Monday, April 27, 2015

Pocket Review - Broken Age

When I backed Double Fine's adventure game, I did so only because I was caught up in the excitement of the Kickstarter rush. I'd never played a Double Fine game before, wasn't a fan of PC adventure games, and honestly had little idea what I was actually backing. I even held off on playing Act 1 on PC, but when it was revealed that Broken Age was coming to Vita, I knew I'd actually have a good chance of playing it there. It was worth the wait to get the complete version in one neat portable package.

For those who didn't play the first half on PC when it was released in January of last year, Broken Age is a modern take on the point-and-click adventure genre. Players take turns controlling both Shay, a young boy living on a spaceship, and Vella, a young girl tasked as being a sacrificial offering for her town. Both characters have their own path to follow, but it's possible to swap between them at any time. This is helpful for when you start getting frustrated or simply desire a different perspective for a bit. Shay and Vella are both well-developed characters with a lot of personality, so with the way there stories play out it's almost like having two games in one.

Both characters have two acts to work through, divided up by a noticeable change in perspective for each of them halfway through. Act 1 is very strong, with a fantastic balance of experimentation and exposition, though Vella's side is easily the best of the bunch. She travels from town to town, meeting new people, and figuring out how best to interact with everyone. While the required methods for progression are not completely obvious, finding the right item to use in the right place is never so obtuse that the problems can't be solved with just a little creative thought. At least that's the case in Act 1.

Act 2 is a bit weaker, mainly because the character development is already in place and isn't furthered as much. Some of the puzzles are more complex, with the overall experience feeling like it required way more trial and error than the first half. There were a few points where I felt like I knew exactly what the game wanted me to do, but since I'd overlooked a single item I couldn't progress. And there were other times when I was stumped for way longer than I'm happy to admit. Likely due to the structure of the game and how both halves have to tie together, Act 1 feels much tighter in design than Act 2.

On the other end of things, the story, dialogue, and voice acting in Broken Age are absolutely fantastic. The brief introduction of Vella and her family at the start of the game gives more depth within that short amount of time that other titles give throughout their entire length. You are giving a reason for doing what you're doing right off and it carries through the whole game. Most everyone Vella meets along with the way is full of personality and offers some of the most well-written dialogue I've seen in recent memory. Shay's side is a slightly more solitary experience, but even still his interactions with Spoon, Gary, the yarn people, and the rest of the folks on the ship are entertaining. In fact, the entire collection of sentient cutlery in Broken Age is fantastic, offering great lines of imaginative and humorous dialogue. Not since Toy Story have I felt such compassion for or emotional attachment to inanimate objects like I have here.

While the first half of the game is easily the stronger of the two parts, both combine to deliver one of the most best gaming experiences I've had so far this year. Broken Age is a perfect fit for a handheld platform, as it controls well using either buttons, the touch screen, or a mix of both. While I might not have known what I was getting into when I backed Broken Age, I'm extremely happy that I did. I've found a new love for this old school style of adventure games and am excited to what new experiences are to come.

TLDR A fantastic adventure game with outstanding dialogue whose first half is better than its second.
Enjoyed By? Anyone who enjoys a charming story and a puzzling adventure should check this out.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

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