Broken Age will be a major part of video game history. Not only did it mark the first major crowd-funded game through Kickstarter, but also goes to show that adventure games aren’t as dead as the popular consensus has seen them since the turn of the century. Double Fine Studios have crafted a game that delivers on the word that Tim Schafer and company promised back when this journey began.
The story centers around two teenagers, Shay and Vella, who are struggling to break out of the predetermined paths set out for them. Shay is stuck aboard a spaceship that caters to his every need while challenging him with “dangerous” missions which in reality are simulations that were used to entertain him as a small child that now bore him. The reason given as to why he is in this situation is that the ship he resides within is on a journey to try and find a new world to inhabit as his was destroyed.
Vella on the other hand is from the small village of Sugar Bunting and has been chosen to be one of several sacrifices to the monster, Mog Chothra in exchange for the safety of her village. However, unlike everyone but her grandfather, she doesn’t see this opportunity as a great honor and decides to rebel against it. Both plotlines show a parallel coming-of-age story that does not reveal much of a connection to each other until the end.
In terms of gameplay, this is a traditional point and click adventure game, however, with some modern touches. For example there is no “action dump” which is what I call all of the different commands that used to exist within the genre such as “pick up,” “give,” or “talk to.” Each item simply can be used either on another item, in the environment or automatically given to another character. Also when traversing between areas, double clicking on the arrow that leads to the next screen automatically takes you there as opposed to having to watch your character take their time walking across the screen.
As is par for the course in this genre, there are also puzzles to solve. Throughout the four and a half hours it took me to beat Broken Age, I was never stumped with Shay’s story. However, with Vella’s there were several points when I did not know what to do only to find out that there was an item to pick up that had been walked past. Of course, in the puzzle department, your mileage may vary especially as I don’t consider myself particularly good at puzzles in games. If you do get stuck, fortunately you can switch between Shay’s and Vella’s stories at any point to relax your mind and come back to the problem later.
Visually the game is stunning. The watercolor/papier-mâché style that is used looks fantastic and does a great job at giving the characters and environments a personality of their own whether it is Harm’ny Lightbeard of Meriloft or Shay’s crocheted friends aboard his ship. Even the lighting is impressive for a game of this scale with Shay walking through lighter and darker parts of the ship and the effects of those lights being shown upon him. Seriously, the visual appeal of this game is stellar.
This quality extends to most of the voice acting as well. Almost all supporting characters are fantastic including voice talents such as Wil Wheaton and Jack Black. The lead protagonists on the other hand are not as consistent. While Shay is very well-voiced by Elijah Wood, Vella is not as fortunate. She is voiced by Masasa Moyo who has a long list of voice acting credits but comes off as very monotone and generally uninterested as to what is going on in the world around her.
As mentioned earlier, the game will take between four and five hours to complete. While some will say that this is on the short side, it is the first of two acts with the second one coming out sometime this year and being free to those who have bought the first. Also, I have never experienced a more satisfying cliffhanger ending than I have with this game. Double Fine has not only proven that point and click adventure games still have a place in the modern day FPS saturated marketplace, but that they can be done with quality and care.