Indie Review: Broken Age – Act 1 Is A Joyful Triumph For The Adventure Genre
Broken Age is a point-and-click adventure title that is Tim Schafer's first in the genre since 1998's Grim Fandango. Produced by Schafer's Double Fine Productions, the game received massive backing during its development and was highly anticipated until its release. Does it deliver on the hype?
- Worth The Time?Yes, it's exactly what the adventure genre needs.
- Things LovedThe world is fantastic, the phenomenal art direction, the awesome humour, its excessive weirdness gives it a wonderful charm, the characters are easily lovable, the story is intriguing despite being comical in nature, the variety of excellently designed puzzles, the great voice acting and sound work.
- Things HatedOne or two puzzles require bizarre leaps of logic, sometimes the means to acquire a quest item is not intuitive, inability to cycle through dialogue.
- RecommendationBroken Age is the game for absolutely anyone who loves and misses classic point-and-click adventure games. You really can't go wrong with it.
- Name: Broken Age - Act 1
- Genre: Point & Click Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, Mobile
- Developer: Double Fine Productions
- Publisher: Double Fine Productions
- Price: $22.49 (roughly R245)
- Reviewed On: PC
Broken Age is a point-and-click adventure title from the famous Tim Schafer, who is the designer behind critically acclaimed titles such as Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and Brütal Legend. This is Schafer’s first game in this genre since Grim Fandango of 1998 in fact. Broken Age, developed and distributed by Schafer’s Double Fine Productions, was a game that received massive support and backing during its development from fans eager to see the man make his return to this beloved but forgotten genre, and it was a game that was highly anticipated up until its release. The game had big pressure on its shoulders, but after playing the first act to completion, I am proud to say that Broken Age is exactly the kind of game you classic, old-school adventure game lovers out there have been wishing for. Trust me on that, Broken Age is a treat, and not just for the nostalgic.
- You’ll Be Able To Play (Expensive) PS2 Games On Your PS4 Now | 2 months ago
- Jessica Jones Disempowers Its Male Characters And The Effect Is Refreshing | 2 months ago
- Hell Is 30 000 Deathclaws Tearing Through Boston And It’s Glorious | 2 months ago
- Sony Santa Monica Is Teasing Something Truly Strange | 2 months ago
Now before you think that this game is episodic in the same way that The Walking Dead from Telltale is, let me clear the air by saying that the game is broken up into two parts, with the second scheduled to release sometime during this year barring any major hiccups. Broken Age follows the story of two teenagers, Vella and Shay, who seemingly have no apparent connection, but are each attempting to break the cycle of their lives. I have to stop here and say that I really don’t want to go forward and describe the premise of each character, as it would ruin some pretty eyebrow-raising and highly intriguing moments in the game that are best left to be experienced first-hand. What I will say is that this game is nothing if not unconventional. While Vella is a village girl confused with the traditions her family face, Shay is lingering in space aboard an aircraft facing the same dull missions each day with no apparent objective. Deviation from the expected is what sets both characters on their adventures.
The core feature of the game is that rather than have you swap between the two at set points in the story, you’re free to change at any point in time while not in a cutscene. In practice it is a seamless transition, and if you ever get bored of one character or stuck, you have only to perform a simple click to swap over. However, I’m happy to say that most of the times that I swapped over was not because of those reasons, but rather because I was so engrossed in the game that I completely forgot about the other character. Call it the guilt of neglect if you will. But it’s hard not to face it, because Villa and Shay are both easily lovable, there are plenty of colourful and unique characters and the story is loaded with humour and interesting details to discover. The plot itself has a rare ability to be engaging despite being comical in nature most of the time. It’s the kind of game you’ll want to explore every part of the world that you can and talk to every character in sight in the anticipation that you might get a good laugh, or learn something genuinely intriguing. One of the most lovable aspects of the game is how excessively weird it is, which gives it a wonderful charm. That, and the fact that it’s a beautifully designed world, and not just artistically. There’s very, very little to dislike in this area.
I could go on at length about the game’s story and characters and amazing world, but I’ll leave the magical and the unpredictable for you to discover. The first act will give you around two to three hours of gameplay. While there isn’t a whole lot to come back to once you’re done, the brilliant ending will be sure to get your mouth watering in anticipation of the next act. I can’t say that I found anything to criticise regarding the story, but I do have a small nitpick that got to me quite often. Usually in adventure games, you’d expect to be able to cycle through dialogue if you’ve read it all before the character has finished speaking, but in Broken Age you’re only able to skip an entire conversation tree, which gets you back to your dialogue choices. It can be annoying when speaking to characters multiple times or trying to find the solution to a puzzle, and it’s a bit strange why it wasn’t included.
When it comes to gameplay, Broken Age is simplistic and it’s what you know and love. You’ll navigate either Villa or Shay through beautiful locations split up into small areas. The gameplay focuses on using and combining relevant items to solve puzzles and progress just like any other adventure game. You’ll also need to be wary of the fact that you are able to use items on objects and people, so you’ll need to be mindful of the characters around you and the situation at hand. You’ll acquire items by finding them or talking to important characters and selecting specific dialogue options. For the most part, the puzzles are excellently designed and intuitive, and I can only recall two or three places where I got stuck. More in Vella’s world than Shay’s. This is not because the game is easy, but rather because it’s intuitive. Adventure games are really tough to get right, as it’s incredibly easy to lose intuition or challenge, but fortunately Broken Age has got it mostly right and it’s packed with great puzzles and logical gameplay scenarios. I can easily see this appealing to veterans and casuals.
It’s not all perfect though. One or two puzzles, such as the ones I got stuck on, require bizarre leaps of logic to solve. More so, once you know the solution, whether you eventually stumbled on it by luck or looked it up on the internet, you’ll feel as though it was a bit too ambiguous. Sadly it seems that adventure games can’t really escape this given that their entire structure is hours of puzzles. And Broken Age features enough fantastic design and enjoyable puzzles that its few mistakes can be easily forgiven. But my second issue is a more difficult to overlook, which is that sometimes the means to acquire a quest item is just not intuitive. Once or twice I searched every possible spot and spoke to every character on screen, attempting to use everything in my inventory on everything and everyone, only to acquire the item by selecting a specific dialogue choice that previously seemed unimportant and redundant. It’s an irritating design fault when it happens, and may force you to seek a guide.
The graphics are one of the absolute best things about Broken Age. It’s got a beautiful visual style, filled with vibrant colours and bright characters. It almost looks like a painting, yet sometimes it also looks like a cartoon. Either way it’s always pleasant to look at, and a gorgeous visual experience. There are a few graphical bugs that I came across, but nothing frequent enough to be a fault. Once Shay’s lips stopped moving while speaking, but in the next dialogue tree it returned to normal. And once during a conversation, the camera focused on nothing when Shay spoke because he was on the other side of the room. Sometimes visual bugs were caused as a result of skipping cutscenes and doing things too fast. For instance, an item I placed on a tree vanished after skipping the dialogue cutscene, but it was still actually there so I could retrieve it by clicking. Overall, these issues were rare and isolated. Closing off, the sound is fantastic and I especially have to credit the voice acting, which is a huge part of the humour in this game. And yes, Shay is voiced by Frodo, as in Elijah Wood. Vella is by Masasa Moyo.
Broken Age is a joyful triumph for the adventure genre, and it’s a game for absolutely anyone who loves and misses classic point-and-click adventure games. It’s an amazing example of modernising the adventure genre while still bringing the nostalgia and retaining the lovable core of it. You really can’t go wrong with it, and with the exciting way that the first act ends you’ll definitely be demanding more. Simply put, Broken Age is brilliant, witty and plenty of fun, and you shouldn’t miss it.