial and error to see which pieces can move and how far. It’s only later on in the game that obstacles other than immobile terrain layers become a factor, especially those darn sheep. However, players are never left feeling incompetent in their solutions, for there really isn’t any stress to complete them in any time, nor is there ‘surprising depth’ that can overcomplicate the process. It’s meant to represent the old man’s journey, after all; moving from one area to the next, finding ways to get where he needs to go and eventually take a breather at a picturesque location.
The art direction solidifies this calming feeling with its paintbrush strokes and soft yet colourful aesthetic. Nothing seems harsh or jagged, even in the more depressing sections of the game. It’s meant to be an emotional tale of an elder, not a trial by fire. Combined with the folk music and some accordion thrown in for good measure, Old Man’s Journey could easily be left on in the background to serenade one to sleep. After experiencing the emotional weight of the story and playing with its themes of loss and discovery, however, one would be hard pressed to not associate the ballads in the background with a sense of longing. They tie players in to the story, journeying with a gentleman who’s life is not ours, yet by the end I felt nostalgic for a life not even mine, no matter how many decisions and discoveries are made along the way.
Old Man’s Journey is a sympathetic tale first and foremost, one that asks players to follow in another’s footsteps as he remembers the life that he once had while journeying towards an unknown. It’s not complicated, it’s not groundbreaking, but it is heartwarming; hard not to feel for an elder who must rest after every level due to feeling winded. The journey itself will only take a little over an hour, with a few hidden mysteries sprinkled within that one may miss throughout. If you are searching for a soft, sad tale to either put you in a happy or sad mood, then give Old Man’s Journey a try. It doesn’t need to say a lot; in fact there are no words throughout the entire game. That doesn’t stop it from telling an emotional tale.
Our next game has none of this.
Rym 9000 is an arcade shoot em up bullet fiesta made by Sonoshee, a solo developer with a knack for ‘interactive fever dreams’, and honestly that’s one way of describing this game. Players take control of a fighter pilot tasked with a singular objective: destroy everything, reach the moon, uncover a legendary item called the Rym 9000. That’s all one needs to shoot legions of enemy ships in this environment, so why not just shoot the metaphorical road clear of obstacles and get driving.
To call this game high octane would be a misnomer, as I’m not certain the octane levels of the ship are any faster than the previous titles. However, the game sure makes players feel as if they are going Mach 5 through the funkiest of space dimensions. Colours are flashy, fast and everywhere, complete with glitching action and high score numbers littering the screen at times. The OST was an easy highlight for this title as it almost brought a sense of rhythm to my actions as I shot things down to the beat unintentionally, it just had a groove that fit with the bizarre futurescape being created.
Unfortunately, I would be remiss to not address the obvious disclaimer this game comes with; it’s a massive seizure warning wrapped in a bullet-hell coat. The screen flickers constantly with explosions, flashing lights and bullets from either side, with constant pop ups for score and nonessential terrain. I don’t have a history of epilepsy, but I do know that I am unable to handle glitchiness and screen flickers for very long; previous titles only lasted 5–10 minutes for me before I went menu diving for a solution to keep playing. Rym 9000 doesn’t have this option, as the entirety of the game’s charm revolves around this future punk fever dream. I thought even the music was a tad loud until I noticed that this was, in fact, not only part of the plan but also the sound effects were doing some bizarre resonance with the OST. Not sure if this was completely intentional, but the sfx of the shooting and the explosions didn’t always drown out the background music, but sometimes enhanced it to levels I couldn’t handle for very long.
If you are one of those individuals that loved playing old arcade games on a nearly-broken CRT like a few of my relatives, then Rym 9000 is easily going to be your jam. It is full of all the best useless information, lacking in health bars and lives to focus on explosion particles and numbers to count score. You’ll only have 5 levels to traverse through, but they will be packed with everything an arcade enthusiast loves most. Not every game can appeal to every person, especially in this game’s case, so if you suffer from easy eye irritation or from anything that can cause seizures, I highly recommend avoiding this title at all costs. No game is worth a health risk, not even fever dream explosions.
Old Man's Journey
Old Man's Journey, a soul-searching puzzle adventure, tells a story of life, loss, reconciliation, and hope. Entrenched…