Broken Age – Act I Review

SmallOverview1

From the enigma that is Tim Schafer’s mind comes Broken Age. Perhaps the greatest example of the power of crowd-funding in video game history, the game managed to raise $3.4 million on Kickstarter, well over the intended $400,000. The outcome of this venture was Broken Age – the first act, that is. The second act is set to release sometime later in 2014.

Using only your mouse, you point to where you want to go or what you want to interact with and click on it. Right clicking brings up your inventory which is the only menu you will interact with. The minimal HUD elements allow for full viewing of the gorgeous hand-drawn art style. The question lays whether the adventure itself lives up to its pedigree.

 Hits

The Adventure Definitely Lives Up to Its Pedigree

In terms of creating unique adventure games, it doesn’t get more creative than a Tim Schafer/Double Fine project. Broken Age is certainly no exception. You take control of two very different characters living in very different environments. Shay lives alone on a spaceship where his life is controlled by an overprotective AI computer who acts as his mother. His tedious life includes partaking in “mission” simulations that are designed to stimulate him. The twist is that the missions are immensely juvenile and do nothing but bore and annoy the teenaged Shay. In one mission, you need to rescue two people from an avalanche of ice cream by eating through the ice cream with a talking spoon.

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Vella, on the other hand, lives in a world where she is controlled by the whims of her family and her village. Tradition in their world dictates that young women must be sacrificed to appease Mog Chothra, an enormous being who wields the power to destroy any village that doesn’t offer sacrifice. As she is being sacrificed, she notices just how ridiculous this notion is and works to overcome Mog Chothra.

In a way, both of their stories are similar. Two young people trapped in a world that they cannot escape. Shay seeks to get away from his overbearing AI mother while Vella is forced through her culture to nearly give her own life. They clearly live in extremely different environments but, without spoiling anything, it can be surmised that their adventures do eventually converge in a most unexpected way.  The three-hour campaign will take you to a few unique locales and ends on a great cliffhanger that will leave any player hungry for Act II.

Great Characters and Excellent Writing

It wouldn’t be a Tim Schafer experience without goofy characters and chuckle inducing writing. Along the way you will meet a mysterious man dressed as a wolf, a group of zany sky people, and a hipster lumberjack to name a few. The interactions that take place between you and these characters are about as entertaining as it gets.

An excellent cast of voice actors lend their pipes to the superbly written dialogue. Expect to hear performances from Jack Black, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Hale, and many more. Rarely did the writing ever feel stale and each character is rich with personality.

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Misses

Weightless Dialogue Trees

When talking and interacting with other characters, you are generally presented with a few different choices for dialogue. These choices allow you to ask different questions or access various points of conversation. I’m not saying I was expecting an RPG, but maybe a few branching paths to mix things up over different play-throughs. The linearity certainly hurts the replay value but the excellent writing and voice acting makes the first way through a great experience where no piece of dialogue should be missed.

Poor Puzzle Difficulty and Challenges

The characters and the story amalgamate into a great experience. Where the game falters are the puzzle sequences. I’m not saying that the puzzles weren’t entertaining; far from it. Some of the ways that the characters and various items you collect come together are hilarious and interesting. But there was never a point where I felt challenged. Pretty much every puzzle consists of using items on other items, objects, or people and hoping for a result. In most cases the solution to a puzzle was obvious or could be quickly and thoughtlessly solved by the aforementioned method.

In addition, as far as I could tell there was never any danger of losing or dying. There was always some sort of cushion to land on. This diminishes a lot of key life-threatening moments for the characters. Given the lighthearted style of Broken Age, I can understand how they wanted to avoid killing the player and forcing them to restart a sequence. However, this doesn’t defeat the fact that there is never any consequence for doing something incorrectly. I wouldn’t call this issue a deal breaker by any means, but it is something to consider.

 Recap

Though Broken Age is Tim Schafer’s first point-and-click since 1996, he clearly hasn’t lost his touch. Broken Age is everything you could possibly want in an adventure game. It won’t redefine gaming as a whole but will almost certainly live down as one of the best games of its kind. The game is ripe with charm and hilarious moments and is definitely worth the time to play.

 

Written by: Dimitri Gedevanishvili

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