Games have come a long way from the primitive controls that dominated some of the earlier 90s games, and the dated visuals that technology back then was able to muster, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that games nowadays are better for the advancements, some games this gen prefer to choose a safe path instead of venturing into new territories, sticking to themes that have been milked dry, and that’s what made most of the offerings from this gen (or the last gen, sadly) mundane. Broken Age defies that however, and it defies it in the most original and outstanding manner possible, by tapping into what made old 90s games so enjoyable.
One of the (now) many successful crowd funding stories, Broken Age was advertised on Kickstarter by Double Fine Productions, the development team that brought us gems like The Cave, Stacking, and the mostly underrated (and a personal favorite) Brutal Legend. Also if you’ve been following Double Fine for a while you’d know about Tim Schafer, the guy who brought us the outstanding Monkey Island series back in the 90s with Lucas Arts, and Grim Fandango.
Broken Age is mainly a point and click adventure game, very reminiscent of Schafer’s earlier work. If you’re not into these types of games, I still strongly urge you to give Broken Age a go, and I will elaborate as to why in the following few paragraphs.
Broken Age follows the stories of two individual teenagers, Vella and Shay, Vella lives in Sugar Bunting, a village of bakers who are about to have their maidens feast in which maidens picked from each village are sacrificed to a gargantuan beast called Mog Chothra so that Mog doesn’t destroy the village. This has been the tradition for so long, though Vella’s grandfather tells her stories about how the village used to be a village of heroes and not a village of bakers, evident by the family’s last name as well, which is Beastender. To be sacrificed in the maidens feast is the greatest of honors a teenage girl can bring to her family, and Vella is destined to be sacrificed to Mog Chothra.
Shay lives in a spacecraft, seemingly the only person on board of it, with an overly motherly computer who watches his every step and makes sure Shay is safe and well, he always has the same exact routines, he wakes up, has breakfast, and goes on “missions” that the computer controlling the ship deem safe enough for him, and he’s gotten very sick his life and is always feeling like a prisoner.
Broken Age’s gameplay draws direct inspiration from old point and click adventure games, and that adds so much nostalgic value to it. You click anywhere to move around, and click on some things to interact with them. Some items can be taken and used somewhere else in the game, or can be combined with other items to make something more useful for solving a certain puzzle. Speaking of puzzles, the game is basically made out of them, but nothing is absolutely mind bending that will leave you days trying to figure out what to do, which is okay for such a lite game.
Moreover, the ability to seamlessly switch between Shay or Vella any where in the story is a very welcomed addition to the genre, if, for example you’re stuck in a puzzle as Vella, you can just leave that part for the time being and continue Shay’s adventure. Though at times this made me feel that I progressed much farther in one’s story than the other, but for fear of spoiling anything, I’ll just let you know that this particular event is handled well in the game.
The game doesn’t just stop at offering an engrossing story or nostalgic gameplay, it also offers visuals so charming that I personally can’t think of another game developed within the last few years with a similar visual style, the entire art work for the game is mainly hand drawn which that made me genuinely want to stop at certain places and just stare at everything.
Broken Age features voice actress Masasa Moyo who did certain voices in Bioshock Infinite as well as Batman: Arkham Origins, Final Fantasy XIII and a myriad of other well known games, along with Elijah Wood voicing Shay, Jack Black, and Will Wheaton!
And with such a strong voice cast, the game’s music is equally good and gripping, ranging according to the scene, from cheerful music in Sugar Bunting to space age music on Shay’s end, along with variations to suit the game’s environment.
I found myself wanting to play through Broken Age again immediately after I beat the first act just to re-live that wonderful adventure again, and I’m pretty sure most people who will play, or have already played it share the same feelings.
The game is one of the most charming and beautiful games compared to mostly anything that came out in 2013, and a wonderful way to kickstart 2014. Broken Age released on the 28th of January, I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to try this game.