There’s something magic about Broken Age. I can’t put my finger on the exact detail that propels it to the equivalent of flipping through a beautiful story book, but it’s there, right along side a fully fledged sense of wonder; it’s sure to win you over with its delightful charm. Roping in players for the complete adventure proves slightly more challenging than the first act’s simple sell. As a package, Broken Age Act 1 and 2 being split into separate episodes hasn’t been in its favor. The signature humor, nostalgia and strong writing find a home in both acts, but developer Double Fine fights to balance a consistent display of charm and storytelling, with challenging and often too tedious of puzzles to allow complete enjoyment throughout the entirety of the complete adventure.
You likely know of Broken Age from its highly successful Kickstarter roots. Originally launched in February of 2012 by Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions, a goal of $400,000 was set in place to cover the costs of development. Those expectations were quickly passed, when within less than a month the project exceeded $3.45 million thanks to 87,000 backers. It currently remains one of the highest-backed crowdfunded projects of all time. Broken Age didn’t raise $3.45 million off its pitch alone, in fact the point-and-click adventure has Tim Schafer to thank for its massive crowdfunding success. News of Schafer’s return to the genre had adventure game fanatics pledging in a heartbeat, and with good reason. Schafer’s signature touches and quirks are found everywhere in Broken Age and play a pivotal part in elevating the game into the spotlight.
Broken Age is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a joyous walk down memory lane. The story follows two teenage protagonists; Vella, a young woman dissatisfied with her perceived honorable fate, and Shay, a boy fighting loneliness in a confined spaceship full of mystery. The two share great curiosity, yet their desire to grasp emotions and logic play-out in a world where ice cream avalanches aren’t out of the ordinary and talking wolves aren’t addressed with dread. The universe is filled with unforgettable character interaction and environmental puzzles that highlight the gorgeous world. Shay and Vella’s storylines take place in different places, with drastically different characters, though the unique style and presentation of the finest details carry over into both.
The storybook style aesthetic leaps from the screen, bringing the beautiful world to life, while conveying feelings of childhood innocence and aspiration. The script is overflowing with jokes that hit and work-in well with the tasks at hand. Not once do laughs come across as forced; each feels genuine and justifiable. Humor is expected to have a strong showing in a Schafer game, but what came as a surprise were the bona fide and poignant moments. Unspoken interaction between characters and great twists made for powerful points on a number of occasions.While Broken Age visually keeps with the modern point-and-click adventure game, it’s a true classic to the core. For better or worse–depending on how you look at it–Broken Age captures the best and worst of classic adventure games. These games aren’t about action, but rather gear their focus toward dialogue and puzzle-solving. Witty writing and intriguing characters keep the dialogue fresh and exciting, but I can’t say the same for the puzzle portions, as a whole.
The first act keeps things simple in the puzzle department and relies more on the establishment of atmosphere and characters to hold investment, while act two puts more emphasis on solving. This leads to my biggest criticism with Broken Age. The final act brings the story to a suitable conclusion, but adds flaws to the formula with the inclusion of tedious and often stressful puzzles. Worse yet, some of the most annoying puzzles are reused on more than one occasion. In order to finish the game I had to resort to the use of wikis, which in the end was much less satisfying than solving the puzzles by myself; I found this a necessary practice, if nothing else, to simply preserve my enjoyment. As the rage surrounding the more complicated puzzles slowly faded to the rolling credits, I realized my efforts were worth it. And then some.The second act also stumbles around a bit when it comes to backtracking. The environments remain predominately the same over the course of both acts and solving the more extensive puzzles will drag you back over already trekked landscapes. This isn’t a huge deal, but I wanted to see more areas of this wonderful world, rather than just a handful of great, reused slices.
A handful of complaints aside, Broken Age’s second act wraps up Shay and Vella’s story in terrific fashion. Twists are affective, jokes are consistently hilarious, and great voice acting drives home just how special and unique some of these characters are.Summary: Now complete, Broken Age offers a fascinating world, full of wonder and interesting characters, as well as some stressful moments, yet in the end triumphs outweigh flaws. Broken Age is a game to be remembered. Maybe not initially after setting down the controller, but in time the writing, characters, universe and sense of humor will rush back in the form of fond memories equivalent to standing at the gates of a theme park.
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