Game On :: Broken Age Pt. 1 Review

February 10th 2014

broken age 3

Trying to think up the best use of onomatopoeia to begin a review can be tough, but I’m just going to keep it simple … BOOM!

That was the metaphorical sound made just over 2 years ago when the world suddenly realised crowd-funding was a viable option for small industries to create something grand. Funny thing is, this campaign was never designed to be big.

Before I head into the review of this game itself, I want to give you the back-story to why this game is so important for the independent gaming industry…

A few years ago the outcry of impatience from old point’n’click adventure gamers prompted the independent Double Fine studios to experiment with Kickstarter. Their original goal was to generate $300k to develop the game and $100k to document the whole process, no matter how chaotic their development.

Suffice to say, Double Fine exceeded their goals, smashing their original target inside 5 hours. They went on to reach a final tally of $3,336,371. Not bad for a small independent studio. (Though having the creators of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle on board did help it along quite a lot.)

So here we are, 18 months after the original release date. My computer hard drive contains a fully completed version of Broken Age Part 1, I’ve watched all 14 episodes of the documentary and I happen to have a very large smile on my face.

Let’s start with the storyline…

Just like the game, the storyline has been split in two. You guide two main characters around two vastly different worlds.

Shay Volta is a young lad literally and metaphorically floating through life on board the safest spacecraft ever pieced together. Mentally, he’s exhausted by boredom and it’s up to you to bypass the super safe motherly security system to find a more stimulating life.

Shay, voiced by Elijah Wood, is the perfect example of what happens if a person is wrapped in bubbles for too long. You feel for his lack of stimulation (one type of entertainment provided to him is rescuing stuffed toys from an ice cream avalanche.) It’s testament to the voice-over talent, as he could so easily have come across as a whining adolescent.

broken age 4

On the other side of the universe is Vella Tartine. She’s about to be devoured by a giant monster as a glorified sacrifice. As you can imagine, she’s not too keen on the concept.

The beauty of Tim Schafer’s writing takes away the generic ‘it’s time to save the world’ feeling, and delves into a deeper understanding of every character you meet along the way, deliciously wrapped in a Kinder Surprise of brilliant comedy.

In a turn of events away from the norm, I wanted to click on every square inch of the screen, just in case I missed a joke (this is coming from a member of the human race with the attention span of a small bird).

I can’t review this game without mentioning the art although there’s only one way I can really think of to describe it … home made.

Every piece of furniture looks as though it’s been polished with a heavy thought process behind it. Put it this way: you go from a fantasy world to a spacecraft, with the art style remaining the same throughout.

I do have to admit I’m a fan-boy of the classic point and click adventure genre, so I had an invested interest in this project (I’m a backer and proud of it). But with this came a set of expectations after allowing Double Fine an extra 18 months to craft something noteworthy.

Trying to find anything critical was a hard task to say the least: the only points I can make are around the completion time – around 4-5 hours, where I was used to 20–30 hours in the good old days – and the puzzles themselves, which appear to have been given the user-friendly touch at times. But really this are minor errs.

Just like the crowd-funding exceeded their expectations, they have exceeded mine. If you’re still reading this review awaiting the final check box, here it is …

Open Steam, spend $25 and enjoy the muscle pain that can only come from smiling for long periods of time.


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