Broken Age: Act 1

Broken Age is the game that, for the longest time, was known as the Double Fine Adventure. Unfortunately the man behind all of this, Tim Schafer, cannot get publisher funding for a game to save his life. It was Kickstarted a long time ago, and it did well. So well that it made crowdfunding a viable method of fundraising for... pretty much everything.

I, however, did not fund this game initially. It wasn't until the Humble Double Fine Bundle that I did. I figured that chipping in at least $35 for Broken Age and the rest of the Double Fine catalog was a good deal, and I did so. On the day of release, I received an email from Humble Bundle saying to go somewhere and get it, followed by another email saying that was in error, because I did not give at least $35. I found that really suspicious, since I know I did, and looked at receipts, to find I gave $36. Undeterred, I went to the Humble Bundle site, looked up the Steam key, and downloaded it. When I was playing, I got yet another email saying "the humble fumble" was actually the second email.

Since this is only a 4-ish hour game, going into any amount of detail may spoil this. I won't spoil any of the big moments, but if you are one of those dickheads that are extremely hypersensitive to spoilers, or were planning on playing it, turn away NOW.

Screenshot from Broken Age, showing Vella and the lumberjack

Firstly, it is refreshing to know that the point-and-click adventure genre has evolved quite a bit over the last 20+ years. Puzzles seem to come together quite nicely, as I rarely had to resort to rubbing everything in my inventory against everything else in order to advance. Half of the things you get just by asking characters about some item, and they will usually say "yeah, go ahead and take it," but fortunately, this game is not filled by unwanted things; you have to work for some. I'm not sure about this, but I think this is the only adventure game that allows you to switch between protagonists at any time. I recall that Dreamfall had multiple protagonists, but I don't know if you could switch between them at any time.

Shay seems to have lived alone on a spaceship for the entirety of his now boring and miserable life. Endless emergency computer simulations are thrown at him that are deliberately designed to give a sense of accomplishment to a 3 year old. The computer (and the ship design) has forgotten the part where the kid grows up. Once the pattern is broken, a sketchy character appears. You finally get to explore around the ship a bit, and see what's going on behind the curtain. What you are actually doing doesn't seem too far advanced from the simulations he's used to, but now the SERIOUS LABEL is applied. I'm not sure if he's actually the good guy, or being led along by the bad guy.

Vella has grown up in an idyllic village. Every few years, they sacrifice young women to a monster. This whole thing is dripping with dissonance, in that it's a festive occasion that everyone looks forward to and is honored by it. Vella goes into it, but fights it, but she ends up in the clouds. She goes to two other villages, one that was just visited by the monster a day before, and another that will be visited on that day. Vella meets a wider variety of characters than Shay (not surprising, since he lives on a spaceship), and also has to do some more interesting puzzles in order to advance. A guy shows up near the end, and I'm positive that I've met him before, but I have absolutely no proof.

The graphics are entirely 2D, and amazingly handpainted, and animated with liberal amounts of parallax scrolling. I don't think that there are any prerendered cutscenes anywhere. I also like how beards are animated; they look like trees blowing in the wind. The character designs are far more reasonably proportioned than in Psyconauts. If people actually came in Psyconaut character proportions, they would have serious physical and mental disabilities.

If you miss point and click adventure games, Broken Age appears to be a solid bet. If you want really hard puzzles, you will be left wanting. It has a solid story and the first act ends on one hell of a cliffhanger.

Posted under Gaming.

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