At long last! I’m finally opening the account on my Beat the Backlog feature, having ticked a game off the list that I’ve been waiting to play for a while. Prompted by its recent release on Xbox Game Pass, I decided to play point-and-click adventure Broken Age, by the incredibly talented Double Fine Productions. I picked up Broken Age during one of the many ever-so-tempting Switch eShop sales, at the recommendation of VGamingNews’ very own point-and-click aficionado, Gaz Jones, and I can say that his referral was very much on the money.
At A Glance
|Date Added to Backlog||03/01/2019|
|Positives||+ Absolutely gorgeous visual style|
+ Wonderful cast and voice acting
+ Fantastic setting, characters and story
|Negatives||– Might be on the simple side for genre veterans|
– A lot of repeated voice-acting when attempting to solve puzzles
– A couple of oddly timed difficulty spikes
|My Playtime||12 hours 30 mins|
|Played On||Nintendo Switch|
|Available On||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, PS4|
Originally released in two separate parts back in 2014/15 before being amalgamated into a complete edition, Broken Age made its way onto Nintendo Switch in the autumn of 2018. Directed by the great Tim Schafer, whose credits read as a definitive list of point-and-click games to play before you die, Broken Age was always likely to be a hit – but even knowing this, I hadn’t expected quite the experience I got once everything was said and done.
Firing up the game, the first thing that hits you is just how beautiful the visuals are, even on the Switch. Everything is painted in a bright, chunky pastel style and there’s a childhood whimsy about the design that’s just delightful to look at. Immediately reminiscent of a children’s book, the environments are fantastical and beautifully drawn, and despite there only being a few playable locations in the game, you get the sense of a complete world beyond the scope of the playable story. The character designs too are a lot of fun, with the human characters displaying a gangly, elongated style that mimics how a child might draw a stick person – all arms and legs with long, thin bodies and round little heads popped on the top. Some of the biggest stars of the game are the wacky NPCs though, with the adorable knitted robot buddies, known as Yarn Pals, absolutely stealing the show – they’re so expressive and unashamedly happy all the time that I couldn’t help but grin whenever I saw one. The wolf Malak was also a personal favourite of mine, whose sly eyes and shifty script made him incredibly intriguing from the moment he was introduced.
And speaking of stars, there are a tonne of legitimate stars in the voice cast, with the likes of Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Will Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory) and Jack Black (School of Rock, Jumanji: The Next Level) to name but a few. The entire voice cast does a fantastic job in delivering a playful and often sassy script, and work to pull the player entirely into the wacky world of Broken Age. I particularly loved the performances of Black, who plays the suspicious religious guru/cult leader Harm’ny Lightbeard, and of voice-acting powerhouse, Masasa Moyo, who stars as the female lead, Vella. Each delivers a fantastic performance that had me laughing throughout and made the experience thoroughly memorable. As with any point-and-click adventure though, there’s a lot of repeated dialogue as you attempt to solve the puzzles, as the protagonists offer their thoughts on why something isn’t correct or won’t work. This is to be expected, of course, but it can grate a little bit if, like me, you’re not the best at these types of games!
The story itself follows a pair of teenage protagonists, Shay (Wood) and Vella (Moyo), who seemingly share no connection to one another save each longing that their lives were different. Shay lives aboard a spaceship where everything been crafted to keep him safe and is saccharine sweet – from the aforementioned Yarn Pal robots to playful simulations of crashing toy trains and ice-cream avalanches. Sent on a mission to find a new planet for his people to live on, Shay has been overseen by the ship’s AI (known as Mom and Dad) since he was a toddler, and having grown into a young man, he yearns for excitement and a break from the repetition in his life.
Meanwhile Vella hails from the small village of Sugar Bunting, a town once known for it’s brave warriors but has long since turned it’s people into extravagant bakers. She has been chosen to attend The Maiden’s Feast – a sacred festival where young girls are sacrificed to enormous squid-monsters, called Mogs, in order to keep them satisfied and protect their village. Despite the honour of being selected as a heroine to her town, Vella wishes to break this brutal tradition and fight back against the latest goliath, Mog Chothra. Eventually each protagonist breaks the rules and ushers in great change to the places and people around them, eventually finding that their stories are unexpectedly entwined at the very roots.
Along the way you’ll explore every inch of Shay’s ship, the Bassinostra, rub elbows with locals in the seaside town of Shellmound, and meet the enlightened folks of the sky village, Meriloft. The locations are quirky and entirely individual but have a shared silliness that ties them together so wonderfully. The imagery in the environments is incredibly thoughtful as well, with some tiny details highlighting the care that’s gone into creating this truly vibrant and playful world.
The gameplay is standard point-and-click adventure fare, with the player solving puzzles to collect items that can later be combined or traded to NPCs to solve more puzzles and progress the story. Broken Age makes no attempt whatsoever to push any new mechanics, but in a genre so tried and true, there’s no need to; the purpose here is to deliver a stellar story with stunning visuals and in that endeavour it hits on every level. (Double Fine did take the time to incorporate touch controls into the Nintendo Switch version though, which were certainly a welcome addition.)
Players more familiar with Schafer’s back-catalogue might find some of the puzzles in Broken Age a little on the simple side and can likely smash through the gameplay in far fewer hours than I did, but I’d say that there are a few puzzles that will test even veteran players. These more complex conundrums come a little out of the blue and might frustrate newer players though, as they stand out as pretty stark spikes in difficulty versus many of the more clearly outlined puzzles and solutions.
There are so many wonderful and hilarious moments in Broken Age that I was continuously kicking myself as I played it; it was criminal that I had left such a remarkable game on the shelf collecting dust for almost two years before switching it on! Looking back and seeing the measly price I paid for such a beautiful game feels something akin to daylight robbery, and I would recommend Broken Age at full price without hesitation.
Broken Age is a shining example of the point-and click adventure genre, and is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The gameplay delivers on a tried and tested recipe and while it doesn’t take any risks, the rewards are in the story, visuals and voice-acting. The pastel-style imagery and playful characters are truly memorable, and the stellar voice-cast deliver a script full of laugh-out-loud moments. Another Tim Schafer classic.