Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: Broken Age - Act 1

Game Review: Broken Age - Act 1

Two years ago, Tim Schafer and Double Fine introduced the mainstream gaming public to a radical new website called Kickstarter. Eschewing the publishers who felt there was no market for an old school Schafer-style point and click adventure game, "Double Fine Adventure" was born, asking for $400,000 to get off the ground.

87,142 backers donated $3,336,371 - including myself.

Earlier tonight, I played the first half of that project, Broken Age - Act 1. Double Fine initially placed a (non-binding) embargo on reviews, but lifted it a few hours later. They are worried about plot spoilers - which I will keep OUT of this review.




It's Not A Beta


One thing to point out is that I do not feel that I am reviewing a beta. Broken Age was  initially supposed to be a Steam Early Access title, but Double Fine felt that Act 1 was "a polished and satisfying piece of content in its own right" and will go on sale on January 28th to the public. This will include a Season Pass that will get you Act 2 when it's completed. I am going on the assumption that the code that I received on Steam will be identical to the code that will be available on the 28th for purchase, or perhaps have some minor tweaks. I was actually able to play through all of Act 1 without any crashes or noticeable bugs.

From The Mind Of Tim


Get up, go on missions, go to bed...
Get up, go on missions, go to bed...
Broken Age has two protagonists going through their own story, Shay and Vella. You can jump in between their stories at any time, however my playthrough went straight through Shay's and then switched to Vella. Shay's story is about a boy trapped on a spaceship with a computer that still treats him like he's five years old - and he's sick of it. Vella's story is about a girl who is being offered up as tribute to a giant monster named Mog Chothra, and she's the only girl who does not want to be in a Maiden's Feast.

Just go with it. The tree is.
Just go with it. The tree is.
Along the way, you meet strange characters that only can come from someone like Tim Schafer. Shay's world is filled with sentient dolls made of yarn, an overbearing computer acting like his mother, and a dude in a wolf costume. Vella's world features birds being jerks, a woodcutter who is afraid of trees, and a tree that is tired of murderous humans like the aforementioned woodcutter.

You know, stuff that makes perfect logical sense.

The dialogue is witty, sometimes has double entendre (including one long and in your face conversation that really keeps going just because of what it is) and is one of those times when you'll want to go back and inspect once you've reached the end.

The Puzzles And The Clicking


You'll spend some time in dialogue trees
You'll spend some time in dialogue trees
The one part of Act 1 that seems to falter is that it is an extremely straightforward point and click adventure game. The puzzles don't rack your brain as much as some others in the genre past and present. They all rely on just collecting inventory objects and using them in a situation where it makes sense. The cursor changes as you mouse over intractable objects, and there are only a few intractable objects on a screen, so as long as your mouse sweeping gestures are thorough, you won't really miss anything.

This is also the type of adventure game where you can't fail - there are no death scenes, and no way to get stuck. There may be a lot of backtracking, but you'll never be truly stuck - and the environments are not huge so you're not wandering for long.

There isn't much "innovation" at all in Broken Age - you're not going to find any new gameplay mechanic here. The "character switching" mechanic has been done by several recent indie titles like Resonance and Gemini Rue, and in those other cases, you needed to hop between the characters to advance the story. The allure here is more in the story and environment.

He weaves, like a stitch in time.
He weaves, like a stitch in time.
One downside for some people is the length of the story. My initial playthrough clocked in at somewhere between 3 and 4 hours - and that was with me getting stuck on some puzzles that I was just overthinking. There is a tiny bit of replayability, but maybe just once - you'll probably want to go back through from the beginning after reaching the end to pick up on anything you might have not noticed the first time around. (The good news, however, is that when you buy Act 1, you'll get Act 2 when it's released for free, so that will turn it into a 6-8 hour game if Act 2 is the same length as Act 1.)

How It Looks


ICE CREAM!!!!!
ICE CREAM!!!!!
The environments, albeit somewhat "small" are beautifully hand-drawn. Shay's spaceship goes from a metallic futuristic motif to an ice cream paradise, while always seeming a little "off." Vella's world changes much more - you'll go from her village, to a cloud city, then a foreboding forest, and then a beach resport. They all feel like they belong in the same world, and they all look just fantastic.

The animations of the characters are smooth and are detailed enough to allow for slight glimpses of facial expressions that hint at something more - something you'd want to watch for on a second playthrough.

Because this isn't resource intensive, you don't need a beefy system to play it. I wouldn't be surprised to see it on tablets pretty soon.

How It Sounds


I'm Commander Shepard, and you're my favorite sweetie on the Citadel
I'm Commander Shepard, and you're my favorite sweetie on the Citadel
One of the great things about getting all that Kickstarter money is that top voice acting talent were brought in to play the parts. Shay is voiced brilliantly by Elijah Wood as the disinterested teenager just wanting to escape his current world. Vella is brought to life by Masasa Moyo as a quick and sarcastic maiden trying to save her village. Also on the cast are Jennifer Hale as the overbearing mother computer, Wil Wheaton as the woodcutter afraid of trees, and Jack Black as a cult leader whose head is stuck in the clouds.

The music is mostly ambient and fades into the background, as a good soundtrack should. There's nothing that will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day, but there's also nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb and detracts from the experience either.

The Verdict


Columbia has NOTHING on this!
Columbia has NOTHING on this!
Tim Schafer himself said that he went crazy and went overbudget - even the $3.3 million wasn't going to cover what he designed. That's why the game is split in half and being sold now, in hopes that sales of Act 1 will allow them to complete Act 2. There's a great foundation here, and I am very excited to see what Act 2 will bring. This isn't going to be the most innovative or difficult game you've ever played, but it brings out the Schafer humor we've come to expect over the years.

While they missed the original delivery date of October 2012, what they've shown is that the money was put to good use. This is definitely in the spirit of the point and click adventure games of my youth.

And really, that's why we all backed "Double Fine Adventure" an entire console generation ago.

Platform Reviewed: PC
Acquisition Method: Kickstarter Backer - $30 tier

Our Grade:
B+
Your Grade: B
(Based on 3 grades)
The Good:
  • Beautiful hand drawn environments and animations
  • Excellent voice acting that catches the mood of the characters
  • A quirky story that can only come from Tim Schafer's head
The Bad:
  • Act 1 is short - 3-4 hours for first playthrough, but you get Act 2 for free to double the length of the game
  • Puzzles are simple as the environments are not massive and there aren't that many interactable objects
  • Those seeking innovation aren't going to find it here

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 1/15/2014 8:22 AM650 views

Your Responses

Rageinator
Rageinator
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: A-
Really, I can't say anything about the game that Bobby Blackwolf hasn't already said. It's a fun point & click adventure game. If you haven't already bought it, you really should do so.
See 1 More Concurring Opinion
ssj100matt
ssj100matt
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B-
Everything from the soundtrack, art style, story, and the voice acting was excellent. But aside from the length my biggest gripe was that it lacked many of the old Point & Click elements. It could have really benefited from having more items to interact with for a deeper enriching challenge. With less to interact with all around the game does feel oversimplified. A hard mode with more item requirements like in past games would have also been great for replayability as well. Loved it regardless
Burr
Burr
DISSENTING OPINION

Grade: C+
Don't get me wrong I've actually really enjoyed my time with this game and indulging the nostalgia, and I am very open towards Act 2 changing my mind about everything, but so far Broken Age doesn't really do anything new. If anything it oversimplifies the formula. It's still a hilarious romp that gets your imagination going. Great voice acting and writing. I should also note that character switching has been done earlier by Tim Schafer himself in Day of the Tentacle, to much greater effect.

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Comments

Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
1/15/2014 8:53 AM

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While I've never supported this or any project on Kickstarter, I look forward to picking this game up sometime this year, maybe during a sale or after the second act comes out and it is well received too.

Since you're a backer, have they given you guys any information on potential ports to other platforms? Or is it all based on how the PC version sells?
Bobby Blackwolf
Bobby Blackwolf
1/15/2014 8:56 AM

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Reply
It's releasing for Windows, Mac, and Linux on the 28th, with iOS coming later.
act_deft
act_deft
1/15/2014 11:33 AM

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It seems like a good game though my only question is, should I just wait for Act 2 and get the full experience of the game or just buy it now despite the flaws Act 1 has?
Bobby Blackwolf
Bobby Blackwolf
1/15/2014 11:45 AM

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I consider this to be a complete experience with a cliffhanger ending myself, but I can't say for you if that's something you're okay with.

One thing to note is that the sales of Act 1 will go towards the finishing of Act 2. They ran out of funds due to overzealousness so this was their solution rather than going back to Kickstarter. I guess it ultimately comes down to a choice of A) wait until the full game is ready to buy, or B) help fund the completion of the game.
Dungeonbuster
Dungeonbuster
1/15/2014 1:52 PM

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Reply
As an aside, it's also what Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse has also done. It's another Kickstarted adventure game that split their title into two -- the first half (which also felt like a full featured game) was released in December, but buying into it automatically makes you eligible for the second half which is supposed to release sometime this month.
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