Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Broken Age Act 1 Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/broken-age-act-1-review-3fe08301b54e#.4j8etbqfv

If you've ever heard of a game being Kickstarted, you can thank Broken Age for it. It was almost two years ago when Tim Schafer decided that he wanted to make another point-and-click adventure game, and he wanted the internet to fund it. Needless to say, it was a resounding success, and for a while all we wanted to talk about was games on Kickstarter. The first half of Broken Age is out now, with the second half coming later this year.

The game is split into two different stories, with two different protagonists: Vella on the left, and Shay on the right. Once you choose one of them, you start their story, but you can switch between them at any time. I used this once when I got frustrated with a puzzle I was having trouble with.

Vella's story starts off in her village, which is made up entirely of bakers. Every generation they have the Maidens' Feast, where several young women are offered up to a big monster called Mog Chothra so it won't destroy the village. Needless to say, Vella is not thrilled about this and decides to fight back. Her adventure takes her to a couple of other villages, one that just had their Maidens' Feast, and another getting ready for its Maidens' Feast.
Shay on the other hand lives a pretty boring life: he's been living on a spaceship his whole life, and the simulation missions the ship throws at him have gotten pretty boring because they were designed for a toddler. Eventually he breaks out of this rut and discovers a whole new part of the ship that he has never seen before, and some real missions to embark on.
Visually the game is gorgeous. Everything looks hand painted, and in typical point-and-click fashion the camera is usually fixed, at most moving left or right as you move around the environment. There were a few places where I thought the textures looked low-resolution, but honestly it wouldn't have made much of a difference because of the art style.

Mechanically it plays almost exactly like a point-and-click from the 90's. Or at least that's what I assume because I wasn't doing much video gaming in the 90's. All of the "puzzles" involved finding a specific item or combination of items to use in a particular way in a particular place to solve a problem. Most times it was pretty clear what needed to be done, and failing that just a little snooping around would uncover the solution. There was that one time though where the solution involved going back and forth through several areas to get different items, and I completely did not understand what I was supposed to do. Yeah, I looked up the solution to that one.
One of my favorite things about Broken Age is the voice cast. Having people like Elijah Wood, Jennifer Hale, and Jack Black in the same game is delightful to my nerd brain. And Wil Wheaton playing a hipster lumberjack hiding from the talking trees was the best moment of my week.

It took me just over four hours to complete Act 1, and they left us on quite the cliffhanger. It's definitely worth getting now, because Act 1 is a good length to finish in one or two sittings. This is one of the few games I have played that is appropriate for both adults and kids, so if you are a parent check it out. It's a little hard to name a good price because I have no idea how good Act 2 will be; if it keeps up the quality that Act 1 had, I would say that $20 is a good price.