The Old Tree, developed by Red Dwarf Games in 2012, is a stunning point and click adventure game, following some sort of life form. The look of the character is akin to some sort of round vegetable/fruit such as an apple and an octopus, you see the character hatch from an egg deep inside what one can assume on first look as ‘The Old Tree’. This little character is an adorable creature and the only thing you must do is help it go where it needs to go, manoeuvring objects and manipulating the environment.
The gameplay itself is extremely simple and the soundtrack is so relaxing, The Old Tree is what I would describe as a “Sunday Afternoon” game, something to enjoy but not all that challenging. A lot of the game is focused on the artwork and general look of the game and for good reason, the art style is beautiful but does not take anything away from the game but instead adds to the atmosphere and the general “other-worldly” feel to the game.
The story, I feel takes in some aspect inspiration from Norse Mythology and the idea of a tree of life, Yggdrasil which connects the nine worlds on its branches. The Old Tree has many different twists and turns any given moment you are in a tree to a hotel lobby and then a kitchen to find yourself back in a tree.
The look of the chef is the biggest clue that not everything is as it seems, the chef is a humanoid looking character, whose cooking (the steam) is blocking the little alien’s path. The kitchen looks like an old room and out the window you can clearly see the night sky. You can assume this is somewhere in the future. This of course is one of the puzzles which you must complete to progress the story. The challenge itself is a fairly simple one, as is true for the rest of the game, you must complete the chef’s recipe (seems simple – and it is!) your advancement is halted by a fly and it took me an embarrassingly long time to work this out… as a lot of these fairly simple puzzles did throughout the game. The simplicity of the puzzles is what works against this game, I am always thinking things are much more complicated than it is. There is nothing more to this game than clicking in the correct place, time isn’t even an issue, there is no time limit you literally meander towards the ending (which comes far too soon!)
Due to the game being so short, it takes ten – fifteen minutes to complete, the story becomes a little lost, more becoming playable art rather than a very pretty game. Many players did not enjoy how little game play there actually was. However, this works to the games advantage, being able to fully encapsulate the beauty and wonder of new born life. The mystery and adventure that a young child experiences is also fully realised in this beautiful game and you want to find out where this little alien is going and why he is going there which is why the ending is so surprising. Your part in its life is just over, it leaves and you can no longer help it on its way.
The, arguably, most surprising creature you meet is the squirrel (other than a cockroach) because it is the only thing in the entire game which ordinarily resides in a tree, bringing us back to the question of where are we? Of course it is not such a simple question to answer, in fact it doesn’t and simply leaves the player with a hauntingly beautiful ending as you watch your little alien fly away into space. It is such a bitter sweet ending and in some ways you are happy that the little alien found its way to where it wants to go but on the other hand you are sad simply because none of the questions are answered during the game.
Personally, I feel this game should have received much more attention than it ever did. The game’s visuals are something which you would find in an incredible animated cinematic experience and that is exactly what this game is trying to emulate. It’s allowing you to play a snippet of a young alien’s life, it is a stunning part of life, allowing you to guide the alien to safety. The visuals paired with an extremely atmospheric soundtrack I find it extremely difficult to condemn it especially since it is free to play on Steam.