Two stories, tons of creativity, yummy ice cream, no grog
That’s fair advice for the half of you who will start out Broken Age in a miserable funk instead of a monster-filled fairy tale. At least, that’s how we felt when we initially began our trip through Tim Schafer’s imaginative title—the first half of a two-part, point-and-click adventure from the industry veteran whose previous credits stand well on their own within the genre: Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, et cetera.
The game splits the two protagonists’ (seemingly) separate story lines right from the start. We started our journey with the boy, Shay, but found the initial ramp-up to his adventure a bit too convincing.
It’s no Mystery Science Theater movie warning, that’s for sure.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Shay is trapped on a spaceship that goes above and beyond to protect him from the harshness of growing up. Shay could not be any more apathetic to the idea of daily life with his “mother,” a benevolent, computerized AI of sorts, who washes him, feeds him his daily cereal, and sends him on “adventures” that end in hugs, piles of ice cream, and, most likely, a bout of depression.
The other protagonist of this half-game, Vella, presents a more compelling story line. In this case, you’re playing the classic damsel in distress. Rather than being eaten by a giant monster as part of her town’s sacrificial ritual to avoid destruction, she decides to go on a one-woman crusade to slay said monster herself.
While Vella’s story line is a bit more action-packed—or at least, feels more so as a result of its classic slay-the-dragon-like premise—we actually found ourselves more proud of our experience in Shay’s adventure. Our favorite moment involved trying to find a way to “kill” our character, for lack of a better way to say it, in order to see if his daily monotony could be averted somehow. Spoiler: It can.
That’s the most challenging example of the game’s puzzles that we could come up with, as Broken Age feels perfectly balanced between “breeze on by” and “consult game FAQs” for its overall difficulty. You get just enough quirky items to keep you thinking about what goes where without feeling overwhelmed with options—this isn’t a 20-item-inventory, combine-every-gizmo kind of adventure title.
While Broken Age features no hint system, which might frustrate those looking for an extra boost or two in some head-scratching moments, you do have the option to switch between the two separate”story lines at a moment’s notice. Think Day of the Tentacle, only, your actions in the two stories don’t affect each other—a somewhat curious oversight that we hope developer Double Fine Productions changes up in the game’s second half.
There’s no real point to spending much time talking about the game’s graphics, as you’ll fall in love with the beautiful visuals the moment you start adventuring. Kudos to Broken Age’s original orchestration as well—it’s the bread keeping the delicious presentation together. Sharp writing, endless wit, and excellent characterization (with similarly awesome voice talent) all work in tandem to deliver a welcome arrival to a genre whose blockbuster titles are not always at the forefront of gamers’ minds.
You won’t forget Broken Age; in fact, we think you’ll be clamoring for quite a while to see how chapter one’s big cliffhanger ends up. More, Tim Schafer! More!