Point and click adventure games are these days just a portal into a retro nostalgic world. They may not be common place amongst generic first person shooters and fantasy RPGs, but when the godfather of point and click adventures announces his first graphic journey in 16 years, you can’t help but get giddy and sweaty with excitement. The genre may run at a slower pace than others in your collection but how many games do you own that feature a beautiful hand painted, hilarious and dangerously bizarre cast? Tim Shafer, you’ve done it again!
Broken Age: The Complete Adventure is the brand new journey written by the legendary Tim Shafer and his team of genius’ at Double Fine. What originally started as a hopeful Kickstarter project, fans got a chance to sample the story when Act 1 was released in early 2014, and now the story’s eagerly anticipated second half has arrived to bring the adventure to a close. Broken Age is a coming of age story that follows Vella and Shay, two teenagers who share strangely similar situations on radically different worlds. Vella, an independent strong willed daughter of a baking town has been honoured as a maiden to be sacrificed to the monstrous Mog-Chothra, however being sick of the town’s tradition she decides to defy her family and fight for survival. Shay on the other hand lives a solitary life in space with his overprotective motherly computer, yet being raised in bubble wrap has become boring and unfulfilling, so in his quest for real adventure he breaks free from routine to follow his destiny. Taking place on a gorgeous hand painted world and featuring the voice talents of Elijah Wood and Jack Black, Broken Age promises to be a sweet and perilous tale of 2 angsty teenagers discovering themselves without the awkward talks about sex, periods and drug abuse, and I can’t wait to get it started.
From the very beginning I felt right at home with Broken Age, fair enough it isn’t visually what I’m used to from the studio’s other work, but the humour, sharp wit and oddball characters that resonate from the screen are present from the get go. Not one character I met had anything boring to say, even after I’d accidentally selected them and heard their full monologue a second time, every member of the cast had me howling from the start. From the race of specially knitted Yarn People to a cynical human hating oak tree, the characters featured through the entire game were funny, original and brilliantly scripted, which is greatly appreciated seeing you’ll be talking to all of them dozens of times. Broken Age’s story is split into 2 acts, with each of them focusing on both teenagers as they rebel against the path that has been laid out for them by their peers, however after such a strong first half it was a shame to find the narrative dwindling towards the end. Without giving too much away, Act 1 ends with our 2 protagonist’s world’s shattering around them and what they once believed to be real is revealed to be totally bogus. It’s at this point where Vella and Shay briefly meet each other, only to subsequently fall into each other’s realms and the game’s pace takes a massive nose dive. Sure the ending of Act 1 left me plenty of intrigue and encouragement to keep playing for a little while longer, but ultimately Act 2 began how I expected it to begin, just more of the same thing with a slight variance. Despite the fact that Act 2 expanded massively on the origins of both our characters, the narrative became a little too farfetched and even after exploring every talk topic with every character, I still felt lost and confused as to what exactly happened. The narrative in Act 2 had so much potential coming off how the first half ended, however with a fairly sloppy ‘Finale’ and a touching yet mildly disappointing ending, I came away from Broken Age wishing the adventure was tied up in a much more exciting way; the underplaying message that Broken Age brings up about growing up however is a lovely sentiment that can be felt by everyone who plays it through to the end.
Remaining true to the genre, Broken Age features a vast collection of perplexing puzzles and treacherous tasks that must be carried out to progress through the story. Scouring the land for items, combining them together and giving them to your fellow cast start off relatively simple, however what Broken Age disappointingly fails at most is its lack of aid and hints when the puzzles get particularly difficult, which unfortunately doesn’t take long. Along with a copy of Broken Age, Double Fine also gave me a complete walkthrough for the game and I’m afraid to say that I used it a little too often towards the end as hints or even a push in the right direction were nonexistent. After consulting the walkthrough, a few of the answers suddenly became obvious and it was just down to not thinking outside of the box enough, but towards the end of the game especially, some of the solutions were simply mind blowing and there wasn’t a chance in hell I would have thought of them, for example one puzzle solution asked me to be suffocated by a snake for 60 seconds! For the majority of the game however it is relatively straight forward, if you use your imagination and get on the right mindset as the game’s writers, you’ll stroll through Broken Age with ease, just don’t get disheartened if you find yourself browsing for an online game guide, it happens to the best of us.
Easily the best feature of Broken Age is its beautiful hand painted art direction, which looks more and more stunning as the game progresses. Each location you stumble across is simply gorgeous to look at and the world that the team had in mind has been remarkably created for all to enjoy. Each character you meet has been wonderfully painted and brought to life and just like each of the game’s locations, every one of the cast members couldn’t be any different to one another. Complementing this stunning art style is the game’s soundtrack which has once again been recorded by the superb Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack in the recent remastered re-release of Grim Fandango. It’s also not just the soundtrack that makes Broken Age a pleasure to listen to, as each of the voice actors bring their individual characters brilliantly into the spotlight and not one of them is boring, terrible or wrong for the part; each character is unique and their humour and sharp wit is perfectly reflected in their voices.
‘Broken Age: The Complete Collection’ is a superb achievement for Tim and the team at Double Fine. Everything about Broken Ag’s audio and visual direction is astonishing and it’s clear to see that the money donated from Tim’s Kickstarter campaign hasn’t gone to waste. The game’s narrative starts off so strongly with its introduction of 2 ‘similarly different’ characters (you get what I mean right?), and when both Vella and Shay want to step off the path and do things their own way, they become in some weird way very relatable. It was very disappointing to find that after a tremendous first Act that the tale took a little nap and never recovered, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed the entire adventure, I was hugely disappointed with how the story was wrapped up and the many questions that still went unanswered. The game also suffers in its very brutal and unobvious puzzle solutions that even point and click vets like myself will be furiously rooting through Google looking for answers to the games many difficult tasks. Broken Age is wonderful tale of teenage rebellion and discovery that is never short of twisted characters, witty gags and daft instruments, but its sometimes excruciating and vague direction can be enough to upset eager fans and turn off casual newcomers. For £20 it’s reasonably priced for that nostalgic fix that you adventurers crave for, and of course by purchasing the game you are ultimately helping to fund future projects for undoubtedly one of the best and most creative studios in the world, so what are you waiting for?
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.