Thursday, January 16, 2014

Broken Age: Act 1 (PC Game Review)

I don't know about anyone else here, but Double Fine's Adventure title is what brought me to the website, Kickstarter in the first place. Tim Schafer (of titles such as Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and Brutal Legend) announced that he wanted to go back to the adventure genre that we used to see in games of PC's past (like the Monkey Island series, Sam & Max, King's Quest, and so many others). He asked the fans for help through Kickstarter, and the fans responded. With an initial goal of $400,000 to make the game, the campaign ended up reaching over $330 million, and the project was started. Throughout its development, we started to learn more about the game's unique art style, and more importantly, it's true title, Broken Age.

It's been a long wait, but backers (including myself) were finally rewarded with keys to play the first episode of the game through Steam. I downloaded it as fast as my computer could possibly respond to my clicks. It's felt like a very long time since we've had a game in this style that can still appeal to more modern gamers of today (as well as more seasoned vets from the late 80's and 90's). So what's it all about? Does Broken Age reinvent the genre that we used to remember so fondly, or is it more of the same?

At the start of Broken Age, you are given two characters to choose from, a girl named Vella, and a boy named Shay. Their stories could not begin more differently. In Vella's case, she is preparing for a ceremony where she is basically supposed to sacrifice herself to a giant monster and protect her town, per tradition. She is one of the only members in her family (besides her grandfather) who seem to think that defeating the monster would be a better solution, but no one else seems to take to this idea. Eventually, in trying to escape from this monster, Vella finds herself in a town up in the clouds, which is where her real adventure begins. Her story basically takes the "damsel in distress" concept and flips it the bird with a very likeable and relatable female lead.

Shay is completely different piece of the pie. Out in space, he lives in a ship with an AI mother and father who watch over him. He goes through the same routines everyday, and is more or less held captive. It's hinted that this is because he is "special" in some way that we're not quite sure of yet. One day, he finally attempts to sneak around the ship to get away when he meets a wolf, or rather a man in a wolf costume, who tells Shay about a horrible conflict going on within the cosmos, and asks for his help. His first episode focuses mainly on getting away from the AI and leaving to begin whatever his real destiny is.

Right off the bat, point-and-click adventure fans will notice all of the typical controls are just as they've always been. You click anywhere you want to make the character walk and interact with objects and people, pick up items, and use them or combine them in creative, though sometimes non-sensical ways. The genre is pretty much exactly where we left it, and while that may be disappointing to those who were hoping the game would go leaps and bounds over the conventional method, it's hard to argue that this formula doesn't work at the same time.

So what's the connection between Vella and Shay? Not much yet, but the ending to the first episode is definitely enough to keep you interested and see where it's all going. The game also gives you the ability to switch between the stories of the two characters whenever you want. While this won't help you with any puzzle solving, or anything in that sense, it can help you piece together some of the clues that lead up to the cliffhanger ending.

If there's anything I could say I found a flaw with, it's how there wasn't much in the way of actual puzzle solving; at least not yet. I can understand if they wanted to focus more on the story itself with just this first episode, but that remains to be seen for now.

All in all though, I'm very happy with the way the game has turned out so far. Fan's of Schafer's previous games may find this project a little more kid-friendly, and less over-the-top, but I don't see that as a bad thing when the result is still so fun and interesting. You can complete the first episode for both characters in less than 5 hours if you're good enough, which I think is a fine length considering this is just the first part of a series.

I give the first episode 8 boxes of Cinna Moon's out of 10

What do you the rest of you think? Have you gotten to play the first episode yet? What were your thoughts? And thanks as always for reading.

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