Version Tested: PS4
Also Available on: PSVita, PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya, iOS, Android
Published and Developed by: Double Fine Productions
I’m dressed up as a cake and a giant monster known as Mog Chothra is slowly eating my fellow maidens. Quickly I am trying to find a way to get out of this situation. All the while it is a bright and sunny, beautiful day in Sugar Bunting. This is the opening act of Broken Age, which has a strong start, but a poor finish.
Back in 2012, Tim Schafer and his video game company Double Fine Productions held what would become one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns at that time. They were able to exceed expectations with their original goal of $400 thousand by making over $2 million. At that point in time, Broken Age was conceived as one complete story.
Last year Act 1 of Broken Age released amid some controversy, but much critical appraise. The game was originally conceived as one game but instead it became two parts because of budgeting. Now players can have access to the full game with the release of Act 2 and a bundle. This review will reflect both acts as a whole.
The story of Broken Age is about two teenagers that don’t have any connection (or do they?). Vella Tartine is from a town called Sugar Bunting where there is a festival called the Maiden Feast where girls are offered as sacrifice to appease a giant monster that could ravage their lands if they don’t. Shay Volta is a boy in space who seems to go on these childish missions such as helping yarn creatures from an ice cream avalanche. What both of these characters have in common is that they want to break away from the never-ending cycle of tradition and routine. When they do, things take a turn for the worst, setting both characters on a roughly six-hour journey (game time).
In the beginning the story of Broken Age hooks the player. It is light in tone but it is actually pretty dark once you dig deep. It is when the game hits the halfway mark that things go down hill. The story isn’t a complete mess in the second act, but it doesn’t keep you interested like the first half did.
Gameplay in Broken Age is pretty simple: it is a point and click adventure. It also happened to be Tim Schafer’s first adventure game since Grim Fandango. Don’t worry fans of Schafer and his previous work, the gameplay is pretty solid. Even in an age where point-and-click adventures are a big thing, at least not since the 90s, Broken Age felt fresh. That could be because of the ton of sequels and clichéd action adventure games that have been released over the years. The gameplay is one of the stronger aspects of Broken Age.
That isn’t to say the gameplay doesn’t have its problems. For the most part Broken Age is pretty straight foreward and clear as what to do, where to go. It is particularly in the second half of the game that gameplay borders on frustrating. Puzzles are ridiculously hard to figure out (one having to do with wiring in particular) and there is tons of backtracking that will make any gamer groan. It’s like the studio didn’t really try in the second half. The story and the gameplay show this.
Even with the gameplay and the story falling short in the second half, the one thing that remained constant in Broken Age was its phenomenal voice acting. With the likes of Jack Black who voices a cult leader and Elijah Wood who voices main character Shay, it made the game feel cinematic. It is hard to get a cinematic game in a point-and-click adventure but it worked. The voice acting did help make the story more bearable in the second act, thus it makes you wonder what Broken Age would have been like if the voice acting wasn’t so great?
The soundtrack also is great. It is not entirely memorable but great non-the-less. The soundtrack feels a bit childish, but in a good way. It fits with the lighter colors shown in the game but the darker tone when you really pay attention to what is happening.
Graphics wise, Broken Age is pretty to look at. It has a storybook look to it. The graphics are crisp and clear and I didn’t have any frame rate issues when I played it on the console version (I can’t speak for mobile and PC). There is an option to make the graphics look like the old pixilated computer games of yore but it really just felt tacked on. The retro mode, as it is called, doesn’t hurt or enhance the story so players can switch between the different graphics with the push of a thumbstick.
Overall Broken Age is a solid game. It isn’t perfect by any standards and it does waver about half way through. The voice acting alongside the soundtrack held the story up in the parts it wavered but in the end Broken Age doesn’t have much replayability, which hurts in terms of price; $25 for the full game seems a bit steep.
Tim Schafer’s game was fun, but it didn’t hit its full potential.