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Broken Age Act One: Kickstarter's darling is a charming, shallow half-game

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 20, 2014
After all this time, it's finally here--the game that kickstarted Kickstarter, that brought crowdfunding to the mainstream. Once known only as Double Fine Adventure, then renamed Broken Age, it was a golden promise: point-and-click adventure legend Tim Schafer was going to take the gloves off the wall for one more fight, returning to the genre that made him famous with games like Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle.

After all this time, it's finally here — the game that kickstarted Kickstarter, that brought crowdfunding to the mainstream. Once known only as Double Fine Adventure, then renamed Broken Age, it was a golden promise: point-and-click adventure legend Tim Schafer was going to take the gloves off the wall for one more fight, returning to the genre that made him famous with games like Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle.

Well, he did take the gloves off, and Double Fine did make a game, but whether or not you'll enjoy it I think largely depends on why you play(ed) old-school point-and-click adventures.

In other words, when you asked the Tim Schafer to make another adventure game, why? Was it because you love Schafer's worlds? Or was it because you loved 1990s LucasArts adventure games?

Classic charm
Broken Age tells two stories that you can theoretically swap between at will, though I never had reason to. Instead I played one story to completion, then played the other.

There's Vella, who lives in the bakery-themed town of Sugar Bunting — a town set on sacrificing her to the evil monster Mog Chothra. Vella's grandfather remembers a time when Sugar Bunting was called Steel Bunting, though — when they were the most feared town in the land. While everyone else prepares to send Vella to her death, he reminds her of a time when Steel Bunting fought the Mogs and implores her to do the same.

And then there's Shay, whose existence is as safe and quiet as Vella's is imperiled. Shay is trapped in a spaceship built for babies. He goes on missions with all the danger of a Legends of the Hidden Temple episode, yearning for a bit of adventure but "imprisoned" by Mom, a well-meaning artificial intelligence whose sole purpose is to keep him safe. After all, he's the last hope for his dying planet.

While I don't think Broken Age as memorable as Grim Fandango or Psychonauts, it's clearly a Tim Schafer/Double Fine production. World-building is what they do best. Every single frame is gorgeous, and the game resembles an interactive children's book more than anything else.

Vella's half of the story is particularly interesting from an art standpoint, since her quest against Mog Chothra leads her through multiple distinct (fascinating) regions. You typically spend about half an hour — at most, forty-five minutes — in each area, so there was plenty of room for Broken Age to stretch its legs and show off.

Shay's half is more restrained. You're on the ship. Then you're on the ship. Then you float through space a bit, but you're still basically on the ship. Then you're — surprise! — on the ship.

 

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