Review: Broken Age – Part 1 / Developer: Double Fine / Publisher: Digital Distribution / Platform: Android, iOD, Linux, OS X, PC / Release Date: Out Now
Just a couple of months shy of two years since being funded on Kickstarter, Broken Age has finally arrived. The masterwork of Tim Schafer of Psychonauts fame and Double Fine Productions, this is to be their glorious return to the point-and-click genre. Thankfully, Part 1 lives up to the hype.
The story follows two characters, Vella and Shay, living very different lives but each seeking in their own way to break with tradition. Vella is living on a world ravaged by a monstrous creature which can only be tamed through human sacrifice and is considering how to end the cycle of human offerings once and for all. Shay meanwhile is told he is the last of his kind and his life is dictated by his spacecraft’s overbearing computer. Neither situation is quite as simple as it first seems.
The most striking aspect of the title from the very start is the stylishness with which the fame is brought to life. There is something extremely story book-esque about each location's visual appearance, from the dull azure tones of Shay’s home to the golden colour which dominates Vella’s world. It’s a unique kind of charm rarely seen these days and the imagery here carries over into the tale itself. From the voice acting to the humour, everything has a well-developed quality to it you would expect to find if LucasArts were to come back and create a point-and-click adventure for this day and age.
On a thematic level, issues of responsibility and choice give the title a notable coherence, but at the same time there is plenty of variety of gameplay. While Shay’s story involves more interactive gameplay elements, Vella's tends more towards riddle-solving and analysing certain details. It’s a subtle element you won’t realise is there at first and it’s well hidden behind the game’s beauty and sense of humour.
If there is one thing to criticise, it's that the game shares the usual problems of point-and-click titles. With only a bare minimum of hand-holding you’ll quite often feel rudderless, endlessly backtracking and trying to figure out what on earth you’re supposed to do next, or being blindsided by the seamless transitions between gameplay and cutscenes. Honestly though, these are failings which just come with the territory, and they help make your every victory that much more satisfying.
If you’ve been at all curious to see what the hype is about or desperate for a truly great point-and-click title, go after this one without hesitation. Just keep in mind that this is only Part 1 of the tale.
Broken Age: Part 1 can be downloaded on Steam.