Broken Age Review

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Broken Age is a 2D Point & Click Adventure by Double Fine, the same crew who brought you Grim Fandango Remastered, another P&C game which Jim Deadlock reviewed recently

Broken Age

Storyline

The game is broken into two distinct ‘acts’ (I think this may be the reason for the title, I’m not sure) that were originally released a week apart. There are also two protagonists, Shay (boy) and Vella (girl). It runs as two separate threads that you can switch between whenever you fancy a change. It’s rather ingenious.

Shay is in a spaceship, bored with life and sent on missions (more like errands) by his mothering over-protective ship’s computer, involving ice cream mountains and cute knitted aliens with squeaky voices.

Vella lives in a little village during the Mog Chothra festival. This is a many-eyed monster that looks like a huge brain with tentacles which comes to claim a few lucky young ladies from the village once every 14 years, and Vella has been chosen for this privilege but decides to kill Mog Chothra instead.

What I’ve described covers the first part of the game, which seems to be two entirely separate stories. At the end of Part 1 the connection is revealed, at which point the whole thing gets much more interesting, so I would encourage you to stick with what is essentially the set-up for the proper story in Part 2, which again has separate threads for Shay and Vella. So in all the game has 4 distinct chunks to it.

Broken Age

“Winners” await the arrival of Mog Chothra

Sound & Vision

Coming from Grim Fandango, the orchestral music (featuring a lot of oboe) was familiar to me and gives the game a feel of quality and class. The hand drawn artwork is very nice and there’s an endless stream of long cutscenes which overshadow the gameplay, especially in Part 1.

They hired a bevy of A-list celebrities to do the voice acting. It is very good indeed, as you’d expect from some of the best professional actors in the world, but in my opinion they could have saved themselves a fortune by hiring cheaper talent because none of them have distinct voices that immediately stand out. I just about managed to identify Jack Black one time, but the rest could have been anyone. Ask yourself if you would recognise the voice of Elijah Wood in a crowd for example.

Difficulty

Grim Fandango had extremely hard gameplay, I had to consult a walkthrough for the whole thing more or less. Broken Age is the complete opposite. Part 1 is very easy indeed, there is no challenge at all, it’s like all you’re doing is clicking to progress the cutscenes. Part 2 does become more tricky, although still nowhere near has hard as Grim Fandango and I’d say a bit easier than your average Daedalic title too. The dialog is done in such a way to give you very clear directions on what your objectives are so if you are stuck on a task at least you know in general what that task is.

Some P&C games can become too sprawling and cause you to become lost and confused. This is tightly woven and your mind will be on the storyline and puzzle rather than “where the heck am I?”. Another welcome feature is the generous click areas and the way they light up on mouseover. Impossible to miss.

Performance

Absolutely rock solid (played on Windows and Linux). Full 1920×1200 resolution available and not one single glitch, spelling error or so much as a flicker out of place throughout.

Steam

It has trading cards, cloud support and also achievements (which is not stated on the store page). The achievements are well thought out. You get a decent number of them during normal gameplay but there are also enough others to encourage a 2nd playthrough to nab the extra ones.

Value

It’s priced slightly higher than other quality games in this genre, perhaps due to the celebrity wages bill, but worth the price I think.

Broken Age

Vella trying to find a way down from the clouds after being rescued by a bird from Mog Chothra

Verdict

The storyline is a slow starter but comes to life in Part 2. I’ve only managed to complete about 75% of it so far but I’m hooked and looking forward to the culmination. A lot of care has been taken to define the limits of the game locations (rooms etc) to avoid any frustration or confusion, which are often symptoms in games of this genre. Hand drawn artwork is quite nice and has a distinctive style. The only negative criticism is that Part 1 is perhaps just a little bit too easy. If I’d been an original customer at the launch of the game I would not have been impressed during the wait for Part 2 to arrive.

If you’re shopping for a good P&C game and wondering how this compares to others, this is family-friendly and has a particularly easy-to-navigate structure to it. There is good challenge to the gameplay in Part 2 but not to the point of frustration.

Good

  • Fantastic voice acting
  • Gameplay has nice tight structure
  • Good storyline overall
  • Great artwork

Bad

  • Part 1 can be considered bland and too easy
7.2

Good