The game that started the Kickstarter craze is finally here. Does it live up to our lofty expectations?
It's finally here - the long awaited Double Fine Adventure renamed Broken Age. That is, the first act of this crowdfunded two-parter. It's the poster child of Kickstarter and it sure looks the part with beautifully crafted visuals that are both unique and fitting the subject matter.
You'd probably expect Double Fine Productions to come up with something very strange when given free rein and money from their fans, but Broken Age is something more than a humourous and outrageous rollercoaster ride. It focuses a lot on family and tradition and breaches serious subjects in a lighthearted way.
You play as either the boy Shay, who's adventure starts on a spaceship governed by an overprotective computer, or the girl Vella, who's about to be sacrificed in order to save her village. Shay's days are wasted saving knitted little friends from ice cream avalanches and hug attacks, while he eats the same boring cereals. He wants adventure and finds it when a mysterious stowaway dressed up as a wolf tasks him with real rescue missions.
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Shay spends most of his part of the adventure aboard the spacecraft that serves as his home and is all he knows. And while Shay (voiced by Elijah Wood) is bored out of his mind, in fact to such a degree that he is quite happy to embrace various suicidal tendencies, the player is entertained and, compared to the more eclectic Vella part of the adventure, it feels good to be locked inside a somewhat cohesive world.
Which takes us to Vella. The beautiful young girl who has been chosen by her village to be sacrificed to the hideous Mog Chothra on Maiden Feast in order to satisfy the hunger of the beast and for him to spare the village. As you'd expect, Vella doesn't feel it's her time to go just yet, and as she escapes her doom (with a little help from a bird), she will travel to the clouds and talk to a guru (voiced by Jack Black) and a sap spewing tree. You know, the kind of stuff you'd expect.
What really elevates Broken Age from just a nice story with simple and proven point-and-click mechanics, is the presentation. Simply put, it's a feast for the eyes and it comes across as an entirely unique artstyle. It looks like a children's book come to life. A children's book for slightly older children. The voices also help immerse the player and you will find yourself trying to find all the wrong conversation options before clicking the correct one just to make sure you're not missing out on a joke.
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There has been some Kickstarter backlash lately. Games that have under-delivered. Games that have been cancelled. Campaigns that had to return to ask for more money. In this regard Double Fine are blessed with patient fans who've taken little issue with the delays, and they've also managed to infuse more funds into the project without having to go to a publisher. The end result is a game that will make backers pleased and proud. Not only is it gorgeous and funny, but it's also an incredibly atmospheric journey that will pull at your heartstrings. It's also good value in the end, as early backers wound up getting a discount on the Steam price of both acts (£18.99). It's not a terribly challenging game and old-time point-and-click veterans may find it a little on the easy side. Few puzzles are more complex than picking the correct line in a conversation or placing an object correctly.
We clocked in around 5 hours of playtime on Steam with this, the first act. However, that includes a little repetition as we replayed the early parts of each of the story arcs to capture some screenshots. If the second act is similar in length, the whole would make up a decent-sized adventure. A very neat twist right at the end ties the stories of Shay and Vella together, and this cliffhanger sets us up for what will no doubt feel like a long wait for the conclusion. For now there's only a vague "later this year" date for Act 2. Afraid of ruining your experience, we've been careful not to spoil any of the puzzles or major plot events in this review, as this is definitely a game you need to be playing.
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9 / 10
Beautiful artstyle, Memorable story and characters, Great voice acting, Plenty of humour in perfect balance with more serious themes.
Simple puzzles, Cliffhanger leaves us wanting more.