Charming, sweet and stylistically stunning, this point-and-click adventure game from Double Fine is highly recommended to newcomers to the genre, although seasoned vets will still find quite a lot to appreciate.
It should be stated that there is very little that Double Fine has offered that I was not a fan of immediately. Broken Age marks the developer’s first journey into a new genre, and although the game mainly plays it “safe,” it’s definitely worth playing.
Broken Age allows the player to choose to experience two parallel storylines at your own leisure, though nothing is lost by completing each of the (short) tales one after the other. It isn’t completely obvious through the game as to how the two main characters are linked to each other, though the groundwork is set for greater adventures in future installments. This episode mainly serves as the token introductory tale - Vella lives in a rustic village by the sea, and is to be sacrificed to the local monster as part of an ancient ritual. Shay, meanwhile, is a teenager living alone on a spaceship with an advanced AI taking care of him, although it’s obvious that the computer may have some outdated principles in relation to how to treat a grown boy.
Something I greatly appreciated about this game was the art direction - the UI is minimalistic, allowing you a full view of the storybook paintings that serve as the world of Broken Age. Honestly, I haven’t seen anything that (stylistically) has looked this good in a long time, but it’s a taste that won’t be favored by all, for sure. The dialogue is lighthearted and well-delivered, including voice acting by Jack Black and Elijah Wood, and the soundtrack is appropriately orchestrated like a cartoon movie. In all, I believe this game will never look outdated because of the design choices made.
The gameplay isn’t very difficult - I’m used to old-school point-and-clicks that required some strange leaps of logic in order to solve multi-step puzzles, but Broken Age is significantly straightforward. If a person says they need an object to cut a string, you will find them a knife, simple as that. Because of this, I did feel that I spent less time exploring the world, looking for clues in comparison to clicking through dialogue trees. Although the writing isn’t bad, I found that I basically would meet a new NPC, and then work from top to bottom through the conversation options before getting a new item. Hopefully, future episodes will instead offer more gameplay via item hunting and puzzle solving.
Still, I had a good experience with the game, and a single playthrough will probably take around six hours (with no additional goals or secrets to be unearthed afterwards). I’m looking forward to the next installment, whenever that may be.