Many moons ago, I got in on the hot Kickstarter action that Double Fine snowballed with their plans to make an old-school point-and-click adventure game. Well, a modern one of those, I mean. And since then, I’ve been following along dutifully with the game’s progression–codenamed Reds, truly named Broken Age–via the roughly monthly 2 Player Productions documentary videos, which do a fantastic job of showing how all the pieces ultimately come together to be a final product. Some of it is more interesting than other aspects, but regardless, it’s a rare glimpse into a process generally kept to the shadows. Kudos to Double Fine for being so open, as honest as allowed.
Let’s see, let’s see. Broken Age is, more or less, about death. Some people want it, some won’t ever get it, and some are brought up believing it is their destiny to die. To be more specific, it is about two young teenagers “seeking to break the tradition with their lives.” Vella Tartine is one of the lucky girls to be chosen as a human sacrifice for Mog Chothra, a monstrous, tentacle-tossing beast that eats up people at celebrated events called Maiden’s Feasts. Smartly, she has decided this is not how her life should go. On the flip side, or more like the space side, we have Shay Volta, a young boy living a very cushioned and solitude existence on a spaceship. That is until he meets Marek the wolf, who is probably just a man in wolf’s clothing. With Marek’s prodding, Shay begins to shake things up on the spaceship, which leads to a number of problems. The connection between Vella and Shay, other than thematic, is still not known, though Act 2 will most likely delve into this area of interest.
And so Double Fine set out to create a modern point-and-click adventure game harkening back to the kind Tim Schafer worked on many years ago. Alas, I’ve never played any of those: Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion, Grim Fandango, and so on. I know, I know. They are all on my germinating to-do list. However, ever since I chipped in on the Kickstarter, I’ve begun playing a lot more adventure games, each of varying degrees of difficulty, and so I kind of know what they aiming for. That said, Broken Age is pretty easy. The puzzles are never overwhelming and obtuse–absolutely zero pixel hunting–and you only end up with a few items in your inventory and so many screens to explore at a single time. When you run out of ideas, just try every item on everything, and you’ll move forward. Also, ladders are vital. I got through Act 1 just fine, and that’s honestly okay, but I’d love to see more of a challenge in Act 2.
Obviously, Broken Age looks nothing like the games that came out twenty years ago. Though there is a way to unlock retro mode for the fuzzy-loving purists. It’s gorgeous, an absolute treat for the eyes, paintings come to life. The cute, colorful art style comes mainly from Nathan “Bagel” Stapley, and it really enforces the carrot-on-a-string trick of adventure games, where you often just want to see what the next area will look like. I enjoyed Vella’s locations more than Shay’s, but there’s a fantastic amount of detail here, and everything really does look like they exist in a singular world; the documentary vids reveal that, while Stapley did a majority of the art assets, others did work on repainting parts of some scenes, as well as probably other things. Don’t worry about any of that though, just lose yourself in the fluffy, floaty clouds.
Initially, I was put off with the announcement that Broken Age was being split into two separate acts, for financial and deadline-related reasons, all explained in the documentary vids. I mean, I think we can all agree that The Hobbit has suffered greatly from being sliced and diced, though it does work for episodic games like The Walking Dead, but only when it is clearly designed to be episodic. This was not the case, and for now, it’s a bit of a bummer that Broken Age‘s first act ends just as the plot comes together and really gets interesting. I’m sure once act two comes out and you can skip from one to the other in a single breath, it’ll be a much more solid experience. Until then, we’re left alone on a beach, jaws in the sand, waiting and wondering.