Broken Age Part 1
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Game Reviewed: Broken Age Part 1
Publisher: Double Fine
Developer: Double Fine
Platform: PC, Mac
ESRB Rating: N/A
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The adventure genre is pretty close to dead these days. It’s experiencing something of a revival with Telltale’s recent efforts, but those are very modern reimaginings of the genre. The classic adventure game, games like Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, featured stories that required the player to navigate an environment and solve environmental puzzles to progress. The genre, though very popular in the earlier days of video games, has since died out, mostly due to the common occurrence of puzzle design that was so confusing players would often just click everywhere until something worked.
However, the genre has been missed, and Double Fine (creators of games like Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, and Brutal Legend) wanted to bring it back. The Kickstarter campaign they used to fund it (which is why it’s not ESRB rated or professionally published; it’s an entirely self-produced game) almost immediately made far more than was necessary to fund the game, and people have been looking forward to it ever since.
I am happy to say that Broken Age may be the best thing to happen to the adventure genre since Telltale started working their magic. Using the classic point-and-click interface, Broken Age utilizes a uniquely creative tone to keep the game and its puzzles fairly surreal and fun while also keeping them simple enough to avoid frustration. Enough exploration and creative thought will prevail, which keeps the game fun to play. Beyond that, it keeps the focus on the story, which is an interesting and competently told tale of two people whose lives are very different, but very relevant to each other.
Unfortunately, despite the success it enjoyed before it was even made, Broken Age has not been officially rated by the ESRB, leaving parents with relatively little information about its content. So then, is it something your kids can play?
What Parents Need to Know
Though the game is generally nonviolent, and the gameplay doesn’t revolve around violence whatsoever, there are some scenes of violence. Vella’s story involves villages that sacrifice young women to a huge creature. There is no blood or gore, but there are multiple instances of a tentacle smashing down around one of the girls. Once of their bodies are seen being dropped into the beast’s mouth. It is not graphic at all, but is kind of disturbing.
One character calls someone a “hardass.”
Nothing of note.
Vella’s story involves a form of human sacrifice, though it’s for a sea creature, not a supernatural being. There are also scenes involving some kind of strange cult based on a very literal form of “enlightenment” that centers around levitation and living in the clouds.
Shay’s story involves an interesting form of rebellion. He lives in a spaceship where he is kept sheltered for highly vague reasons, only getting excitement from made-up and completely safe scenarios that get really old really quickly. When given the opportunity to break from this mold and make a difference, he does, rebelling against his AI parental figures. Further story developments make it unclear whether this rebellion was justified and whether it was a good or bad thing.
A Child’s Perspective:
I started a new game for my 9-year old nephew, who immediately gravitated toward the sci-fi setting and male protagonist. He played the first while of Shay’s story, and while he was very entertained by the witty dialogue and clever scenarios, he did seem to get easily bored and distracted when puzzles would confound him. In the end, he laughed and enjoyed it, and wants to play more, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the slow pace and occasional frustration with the puzzles pushes him away from it as time goes on.
Broken Age brings the classic point-and-click formula back to its roots, as promised, and it does so with flair. The quirky aesthetic and strong story are the stars here, and they are backed by gameplay that manages to continue the genre tradition of creatively bizarre puzzles without falling into the too-common trap of making them incomprehensible. This is only half of the total product, but it's a really good start, and I am very excited to see how it wraps up when the second part releases.
Though the story has some mature elements to it, there is little in Broken Age that makes it unfriendly to children. Some of the puzzles may prove a bit convoluted for young minds, but by the time they are old enough to really grasp the gameplay, there should be little to deter parents from allowing them to play. All in all, a strong delivery on Double Fine’s promise, and one I know I’ll be watching closely.