Tim Schafer is a household name among video game enthusiasts. Heck, even among entrepreneurs as his campaign for Broken Age effectively put Kickstarter on the map; just look at the result: Amount sought: $400,000. Amount raised: $3,336,372. He has an incredible sense of humor and an insatiable creative appetite. He’s an artist renowned, respected, and fun loving.
Schafer is also co-responsible for Monkey Island’s success (writing the timeless comedy and dialogue). So, I played Broken Age (Acts 1 & 2) to see fruits of crowd-funded labor.
Broken Age is a point-and-click adventure game that follows the story of Shay and Vella. You play each separately but you can switch between them at any time — a mechanic that only becomes incorporated into the game in Act 2.
Shay’s story takes place on a spaceship that’s clearly been programmed (and decorated) for a much younger boy. Shay seems mildly aware of this as the main computer (i.e. Mom) entices him by sending him on dangerous missions… that are really harmless simulations — it’s kinda like The Truman Show (in space). However, when a wolf-man appears, Shay’s daily routine is thrown askew and he starts doing things that matter…
Vella is of age to be sacrificed at the Maiden’s Feast (a feast of maidens) to the overlord Mog Chothra. It’s a ritual that has been in the town for at least 3 generations. It’s a great honor to be sacrificed, but Vella is the first to think something is wrong with this tradition. During the feast, Vella escapes Mog Chothra and travels from a cloud city to a sea town to find a means of thwarting the beast.
How are these two stories tied together? It’s worth playing if only to find out.
Act 1 vs Act 2
Unlike most critics… I preferred Act 1 to Act 2. The main qualm most people have/had with Act 1 is the questions:
- How are Shay and Vella connected?
- Where did Alex come from?
- Who initiated the Maiden’s Feast and why?
- Why is Vella the only one asking questions?
- How did Shay wind up on a fake spaceship?
- Why are there yarn people?
- Who is the wolf-man?
et cetera et cetera.
But I didn’t have questions. I pretty much accepted everything outright. In fairness, Act 1 came out a year prior, so people who played it upon release were likely upset that (after $3 million) they were only getting part 1 of 2 and wanted answers (especially for “When does Act 2 come out?”). For me though, I played Act 1 in March and waited about 5 weeks for Act 2 to be released — and it was a free update; rejoice!
Even then though, I accepted concepts like the Maiden’s Feast because… well, I mean, not long ago people sacrificed lambs (and people) to Gods for a good harvest. Although, I also assumed the wolf-man was a wolf-man… unlike Shay who immediately registers it as a costume.
It may be that I’m a simpleton — something I’m slowly coming to terms with — but I didn’t need answers to all the little things. I was excited to see how the present stories tied together, but not to an interrogative extent, and because of that, I preferred Act 1.
Act 1 was exciting and new. You explore every facet of Shay and Vella’s worlds (I mean it’s a staple of the point-and-click adventure) and they’re unique from each other with tantalizing settings, characters and backgrounds. It was fun! Where the fun changed for me was in Act 2, where you re-explore the same locales, albeit slightly varied. The story continued to be intriguing and comedic, but I wanted new cities and more characters.
By no means does this ruin the game, it’s still very high on my list and is worth the purchase, but the worlds in Act 1 were so fun that I wanted more of them in Act 2 — at the very least more of the locations introduced.
Gameplay in Act 3
It’s still technically “Act 2,” but Act 3 it’s worth mentioning — we can call it the finale, if that’s your thing. One of the things I thoroughly enjoyed about Act 3 was that you had to actually switch between the characters simultaneously to complete the objective. You’re always allowed to freely switch between Shay and Vella, but until this final puzzle, it was unnecessary. However, this is very interesting and adds a new game mechanic that I hope to see in more point-and-click adventures.
Broken Age is great and both protagonists are fun, spirited people you’ll automatically bond with. The supporting cast are equally strong with family-friendly — and genuinely humorous — comedy. At this point, Double Fine Productions and Tim Schafer are the Pixar and Steve Jobs of gaming.
If point-and-clicks have made you frustrated in the past, fear not, for Broken Age‘s puzzles are very easy. Some require some thought, but for the most part Broken Age is an interactive story-book… one I’d happily play with my (future) child before bed.
PS. So glad you can double-click on a location to skip ahead to the next setting and not wait for the character to walk there. All point-and-clicks need this.
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