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Broken Age: Act 1 Review
publisher: Double Fine Productions
developer: Double Fine Productions
|ESRB rating: RP
release date: Jan 28, 14
|» All About Broken Age: Act 1 on ActionTrip|
When I think of the golden age of the point-and-click adventure era, I immediately think of King's Quest. How many hours did I spend in front of the computer trying to figure out all of those puzzles all whilst avoiding that wolf who runs super fast? Double Fine wanted to take us back to those days with their Kickstarted game, and Broken Age definitely tapped into that nostalgic bone for me. They did craft quite an intriguing tale that makes up for the complexity and length that the game severely lacks.
Charming little place.
Great interior design. I want my place to look like this.
Broken Age tells two different tales that have absolutely nothing in common in terms of their characters, plot, and setting. However, they both have the same theme--two coming-of-age adults who want to break away from doing what society tells them they need to do. What separates their stories from the typical coming-of-age, rebellious teenage rites of passage is how unbelievably unique and, for the lack of a better term, wacky their circumstances are. Vella's story begins with what appears to be a happy festival that Vella has been dubbed to participate in as some sort of high honor, akin to a member of the homecoming court riding on a float. Within minutes, the player learns that Vella's honor is to willingly sacrifice herself to a tentacle monster in order to save her village. Not only must she do it willingly, she's supposed to want to be chosen. Shay's story on the other hand, never begins upbeat, as he is a lonely soul on a spaceship forced to relive the same monotonous and yet ridiculous routine day in and day out.
As gamers, we are often subjected to ridiculous settings, but it's rare we're treated to them with such nonchalance as if everything presented is so run of the mill ordinary. Every bit of zaniness is just slipped in, like it's always belonged there and it should make perfectly complete sense to us on the outside. Little yarn monsters live on Shay's ship and his flatware talks to him. Vella's family celebrates with delightful cakes that Vella has been chosen by the village to be eaten by the Mog Chothra. Nothing unusual here, carry on.
The same zaniness is slipped in just as smoothly with the puzzles and the dialogue. I'm not sure which dialogue made me giggle more, Vella's conversation with the woodcarver about his stool or Shay's spoon gleefully announcing he can't wait until Shay puts him in his mouth again. As for the puzzles, I can't say that a King's Quest game has ever required me to get a talking tree to vomit sap into a bucket or create a propulsion device from a whipped cream blaster.
Solving the puzzles does require some exploration and combing through the various dialogue trees, but there's not really much to explore. For example, each region Vella visits has a maximum of four areas. As such, if you're missing an object to collect, it won't take that long to really backtrack where to get it. Shay's story has a bit more exploration since his ship has several rooms, but on the same token, not much is in each room. Since it's also impossible to get a character killed or miss a sorely needed object no matter how far you've traveled, nothing feels urgent or really that difficult. The puzzles can certainly be frustrating at times, but you'll never once think you have to reload a save because you missed something crucial an hour ago.
Reminds me of a dream I once had.
Now, I know I have to do something, but what?
Broken Age is also unfortunately rather brief. I completed the first act in about 4 hours, and that included many, many moments of backtracking through rooms and regions to figure out what one thing I'm missing.
I did scoff at the fact that I couldn't kill Vella no matter how many times she fell through the clouds, but as the two stories came together, I couldn't help but see its brilliance. It's simply amazing that Double Fine was able to turn something so inherently ridiculous into something incredibly serious with just a click of the mouse. It's just as amazing that Double Fine was able to transport me back to the late 80s and early 90s, reminding me just how much I loved these type of games in the late 80s and early 90s. I cannot wait for the [free!] update that will bring on Act 2. I also cannot wait to see if Broken Age ushers in a new era of the point-and-click genre.
8.7 Very Good
Beautiful hand-painted graphic style with hilarious dialogue, delightful puzzles that will force you to put on your thinking cap, and a wonderful story that will kick you in the gut when you least expect it;
It's a bit short and the lack of a fail state takes away most of the difficulty found in these types of games.
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