This week for my entertainment: having conversations with a cantankerous knife, picking my brain for the best joke possible to entice a tree into trusting me and making sure my outfit gets chosen for the Maiden’s feast. Anybody in the right mind would ask if I’m taking hallucinogens, but I’d tell them that it’s a Tim Schafer game that I’m playing and most would nod and understand.
Broken Age is a Tim Schafer game through and through; from its idiosyncratic witty humour, to it’s absolutely mind boggling frustrating, yet fun puzzles. Those familiar with such games as Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island series need no introduction here, but if you’re new to the point and click adventure genre, I would definitely suggest this game to anybody willing to invest the time for a brilliant adventure. Want to know a secret? Of all the genres, I usually stay well away from these types of games as my ‘Hack n’ Slash’ loving bone idle brain can’t fathom most complex puzzles, yet Broken Age kept me hooked for long enough to admit that I’d love to try more, especially from the thrill you get from actually completing some of the more complex ones in the game; I feel like a genius at times with the game, as the answers aren’t so apparent but when you finally figure something out, the feeling is wonderful.
You play as both Vella and Shay, with the backstories to each character becoming more apparent the more you play. You have free reign to choose who you wish to start with whilst also having the option to switch between the two protagonists whenever you want, and this mechanic becomes vital later on for plenty of reasons that I wish not to mention due to spoilers and the sorts.
In fact, talking too much about the story would simply spoil everything this game sets out to convey as there are a few twists and turns that only come apparent as you get further with each character. For the basics however, Shay is a young adult trapped in the monotonous cyclical routine of living on a spaceship being tasked with boring missions (think 2001: A Space Odyssey with Groundhog Day) whilst being restrained from exploring the rest of the universe. He soon stumbles upon an ominous Wolf in the dark corners of his ship and from here; the harder puzzles unfold as you make your way through the first act of the game. Vella’s story is a little more grounded where we are swiftly introduced to her and her family through the events of the Maidens feast. Again, I’m not going to mention what this feast is or what it entails, but it certainly isn’t what’s expected.
Personally, I found that I cruised quite happily through the first half of the game with a difficulty that felt ‘just right’: the story, characters and puzzles are enough to keep the time ticking without you noticing and this is mainly from the story and great character interaction throughout. There isn’t any introduction into the game so talking and clicking on everything is your only means of understanding the world you’re traversing. This could potentially be off putting to those with little patience as this is essentially what you do throughout, but I found that the writing and directing here takes precedent in keeping anyone playing interested with just how well everything is done; from the absolutely superb voice acting to some of the most thought out dialogue in gaming yet, everything is executed to a grade A standard and as a the player I actually felt absorbed into the world. Act two however, presented me with one of the most head bashing puzzles I’ve ever come across. Frustrated is not the word. Ask my neighbours if you don’t believe me; they heard the screaming.
Briefly spoken about previously, I mentioned that most puzzles are of quite average difficulty, given some normal cognitive thought, but there are those puzzles in this game that would be the action game equivalent of beating a boss on hard mode with next to no health, doing a handstand whilst reciting the alphabet backwards: near impossible. Again, I’m not going to spoil a single puzzle in this review, but be prepared for act two as everything is turned up to eleven.
I also want to spend a cheeky moment saying I cracked all puzzles by myself with no help, albeit very, very stressed and almost in need of an ambulance by the end of the game, but to the main point of me saying all this: all puzzles are very much doable and you almost don’t want to look for help as you just know you can do it and don’t want to cheat yourself. Just pay attention to all the dialogue and think outside of the box! Honestly, the reward from actually cracking whichever puzzle you’re stuck on is a blast and had me grinning from cheek to cheek, not just from overcoming what hindered me, but from how clever the puzzle is in the first place. Mr Schafer and his team are very, very talented.
Everything in this game has been well thought out and I appreciated every single little bit of detail the game had to offer. Admittedly, I wanted more by the end but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all and the gameplay length solely depends on how fast you solve the puzzles. For me, I believe it had taken me around ten to fifteen hours but I couldn’t honestly tell you the exact number because I was too invested in everything on screen.
I will admit the game had taken me a while to get into, but with an open mind (too open, especially for that evil Knot puzzle); I could not put the game down. I am now a Tim Schafer fanboy and will be going to play Grim Fandango, because plot twist: I’ve never played it! (Shock horror, I know).