A game of halves is the best way to summarise Broken Age at this point. It’s not just that the point-and-click adventure title is split into two acts either, but it’s a consistently running theme throughout the enchanting tale.
From established developers Double Fine the crowd-funded title is unlike any other – attempting to avoid most common clichés instead harping back to the days of adventure game greatness. Broken Age is an impeccably written masterpiece showcased with an exquisite graphical style and auditory excellence that oozes wonder.
A beautiful blend of modern-day mechanics and traditional adventure gameplay result in a perfectly challenging adventure that requires some thinking to solve without being overly taxing. Those hoping for a rock solid outing will be disappointed but the freedom this provides is welcoming and lets the plot shine through. You can roam around at a leisurely pace, interacting with objects, uncovering the inner workings of the world and be safe in the knowledge that there’s no real way to fail. You will eventually succeed, it’s just a matter of time.
Swift character walking pace and auto-save are just two aspects that stop Broken Age from ever feeling bogged down by the weight of nostalgia, but it’s the two protagonists that keep you enthralled. You guide teenagers Vella and Shay through the polarising and unique stories in any order you wish. Whether that’s the entirety of one before another or jumping back and forth between them. Both are personable and intelligent with destiny at their doorstep.
Vella is a young woman who fights against her world’s tradition of sacrificing human offerings to the Mog Chothra, a giant beast that, without the sacrifices, would destroy their village – one that excels in delicious baked goods. Vella is selected as one of the Mog Chtora’s appetisers but she decides to escape the barbaric ritual and set out on killing the tendriled beast despite the shame she casts over her family.
Meanwhile, Shay is seemingly the sole passenger on a large spaceship embarked on Project Dandelion. His only means of companionship is the ship’s overly motherly computer who is constantly protecting him as he carries out extremely safe missions with the yarn folk. Never encountering danger leaves Shay immensely bored and frustrated and seeks out a new thrill outside of an attack of hugs and an avalanche of ice-cream.
How their tales unfold is something I do not wish to spoil but it’s safe to say that, whilst you may favour one more than the other, they are two superbly told stories. The worlds in which they inhabit are wonderfully creative and twirl an imaginative spin in unpredictable fantasy. Their endings have dramatic consequences for the following Act and quite how it will all play out is something that I cannot wait to see.
Broken Age is not a taxing adventure game by any stretch of the imagination but it requires some thought and that’s okay; as a result the story unfolds at a comfortable pace and guides you through effortlessly as you witness the marvellous narrative of Vella and Shay grow. The characters they encounter, lands they visit, puzzles they solve and contrasting lives they have are so perfectly realised it never fails to bring a smile to your face.
It’s by no means a lengthy Act, but as a result there’s no filler; no worry of it outstaying its welcome and, with more still to come, it leaves eager to continue. It’s a humorous and joyous experience that, a lack of difficulty and variety in branching dialogue aside, is one I heartily recommend to all.