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Broken Age: Episode One [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

As a lifelong fan of both point and click adventures, and Tim Schafer, I had some pretty high expectations for Broken Age; probably too high. I went into my first playthrough expecting to be at least a little bit disappointed based on my unreasonable expectations, but it never happened. Double Fine has crafted an amazing experience that feels so close to the games I remember playing growing up, while still feeling like it belongs in the modern gaming world. The writing is brilliantly witty, a little dark, and in ways I can’t explain without going into spoilers, very clever. It’s not going to win over gamers who want non-stop action, and explosions (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I can’t recommend this game enough to anyone who is looking for a good story, and some laughs.

The Pros: 

+ Stylistic art makes every scene a joy to look at.
+ Witty writing creates some real laugh out loud moments.
+ A fantastic cast of voice actors brings every character to life.

The Cons: 

- Some visual glitches litter the game.

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
9

Since Double Fine launched their Kickstarter campaign back in February of 2012, Broken Age, Previously known as Double Fine Adventure, has had a fair amount of hype surrounding it. Being one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns ever, and the highest funded Kickstarter game at the time, Broken Age had a lot to live up to. Though the game has been split up into two episodes with only the first being available right now, signs are good that we are not being let down.

From the characters that inhabit the world, the landscapes you traverse, right down to the subtle background details that you could almost miss, the visual style of Broken Age is both unique, and quite beautiful. The game gives you an awe inspiring sense of exploring the world inside of an oil painting. That sense and wonder and admiration is only interrupted by strange visual hiccups that pop up here and there, at least in the early release of the game. Most of the time these hiccups were good for a little “what the hell?” chuckle; but when my character’s neck is over-top of her mouth during an important scene, it can be a little distracting.

If you grew up playing LucasArts, or Sierra adventure games, you will find Broken Age’s gameplay very familiar, though somewhat simplified. If you’re unfamiliar with point and click adventure games, you’ve probably at least guessed that you’ll be doing a lot of pointing and clicking. You’ll move your character around by clicking where you want to walk, and then interacting with, or picking up objects by clicking on them. Most puzzles are solved in the usual way of picking an item from your inventory and then clicking on where you want to use it, though there are a few refreshingly clever puzzles such as getting your head inside a small helmet, and getting a piece of art from a hipster lumberjack. The game is never all that difficult, and every puzzle can be solved without too much frustration; though, if you’re like me, that won’t prevent you from missing something obvious and wondering around clicking on everything for a while.

Broken Age tells the tales of two teenagers living very different lives, that for their own reasons, they feel the need to escape. Though each story has some darker undertone, Vella’s more than Shay’s, Broken Age is without a doubt a fun, a comical adventure. If you have a proper sense of humor, you’ll find yourself laughing along to the game’s witting writing and well timed jokes.

Shay has spent most of, if not the entirety of, his life on a spaceship, with only artificial life forms for companions. Every day he is pampered and treated like a small child by the ships A.I., known simply as Mom. Every moment of his life is crafted to be as safe and risk free as possible, never allowing him to take chances or experience anything real. It shouldn’t take long for you to empathize with his plight, and want to help him escape to something without a predetermined conclusion.

Vella resides in a cute little village of bakers, known as Sugar Bunting. Every year, Sugar Bunting, along with the other nearby villages, chooses several teenage girls to be offered up to and then devoured by the creature known a Mog Chathra, as part of the “Maiden’s Feast”. Despite being assured by her family and friends that this truly is the best course of action, she, for whatever reason, feels that being eaten alive is not the ideal solution to the village’s problems. The surprisingly somber tones behind Vella’s story seem almost at odds with the bright and cheery visuals of the setting, but somehow they work perfectly together.

As you progress through Shay, and Vella’s stories you will have the option to switch between them at any time. I personally never felt that either story was long enough that I felt the need to mix it up part way through. Even so, it’s nice that the option is there. As one would expect, you will not see episode one’s true ending until both stories have been completed.

It’s impressive that Double Fine was able to procure such talented and well respected voice actors without the financial support of a big publisher, but whatever that had to do to seduce these actors into working with them was well worth it. The voice acting in Broken Age is perfect. Elijah Wood’s voice portrays boredom in a way that allows us to full empathize with the monotony of Shay’s life, while Jack Black makes us laugh out loud that much louder.

As a backer myself, I can honestly say that I couldn’t be more satisfied with how Broken Age has turned out thus far. Without any real contenders being released in over a decade, I had thought that my list of favorite point and click adventures was pretty much set in stone. It’s obvious now though, that once episode 2 is out and we get a proper conclusion, that list has some rearranging to be done.

Publisher: Double Fine, Developer: Double Fine, Platforms: Windows (Reviewed), Mac, Linux, Release Date: January 28, Price: $24.99

 

 

About The Author: Craig Gamache (Staff Writer)

 

Bio: Craig Gamache is a life long resident of Vancouver, BC, who has felt the need to share his opinion on everything gaming related for the better part of the last two decades. Though he enjoys big budget blockbuster games as much as the next gamer, he has recently turned much of his attention to the indie game scene. [READ FULL BIO]

@CraigGamache  : craig@shogungamer.com