In February 2012, Double Fine made history when they became the largest crowd funded game in Kickstarter history raising over $3.4 million dollars in just three months. They exceeded their initial goal of $400,000 in mere hours; proof that the world is indeed still hungry for an old school Tim Schafer point-and-click adventure game.
The original plan in the Kickstarter pitch? The game would feature a small development team and be completed by the fall of that same year. That didn’t quite happen in practice but now, just under two years later, backers and anyone who wants to buy a copy can get their hands on Episode One of Broken Age on Steam. Episode Two hopefully follows later this year.
Tim Schafer of Double Fine and the internet’s reaction to him making an Adventure game
A Clicking of Age Story
Broken Age follows the lives of two adolescent characters, Shay and Vella, in their transition from carefree children to the harsh reality of adulthood. Denis Leary’s “Life’s Gonna Suck When You Grow Up” would be a great theme song for the game! You can play as either character and switch back and forth whenever you like. In Episode One, the stories are for the most part separate and there isn’t any interaction between the characters.
Shay appears to be alone on a spaceship that caters to his every need like an overbearing nanny. His parents are omnipresent via screens that are close ups of their faces and they frequently nag him for things like brushing his teeth and eating right.
He is expected to have a daily dose of adventures which are little contrived scenes where he plays hero to stuffed animals his mom knits for him. You quickly get the sense he is growing bored with the monotony of lone space travel and is looking for ways to go on real adventures.
Vella is a teenager from the town of Sugar Bunting. She was chosen to represent the village in the Maiden’s Feast, a great honor. It turns out the Maiden’s Feast is when the villages dress up their girls in local finery (Vella’s baking village dresses all the girls up like cakes) as potential sacrifices to Mog Chothra, a beast that terrorizes all the villages of the land once a year. Vella believes this is an absurd tradition and tries lobbying others to kill Mog Chothra instead. I’ll stop here for spoilers.
Keep It Down Now, Voices Carry
Broken Age has quite the all-star cast of characters. Shay is voiced by Frodo himself, Elijah Wood. Jack Black and Wil Wheaton play some scene stealing characters. There are also some of my favorites from cartoons such as Richard Steven Horvitz (aka Invader Zim and Raz from Double Fine’s game Psychonauts) and Cree Summer (Penny from Inspector Gadget and Elmyra from Tiny Toons). Although my favorite where the heck have I heard that voice moment from the game was trying to place who voiced Ginny Westcott. She’s been in many Double Fine games and Day of the Tentacle, but where I actually recognized the voice from was the damn talking LeapFrog Letter Factory thing all my nieces and nephews had on their refrigerators. And now, once again, the letter A song will be permanently embedded in my brain!
CEO of Harmonix Music Systems Alex Rigopulos not only voiced a character but he actually plays some version of himself (the character’s name is Alex) in the game. This honor was one of the special backer funding options and brings me one step closer to my dream of a Double Fine and Harmonix team up on a game!
So How About That Gameplay?
Broken Age is a traditional point-and-click adventure. It uses a single click context based system so you really only need one button. There are a few different cursors which you can learn the context of pretty quickly. There is no in game hint system nor does it have the special button you can press to see all the interactive objects within a room. I tend to like having that special button in adventure games but there wasn’t much trouble with pixel hunting or too many rooms with lots of interactive objects so it wasn’t too bad without it here.
According to my Steam stats, the game took me 5.4 hours to play which isn’t too bad for a two episode adventure game. 10-12 hours for the full game seems reasonable. The puzzles were about right in difficulty and I didn’t need to cheat at anything. Any time something started to get frustrating I just switched back to the other character and tried something different for a while.
The gameplay is the traditional: walking around talking to people and finding stuff to solve puzzles. It also features one of my favorite adventure game cliches: how many times can I click through options to keep getting terrible jokes? Woohoo, lots of awesome space cereal names! It also has the traditional “fun” phrases you get when trying to combine objects or solve puzzles at random. My favorite was every time I tried to use a talking plastic knife on anything I wasn’t supposed to I got:
Shay: “I don’t want to stab that.”
Knife: “I do!”
Walking Around in a Painting
Double Fine went with a very specific art style for the game that is best described as walking around in one of lead artist Nathan Stapley’s paintings. Having seen lots of concept art and screenshots as a backer, I was skeptical of it being a little too dream-scapy. However, once you are in the game it works really well and you do get lost in the story book worlds. It can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out which parts of the landscape you can interact with verses which you can’t though, especially in the cloud area.
Peter McConnell, who also worked on Schafer’s other games Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango, composed the game’s score. It really captures the mood for the different locations and actions in the game and contributes to keeping you fully immersed in the world.
If you enjoy point-and-click adventures in general you are sure to enjoy this one. It features many elements of old school ones as well as updated graphics and an all-star cast. While thus far it doesn’t replace any of my old school Lucas or Sierra Games as a new favorite, it’s solid and I can’t wait for the next episode. I give it New rating, but my only caution might be to wait until the next episode releases so you can play it altogether since Episode One ends on quite a cliffhanger!