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Broken Age - Act 1

By Fr33Lanc3r.00720-01-2014
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bobfish (editor)
Broken Age - Act 1

The Defence

Double Fine
Double Fine
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz
AMD Athlon 64 2.2 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
AMD Radeon HD 6850
3 GB
1.5 GB
10, 11

The Case

‘Double Fine Adventure’ was enough of a title to cause many to flock to Kickstarter, ultimately bringing in over three million dollars (and more, once they opened up the option to pledge via PayPal afterwards). The game has had an interesting development since - as proven by the behind the scenes videos - and the first part of the game now known as Broken Age has recently become available to backers. With adventure game genius Tim Schafer at the helm, many might consider it the glorious second coming of the point and click games of yore. But how does it hold up in this new age of yearly shooters and bloody stupid publisher decisions?

The Trial

Broken Age is the tale of two teenagers/young adults living in different worlds of routine and tradition, with both of them dreaming of doing something greater. Shay, the only person on a spaceship ruled by an overprotective computer that sees itself as his mother, seeks true adventure as opposed to the safe 'adventure' games that the computer conjures up for him. Vella is a young woman struggling against what society says is her duty as one chosen for the 'Maiden's Feast', one of a few young women chosen to be sacrificed in appeasement to a monster known as Mog Chothra, especially given her determination to free her people from the creature. You take on both stories, freely swapping between them as you wish, watching the two tales take on increasingly similar themes, and coming together to form a set of endings (which I won't spoil) that left me scratching my head, asking questions, and wanting to experience Act 2 immediately.

Mothers...the same the universe over.

Mothers...the same the universe over.

Tim Schafer's talent for writing charming, witty, and compelling stories is clear here. The worlds he's crafted are absolutely brilliant. The characters are wonderfully written, from the overbearingly protective 'mother' to the charismatic cult leader Harm'ny Lightbeard and his followers. Hell, the futuristic spoon that Shay obtains on his ‘adventures’ has more of a personality than quite a few major characters in other games. There's also a wonderful undercurrent of humor taking a variety of forms throughout the dialog - the woodsman afraid of the trees and pained by his inability to produce a stool, the resigned wife making cloud shoes as she waits for her husband to get over his mid-life crisis and leave the cult he’s joined, and more.

The voice acting backs up the characterisations. Elijah Wood gives Shay's dialog a wonderfully droll element, clearly chafing under the overprotective machine that rules his life, sounding resigned to the fact that he cannot change his life but determined to make it clear that he’s not happy with the way things are. Vella, voiced by Masasa Moyo, has a manic energy to her performance as she becomes more and more fixated on ending the reign of terror caused by Mog Chothra. The supporting cast is brilliant too, each putting in a performance that brings their characters to life in ways that many games are still struggling to achieve.

I have to commend Double Fine for the puzzles in Broken Age, while not painfully obvious - some thought will be required - neither do they fall into the levels of insanity that many classic adventure games were cursed with. There are a few puzzles that require a bit of lateral thinking, but the ability to switch between characters does the game a massive service here, as - provided that you haven't finished one of the two stories - you can simply change characters when you're becoming frustrated. The difficulty curve is also quite satisfying, with early puzzles that introduce to the player or, more likely, reacquaints them with the mechanics of the genre.

I prefer the term sociopath.

I prefer the term sociopath.

The art style is, simply put, superb. The team clearly cared about their craft behind the game, from the character design to the environments. Each location looks unique and interesting, and provides more information about the worlds they’re bringing to life; Shay’s ship gives off the feeling of a child’s nursery, while Meriloft feels like a place where something is off long before you are told that no-one leaves. The overall aesthetic has a charming children’s book feel, and is all the more endearing for it in this age of chasing photorealism at the cost of story and gameplay.

The Verdict

Broken Age has managed to grab me in a powerful way. I was drawn in from the start, and hours after I’d finished was still thinking through the story in an attempt to connect all the dots to lead us into in Act 2. This is a feat that only a few stories have managed to achieve. The puzzles have a good difficulty curve, and I never felt cheated after working out the solution. The setting, characters, dialogue and environments all combine to form one of the greatest stories I’ve ever experienced within a game, and I can’t wait for Double Fine’s continuation of the story.

Case Review

  • The Story: Good Lord, the story! It left me with a feeling that few authors have achieved, let alone a game.
  • Humor: Well written, wonderfully timed - the work of a genius.
  • Art: Charmingly cartoony, yet affectingly endearing.
  • Difficulty: There are a few puzzles that might stump you for a while, but you can always switch stories.
  • Inventory: While not game breaking, the drag and drop system does get irritating, especially in tense moments.
Score: 5/5
One of the best stories ever experienced within a game.


With Telltale leading the effort in evolving the point & click adventure genre, it can’t be easy for other aspiring developers to catch up. In Double Fine’s Broken Age the first act is a bit of a strange case. The sound design is solid, with the voice acting delivered by several big movie actors. The soundtrack is also fantastic. The art style is clearly thought out, feels unique and works well with the story. The gameplay and puzzles feel streamlined. And yet, it just doesn’t feel like fun. It’s half the time downright boring. Both the story and the gameplay refused to interest throughout much of this first act.

The two seemingly unrelated stories of Shay and Vella both start off very slow and frankly feel a little dull. The current life that Shay wants to break out of is boring and meaningless to him. This is projected well on to the player, who will feel the exact same. But the player’s feeling doesn’t let go once Shay starts on his big adventure. In fact, it still feels unmotivated and dull all the way towards the last ten minutes of the campaign. Only then does it pick up some speed, right before it abruptly ends with a tedious cliffhanger. Vella’s story is better and at least feels more focused.

Broken Age’s first act isn’t a bad piece of work. There’s just too little of it. It’s a slow game, but a short one at the same time. Most of the puzzles feel devoid of any real cerebral challenge, and consistently remains on a level that a child can master. But more seasoned veterans of the adventure genre - which likely includes most of the people who backed the Kickstarter campaign - will likely be disappointed by what Double Fine are offering. The game isn’t bad by any means; it looks beautiful and the last few seconds of Vella’s story really makes me interested in what will happen next. But so far I can’t recommend Broken Age to any seasoned adventurers, with this two hour unoriginal and uninspired first act. Telltale has grown this genre so much. Why are you treading backwards, Double Fine?

Score: 3/5


Broken Age, the Kickstarter phenomenon that kick-started the whole Kickstarter craze, is finally here. With Tim Schafer, a master of the adventure genre, steering this ship the game is already set for greatness. Right? Weeeeeeell, not exactly…

You see, Broken Age is a game that tries to be modern and, instead of using tried and tested mechanics, it tries to reinvent the wheel. Gameplay mechanics, like the need to drag the item from your inventory, skipping through the whole dialog branch, instead of just a line, and a need to slowly walk to the other side of the screen in order to move to the next room are just poor design - a lot of old point and click adventure games had worked these issues out even back in the day. Add a story that starts really boring and drags on for too long before the excitement starts alongside a rather disappointing art style, and the game doesn’t look too good. The art style is a personal thing and most people might not mind it. However it’s difficult to deny that the voice acting just isn’t that great, some performances sounding uninspired and some actors just sounding miscast (I’m looking at you Jack Black).

Fortunately the game picks up the pace and towards the end gets very engaging, with the cliffhanger ending doing a great job of leaving you wanting more. With all the drawbacks the first episode doesn’t really live up to the hype. That said, it does leave a strong feeling that the upcoming parts will deliver what’s expected and more.

Score: 3.5/5
Comments (3)
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Posts: 1317

If you look at a spot that gets you to the next location, like for example a door that leads to another screen, you can double-click that door from wherever in the room, and you are instantly transported to the next room.

Posts: 1548

Not unless you are at the edge of the "level" and sometimes you have to go quite far to get there.

Posts: 1317

You know you can double-click on a location to "fast-travel", right Simon? :p