Broken Age

Broken Age

Developed by Double Fine Productions Android, IOS, Mac, Linux, PC, Ouya

Grade: A

As consumers, we are at the mercy of what sells. When what you like is “what sells,” that’s a wonderful fact. However, when something you like is niche, then it can be the worst. However, the last couple of years have given gamers the opportunity to directly influence what they like as being the thing that sells, all because of the glorious innovation that is Kickstarter. For those of you not in the know, Kickstarter is a website that allows anyone to pitch an idea to which they can ask people to contribute money, essentially making them investors in that product. This service has been a revolution for the gaming industry. Suddenly, games which publishers deemed to be products that wouldn’t sell can bypass these fat cat suits and go straight to the consumers with the question of whether we want it or not. This has allowed gamers to set in motion the development of many games that may not have seen the light of day otherwise. And seeing as the site has been popular for two years, and the average game development cycle is two years, we are finally starting to see the fruits of this endeavor. And, oh, are those fruits sweet.

The game that kicked (get it?) this whole gaming revolution off was a proposed project by the legendary team Double Fine Studios, who brought us games such as Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. They began their Kickstarter asking for $400,000 and, in just under a month, they raised $4,000,000. The game this Kickstarter produced is Broken Age. However, the exponential amount they raised meant they wanted to make a far larger game than anticipated. So the game you buy now is Act One of the game, with Act Two set to come out later this year for no additional fee.

Broken Age is a classic point-and-click adventure. Though the genre has seen a resurgence in the last couple of years, with titles such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, these games are evidence of the evolution of point-and-click adventures (Point-and-Click 2.0, if I may). Broken Age, on the other hand, captures the magic of 90’s point-and-click adventures while utilising 21st century technology to make a game that is equal parts nostalgic and refreshingly innovative.

Broken Age is the gamer’s version of a coming-of-age tale. It is broken up into two narratives. One story follows Shay, a teenage boy stuck on a spaceship with an overbearing computer, AI, for a mother. Shay is tasked everyday with missions that, as it quickly becomes apparent, are meant as nothing more than distractions for him, as the ship’s main prerogative is to keep him safe. The other story follows Vella, a teenage girl who has been chosen by her village as a sacrifice to the monster that visits every 14 years to eat the offered maidens. Both of the narrative threads share the common theme of reaching a moment where we must question the situation we are in and either accept or rebel against it. The player has the option of swapping out of the narrative they are in and jumping to the other at any time.

Both of these stories are superbly constructed, taking the player on two journeys which are absurdly fantastical while never being alienating. Though the stories have real heartfelt sentiments, the game doesn’t lean on emotion to keep the player engaged; its levity and humor keeps you engaged enough as it is. The game is utterly hilarious – when you’re not laughing out loud, no doubt you’ll have a goofy grin plastered on your face.

The gameplay is exactly what you’d expect of a classic point-and-click adventure. You will spend almost equal amounts of time exploring, conversing and problem solving. As is customary with this genre, often the problem-solving aspect can lead to some frustrating moments as you search for the object you missed. But hey, it wouldn’t be a point-and-click adventure without those moments.

Broken Age is the beginning of gaming revolution: expect a wave of games bought, paid for and developed just for you. For this to be true, of course, you’ll need to keep an eye on Kickstarter and have your wallet ready. But if Double Fine’s fantastic new IP is any indication, it’ll be worth it. I am so excited to play Act Two, and I hope that by the time it launches later this year, you will all be waiting in anticipation with me.
This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2014.
Posted 6:57pm Sunday 23rd February 2014 by Baz Macdonald.