Broken Age Review: A Storybook Come to Life
Two years after its successful Kickstarter campaign, the first act of Tim Schafer’s highly anticipated point-and-click adventure, Broken Age, is finally here. With a beautifully crafted story set in equally as stunning worlds, Broken Age transcends the point-and-click genre while still upholding the integrity of the '90s adventure games that inspired it.
Once Upon a Time...
Broken Age’s unique dual narrative tells the coming-of-age stories of its two protagonists - Shay and Vella. Shay, a boy bored with his life alone on a Fisher-Price-esque spaceship, yearns for adventure but is discouraged by the ship’s overly protective computer named Mom. Vella, meanwhile, lives in the quaint town of Sugar Bunting and is destined to be her town’s next sacrifice to the monster Mog Chothra. Unsatisfied with either of their potential outcomes, Shay and Vella embark on two exciting adventures to take control of their own destinies and find what it really means to grow up.
Broken Age’s illustrative, 2-dimensional style brings life to the worlds in which Shay and Vella live. I felt like I'd stumbled into a living storybook, complete with talking trees and a village among the clouds. Vella gets the better end of the deal, getting to explore much more outside of her quiet town, although the interior of Shay’s spaceship can be just a breathtaking. The story’s various locations are only enhanced by Peter McConnell’s brilliant soundtrack. The melodic, whimsical score heard in Vella’s world is drastically different from the mechanical pings we hear in Shay’s but equally as beautiful.
Broken Age’s puzzle design is as fun as its story. The puzzles require the use of items - ranging from cupcakes to inflatable rafts - which you'll collect as you explore the game. Solving them is not inherently difficult and if you get stuck, a quick trial-and-error with the items in your inventory will trigger clever dialogue that can help point you in the right direction. The puzzles fit right in with the rest of the game’s quirkiness, making usually bizarre situations seem completely logical. Sure, they’re not the most challenging problems ever, but it’s certainly rewarding when you figure them out.
The point-and-click mechanics of the game are nothing revolutionary and while the world is free for you to explore, that’s about as much freedom as you get. Characters move in response to where you click, and thankfully they walk at a rather quick pace. Interactive parts of the world glow when you hover over them, which is helpful when trying to find the next piece of your puzzle. The flow of the game is predetermined, which I don’t necessarily find to be a bad thing but can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. Find item, talk to character, solve puzzle, repeat. The game took me a little over four hours because I wanted to experience every aspect, but it would be easy to breeze through in under three.
All in all, the first act of Double Fine's Broken Age is a pleasure to play. Between the inventive storytelling and gorgeous worlds, it’s hard to pick a favorite part. With Act 2, it would be nice to see more difficulty and variation in the puzzles, but just picking up after one hell of a cliffhanger should be enough to please those who played Act 1.