Broken Age is the story of two teenagers, oblivious to each others existence, rushing head first towards the day their lives change forever. One, a young boy living a sheltered life as an overprotected hero desperate to grow up and experience some real danger. Another, a young girl destined to live the traditionally female life of a sacrificial maiden for a hungry beast but more interested in starting a revolution. Living two seemingly unconnected existences, Broken Age Act 1 tells the story of how these two choosing to rebel against the destinies set out in front of them brought them together, but leaves a lot still to be uncovered and resolved in its second part.

Broken Age is a love letter to the best of traditional adventure game design. It’s unashamed to give you an area to explore thoroughly, seemingly unimportant items that need collecting and combining and at times obscure solutions to problems. It’s comfortable, it’s point and click adventure gaming done in a way we all know works and thankfully it doesn’t take unnecessary risks with its gameplay. This may sound like the game is uninteresting, but it wraps this up in gorgeous and simplistic art, beautifully evocative world and characters so amusing they stand up with the greats of the genre. It’s as well written as I remember games like Grim Fandango being when they were first released. It doesn’t take unneeded risks, it just reminds me why I loved Double Fine’s games. It brings me back to being a young child combining seemingly unrelated items just in case they made something new and unexpected.

Shay’s story is a science fiction epic set on a single open spaceship. This ship is controlled by an overprotective mother figure who treats him like an oversized toddler. She prepares his breakfast, she makes fake missions for him to save soft cuddly creatures and she ensures that his days are repetitive but safe and sheltered. The ship’s control centre even features a baby mobile and brightly coloured flashing star shaped buttons with smiley faces for him to (presumably arbitrarily) operate from one fake mission to the next.

He’s a very interesting spin on the traditional macho hero due to this overprotection and it has some well thought out implications for his character. It’s very rare to see someone clearly set up to eventually be a hero started off this mollycoddled. He’s exploring traditional hero fantasies, but they’re happening in such a safe space that he has just lost any sense of enjoyment in his life. He seeks adventure almost purely as a response to how much of his life has been spent with it dangled just out of his reach.

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Vella’s story on the other hand is more of a traditional Fantasy story. A giant monster comes to her village every 14 years and all of the beautiful noble maidens are lined up, desperate of the honour of being eaten alive and satisfying the monster and it’s appetite. Vella is not interested in being put up for grabs on the Monster Buffet though, she’s much more interested in finding a huge weapon and slicing the beast into as many pieces as possible.She wonderfully subverts many of the tropes I have come to expect from female leads and really feels written specifically to be female but not defined by that fact. She accepts aspects of her femininity, but also importantly rejects other aspects in ways that make her more interesting and rounded.

Broken Age allows you to switch control between the two different protagonists at will, not that it’s signposted very well at all which is a problem. I personally completed Shay’s story, then completed Vella’s. By the time I knew I could switch stories, Shay’s was already complete and there was not really a reason to go back to it. The two stories don’t really overlap until the end of Vella’s and the end of hers works best knowing the ending of Shay’s. Still, if you happen to get stuck on a puzzle it offers a nice way to keep playing and get some distance from the puzzle that has you stumped.

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I absolutely love everything about how both of the worlds are crafted. From Shay’s oversized nursery motif ship to a city in the clouds Vella visits on her travels, the game does a great job of making its worlds feel unique and memorable. The characters are also incredibly interesting spins on the tropes they initially appear to be based on and each have their own unique personalities that set them up well for the remaining part of the story. The dialogue is perfectly witty and keeps up a snappy pace, a particular highlight for both the writing and voice acting being Jennifer Hale and her performance as the ship’s mother figure. I couldn’t pick out an underdeveloped character or piece of bad acting or writing if I tried, it’s just that good.

The biggest problem for me at the moment is that the second act is not yet here. The first act is around three hours long and does provide some challenge, but mostly when you’ve forgotten to pick something up or neglected a dialogue choice. Most of the gameplay feels like an excuse to get you walking back and forth exploring the admittedly impressive world, but I left the first act a little too hungry for the second. The story ends on an impressive reveal that I didn’t see coming, but it’s when the story hits an interesting narrative beat that the game suddenly stops to a halt. I’m desperate to continue the brilliant momentum the game had built up. Instead I’m going to be left wondering for much longer than I ideally would be.

Review: Broken Age Act 1
Broken Age brings back the very best parts of classic point and click adventure games. It's just a shame it ended so abruptly.
Pros
  • Nostalgic Point and Click Gameplay
  • Incredibly well written and acted
  • Wonderful unique visual identity
Cons
  • Puzzles are at times obtuse
  • Ending finally reaches main plot and stops suddenly
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
8.3

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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