Broken Age is the newest release from Double Fine, the developer founded by adventure game legend Tim Schafer. The release is noteworthy for having a massively successful Kickstarter campaign; with a goal of $400,000, the studio ended up raising almost $3.5 million. Of course, with huge money came big expectations, and the title ended up launching both late – and only partially complete. Now, three years after its funding drive, the full version is making its debut on PlayStation platforms.
In this point-and-click adventure, you control two different characters: Shay and Vella. Recognised thespian Elijah Wood voices the former, who is a boy trapped in an automated space ship. This child-like vessel has been designed to make him feel like he's setting out on daring missions. In reality, he is trapped in an insulated, automated environment, tasked with undertaking fake "missions" such as saving knitted animals from an avalanche of, er, ice cream. These scenarios are excessively cute, but almost obnoxiously so. In fact, this level of cuteness is so over the top that it ends up making these scenarios feel rather creepy. This is a recurring theme throughout this portion of the story, and it demonstrates the line between being protective and stifling; Shay spends his days wishing he could break out of the monotony without any luck. That is, until something happens...
Meanwhile, fellow protagonist Vella – voiced by Masasa Moyo – is at a party with her family, celebrating her involvement in the Maiden's Feast. This may sound like a happy occurrence, but it's actually a "rite of passage" that involves offering one's self to a monstrous creature – named Mog Chothra – as a sacrifice. As may already be evident, the duo are involved in radically different stories, and it's up to you to determine exactly how they are linked.
The writing brings with it the usual Tim Schafer cleverness and wit, which has been a staple of his games ever since he entered the industry. We don't want to delve into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but rest assured that this game delivers one hell of a six or so hour tale – partly powered by its star studded voice cast – and it will leave you pondering just what is going to happen next.
But this isn't just about story: one of the cool gameplay features introduced here is the way that you can bounce between each character on a whim. You don't necessarily need to do this to solve puzzles, but if you get stuck on one, you can switch to the other on the fly, before toggling back again without interruption.
Speaking of the puzzles, this is an adventure game, so there's plenty to think about. One problem that the genre's had in the past is that the conundrums tend to not make a whole lot of sense, but luckily, that's not the case here. Indeed, the puzzles naturally and consistently make sense within the world that the game has established; the downside to this is that they do occasionally end up feeling a little tedious.
Don't get us wrong, navigating through the game is a breeze – but you'll certainly find yourself slogging backwards and forwards a little bit more than you'd like. This problem is compounded further by the game feeling directionless at times. The biggest issue is that it's not always immediately clear where you should start: going from place to place gets clearer as you advance a certain line of the narrative, but at the beginning of each plot piece, proceedings are a little vague.
Still, at least the game has a gorgeous art style, in which everything has a canvas-esque look to it. It suits the game extraordinarily well, and augments a beautifully unique vibe. Additionally, the soundtrack for the game is wonderful – especially the retro sci-fi elements. Overall, though, the music does a marvellous job of setting the mood for the characters and the environments alike.
When all's said and done, Broken Age makes an excellent case for why the adventure game genre deserves to exist in this medium. Indeed, it's a wonderfully charming title that really feels like a celebration of the point-and-click format. Sure, it doesn't necessarily do anything ground breaking, but it doesn't really need to. If you're a fan of Tim Schafer's previous work, then this is unmissable.