Broken Age is the product of developers Double Fine going to the crowd-funded Kickstarter and asking for $400,000 to make an adventure game without having to deal with publishers and deliver the game straight to the public. What happened was adventure game fans around the world threw 3.3 million dollars at them. Technically the game isn't finished, given that the amount of money they received they blew out the size of the game. The first half of the game has been released so the wait isn't as long and the last half is promised to be more polished. For now this review will only cover the first half - when the rest is released I will review that too.
Broken Age has two different stories told through two main characters; Vella is a young woman who is facing being sacrificed to the creature Mog Chothra to keep her small village safe, but she believes they should fight back. Shay is a young man in space who has been raised on a spaceship alone, being coddled by the ships' AI while Shay longs for adventure. There are similar themes that run through both of the characters stories. They're fed up with their current ruts, wanting to take action, and the game explores what happens when they decide they want more from their lives. Can Vella show everyone that they shouldn't just accept a crappy situation, especially if it means sending young women to their death to appease some monster? Will Shay break away from the coddling AIs that keep him doing the same fake missions over and over and finally break out of the monotony? How do their adventures interweave? Play this game and you'll find out.
With Tim Schafer making his first point and click adventure game since Grim Fandango way back in the late 90's, he brings his sense of humour that made the old LucasArts games (Day of the tentacle, Grim Fandango and more) so enjoyable. While you won't be laughing it up through every scene and conversation, there is plenty that will make you smile and have a few good laughs. In the past Schafer-helmed adventure games were usually pretty difficult, as many of puzzles seemed to be solved by trying to work out what logic the developers were using making the puzzle - the obvious answers weren't always the right ones. Thankfully there is less of this in Broken Age and if you grew up with these kind of games, or played more recently made ones, there is nothing that should stump you for too long. Gone from the old days are the lists of verbs to interact with the environment, or even the hold down and have two or three options. Now you just drag the object to what you want to use it on, or drag it to another item to combine it. This streamlining helps reduce the amount of messing around with inventory and the environment, trying to work out what it does. Moving from screen to screen is also made quicker by double clicking the area you need to go to and you'll usually move to that screen. Some of the game is still stuck in the past though. Hints seem to be non-existent, which sucks if you're trying to remember what you were doing! It ends in some real guesswork to what you need to do. Movement also feels slow in the larger areas when you can't just double click to the next area. This is exacerbated when you accidentally give inventory items to the wrong person and wind up needing to trek back to get a new item.
The game looks beautiful with a hand painted style that accompanies the cartoony visuals excellently. There is also a great voice cast including Masasa Moyo and Elijah Wood as Vella and Shay. Along your adventures you'll encounter voice cast greats like Jennifer Hale, Jack Black, Richard Horvitz, Wil Wheaton, Pendleton Ward and more. Each voice in the game sounds great and really adds to the character. The music is also great, so in short Broken Age is a visual and audible treat for the eyes and ears.
Being the first half of a larger game, what is currently playable will take about four to five hours. There are some trickier puzzles but nothing you can't overcome. If you get stuck on one character you can change over to the other story anytime, as long as it hasn't been completed. One problem I had with the game was with splitting the narrative into two different stories while also splitting the game into two acts. It means that both stories aren't necessarily as interesting at this stage. Both characters' stories are enjoyable, but in the first act Shay's story gets you more interested for what might be coming up, while Vella's story meanders a bit too long until the very end where the cliffhanger ending makes the wait until act two a painful one!.
It's great to see Tim Schafer and the team at Double fine back in the point and click adventure game-making business, Broken Age might not live up to some of the great LucasArts games, but it's still a great game filled with fun and a good sense of humour. It's hard to judge a game that's been split into two parts when it was originally made as one big game. It's lucky that the cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more and eager to see where the last half of this adventure takes Vella and Shay. For those who are bad at waiting then you might want to wait until this is a complete game, if you're used to adventure games released episodically (such as Telltale games) then what are you waiting for?!