Point-and-click adventure games are too few and far between these days, especially those which really make you invest your time and patience trying to get through and have you explore every nook and cranny it has to offer. Of course adventure games with deep story lines and writing, vibrant worlds with unique graphics, the right music that sets the tone for the gameplay, and puzzles that take a lot of effort to solve are the elements that truly make an adventure game feel like just that, an adventure. Double Fine, the development studio behind games such as The Cave and Psychonauts, aim to do just that with their new adventure, Broken Age ($22.49, Direct Link).
Broken Age tells the stories of two separate characters in different worlds. You can play as both Shay Volta (voiced by Elijah Wood) and Vella Tartine (voiced by Masasa Moyo). You can start with either Vella or Shay and you have the option of switching between the two characters any time throughout the game. Shay’s life isn’t as adventurous as he would like it to be. He’s the only human aboard the spaceship, Bassa Nostra, in a galaxy which is searching for his new home.
All this time, he’s being shielded by Mom (Jennifer Hale) and Dad (John Cygan), two AI characters who protect him like any mother or father would. While Shay is coasting on this spaceship, he eats your typical space food of entrees in tablet and paste form as well as generic cereal in the morning. While he wants to go out and explore the galaxy through exciting adventures, he’s limited to mundane tasks such as saving helpless villagers who are trapped in an avalanche of ice cream or examining a plant on a spacewalk only to have the plant jump in his face over and over.
Meanwhile, Vella’s world is completely different than what Shay encounters on a daily basis. Vella lives in her town of Sugar Bunting. She has to compete in the 14-yearly Maiden’s Fest. In this affair, young girls offer themselves up as a sacrifice to the monster, Mog Chothra to bring honor to their families. Instead of participating in this event, Vella, the brave entry, wants to fight the beast and eventually kill it. Unfortunately besides her grandfather, the residents of Sugar Bunting don’t agree with her since Maiden’s Fest has always been the tradition.
One of the things that’s really interesting about both Shay and Vella’s story is that they both want to escape the world and life they currently live in and crave each other’s adventure, surroundings, and journey as far as Shay wanting something more adventurous, then on the other hand, Vella wanting something less stressful, like what Shay is currently stuck with. They both live parallel lives.
They’re similar in some ways since they want something new for themselves, but the lives they currently live are distinct, yet at the same time, they both want to escape a life that’s been chosen for them. They end up setting fourth on two different journeys, Shay looking to be free and lead adventures and Vella, wanting to fight back against Maiden’s Fest, the Chothra, and what the people of Sugar Bunting believe in.
As far as gameplay you can effortlessly switch between Shay and Vella anytime throughout the game. If for instance, you happen to get stuck on a certain puzzle with Shay, you can take a break from it, continue the story with Vella, then go back to Shay’s story at a later time. You can also take a different path by playing Vella’s or Shay’s story all the way through, then the other character’s later on. It helps the gameplay flow a lot faster if you get stumped, so you don’t end up sitting in front of your screen for a long period of time just trying to solve a specific puzzle.
Another great aspect of Broken Age is the simple gameplay mechanics. Broken Age is your traditional point-and-click adventure, so there aren’t any complicated layouts of controls to be found here. It’s made for anyone to enjoy right from the beginning of the game. Just click where you want your character to go or hover your cursor over an item. If it glows, you can interact with it and pick it up if it’s a tool you can use for a puzzle. This also pertains for characters you run into.
You can start a conversation with anyone and a dialog tree will show up. Throughout this dialog, you’ll be given subtle hints when solving puzzles. Items you collect are also easy to use. Your items you collect will be stored in a tool bar of sorts on the bottom of the screen. Just drag the item to the main screen to help you solve puzzles.
Broken Age, besides the great storyline and writing, features some top-notch voice acting from well known actors. Besides Elijah Wood playing the voice of Shay, Masasa Moyo voice acting for the part of Vella, and Jennifer Hale playing the voice of Shay’s AI guardian, Mom. A number of other great actors bring their talent to Broken Age. Adventure Time creator, Pendalton Ward also lends his voice to the game, playing the part of Gus.
Jack Black voices the part of Harm’ny Lightbeard, lifter of clouds, along with Wil Wheaton who voices the part of Curtis, the lumberjack, who you find hanging out in his cabin.
Broken Age was funded through Kickstarter, so even though Double Fine may have caught a bit of grief as they were over budget and had to go back to raise more money for the game, the voice acting and story as a whole turned out really well as it brings so much personality to every character in Broken Age as it combines effortlessly with great music.
Broken Age certainly delivers on all aspects from gameplay to storyline to art design. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything Double Fine held back on. This is a great point-and-click adventure with unforgettable characters in unique worlds. There were some slight hiccups during cut scenes such as some scenes suddenly cutting off towards the end. You can skip a cut scene all together by pressing the spacebar. This just occurred from time-to-time in the middle of dialog. Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update. It doesn’t affect the gameplay or story. It’s just a bit noticeable.
Broken Age is the sort of adventure game that comes around once in a blue moon. Don’t believe me? Ask Tim Schafer. This is his first adventure game in 16 years.
Supposedly, point-and-click adventures are a dying breed, but Double Fine and everyone who backed the game on Kickstarter proved that theory wrong. Act 1 of Broken Age is a bit on the short side. I completed it around four hours. Act 2 will be released later this year and hopefully just as long if not a bit longer.
Act 1 of Broken Age was released on the 14th of January to those who backed the game on Kickstarter and will be released January 28th on Mac as well as Windows and Linux through Steam for everyone else. You can preorder the game on Steam for $22.49. Act 2 will follow as a free update once it’s released. Double Fine says Broken Age will also be released on iOS sometime in the future.
Price: ($22.49 with preorder, $25 on release date, Direct Link)
- Great story and gameplay with challenging puzzles
- Wonderful art design
- Fantastic voice acting
- Act 1 is a little short
- A few scenes cut out too soon