|Developer:||Double Fine|||||Release Date:||2015|||||Systems:||Win, OS X, Linux, Ouya, iOS, Android, PS4, PSVita|
This month on Super Adventures I'm playing Broken Age, formerly known as Double Fine Adventure back in its Kickstarter days.
Though this isn't one of them Kickstarter success stories like Giana Sisters, FTL, Pillars of Eternity and the rest, this is THE Kickstarter success story, the one that kickstarted all the others by proving that game developers could actually crowd-fund niche video game projects that publishers would never touch. In this case Tim Schafer wanted to make an old school point-and-click adventure game like the ones he worked on at LucasArts during the 90s.
They asked for $400,000 ($300,000 for the game, $100,000 for a documentary), which seemed like they were pushing their luck a little, but soon people were lining up to take a risk in the hopes of getting another Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle or Grim Fandango. They ended up raising a massive $3,336,371 in the end, which is clearly $3,038 too much. Except not really, as even after getting over 8 times the amount they wanted they still ran out of cash and had to split the game up into two parts, with their plan being to fund the second half with their earnings from the first half.
Broken Age: Act 1 came out in 2014 (just 2 years later than planned), but I've written 2015 up there as the release date because I'm playing the complete product here, with both acts welded together into one seamless whole. I remember that its second act wasn't all that well received, on account of it being bastard hard due to overcompensation after criticism of Act 1, but that's about where my knowledge of the game ends, so I'm not really sure what to expect from this. Though I'm hoping it's like a cross between Broken Sword and Dragon Age, or maybe Brain Age and... damn I can't think of another game with 'Broken' in the title.
By the way, the game supports widescreen just fine, but it's making me rescale the window manually by dragging the edges around and every time I start it up it resets to defaults, so I'm leaving the title screen how I found it to teach Double Fine a lesson. Also I think I like it better in 4:3 anyway, as there's more clouds.
(Click the screenshots to view them slightly bigger than they are here but not as big as they'd be for most players.)
Personally I'm not a fan, but that's not because there's anything bad about it. In fact it's well painted 2D art with lots of nice touches like leaves falling down and shooting stars flying past the window. Wait, that's not nice, there's no air in space for meteoroids to burn up in, so those must be space lasers! Or maybe they're just those warp trails you see in Star Trek.
Anyway, the game began with these two approaching each other in a black void, but then it turns out that they're in entirely different places and they both have a lie down. Now the game's refusing to go any further until I decide whether I want to play as the woman napping under a tree on the Chrono Trigger world map or as the bloke in the sci-fi zone with the fuzzy wireframe blanket. Either way I'm going to have to wake someone up here.
Man I'm glad I didn't actually quit there, as Broken Age gets a lot better when it actually becomes the old school LucasArts-style point-and-click adventure it was promised to be. Not just in gameplay, but in humour too, as the world opens up and turns out to be full of weird-ass characters to talk to. Well okay it doesn't open up that much so it didn't really take all that many characters to fill it, but after being trapped in two separate overly restrictive interactive children's storybook prologues it was nice to find that there is a game in here to enjoy.
A few people consider Act 2 to be a let down after the first part, but I played through both acts as one complete story and didn't see the same split down the middle others have complained about. Instead I saw two splits. The first came when the linear prologue ended; once I had room to breathe the game became more fun and I found myself making steady progress through the puzzles and plot. The second came when the fun ended; I'd made it halfway through Act 2 happily enough but found that I didn't have the first clue what the game wanted me to do any more. Once I lost my puzzle solving flow I found that being stuck wasn't nearly as satisfying as not being stuck.
I definitely don't regret sticking with it and finishing the story, but I don't regret using a walkthrough for those last puzzles either (especially on the Vella side) because my patience was running low and I wanted to know how it ended already! Plus the game starts expecting you to use information learned in one character's story to solve things in the other character's and that makes no damn sense at all. This isn't Day of the Tentacle, they don't have time toilets to yell to each other through! See, I don't need a whole lot of sense in my story to be happy, just a little bit will do.
Another reason I didn't see a big difference between the acts is because Act 2 is set in the same places with the same people as Act 1! Once you reach that halfway point you've seen more or less everything in the game and you're sent backtracking across familiar settings instead. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as Vella's story in particular had been a journey up to that point. I'm not complaining though, it's nice that it lets you face the consequences of your actions seeing as it's relevant to the game's theme of how taking control of your life means taking on responsibility for your choices. Plus it was nice to see other characters finally comment on all the stuff I'd been up to. Just makes it a smaller game than I expected is all.
Still, it's a small game with plenty of wit and personality and I even grew to like the art style after a while! Visually and musically this really does seem like the best version of what it wants to be.
Faces aside, I found both Vella and Shay to be really likeable and sympathetic heroes, and far less whiny and angsty than they could've been, considering that one had been trapped in solitary confinement and treated like a five year old for about a decade too long, and the other was literally used as a human sacrifice. And this was done to them by their closest loved ones! It's amazing that they're actually less sociopathic than your typical adventure game protagonist. I suppose it's no shock that they're both so well realised considering the quality of the animation and voice acting, though I can't help but think that maybe Double Fine would've had less money problems if they hadn't hired actual celebrities. I mean I didn't even know Jack Black and Elijah Wood were even in it until I checked the credits!
Unfortunately all the wit and production quality in the world can't hide the fact that the resolution to the story's big mysteries is a bit too... batshit insane to be entire satisfying. The reveals just don't justify the set up, and the game's not funny enough to make you laugh that off. Any hints I give are just going to spoil it and that's the last thing I want to do, but it seems like certain folks in this game went to a lot more trouble than they had to. A ridiculous amount of trouble.
Speaking of ridiculous, you know this has a 20 part 'making of' documentary series available to watch free on YouTube right now covering the entirety of its production? That's something like 12 hours in total, you could beat the game faster than that!
So overall I'm giving Broken Age a thumbs up. You probably wouldn't put it on the same level as its legendary point-and-click predecessors, but if you're craving an old-school adventure game, and you don't mind it being a little childish in tone and only having the one button for everything, there's worse games out there. You'll certainly struggle to find one with as much charm.
You could also have a guess at what the next game's going to be, and how many months it's going to take for me to get around to posting it this time.