Broken Age, a point and click adventure game from Double Fine Productions, has finally come to the Xbox One. Originally announced over five years ago via a famous Kickstarter campaign, the game is a love letter to the LucasArts titles of the 1990’s.
It tells the story of young Shay, last survivor of his planet, aboard the space vessel Bassinostra. Searching for a new home for him, the ship’s AI watches over every aspect of Shay’s life, and appears to him as his mother and father. Yet his life is an endless loop of breakfast cereal, cuddly toys and rollercoasters. Shay tires of his situation and longs for adventure. Keen to break free of his own Groundhog Day routine he soon discovers a stowaway aboard the ship who has a very different perception of what’s going on in Shay’s life.
Broken Age also tells the story of Vella, who finds herself in the apparently enviable position as one of her town’s sacrificial offerings to the dreaded Mog Chothra, a fearsome creature that demands all villages offer up sacrifices of young girls every 14 years. Whilst the other maidens are more than happy with this arrangement, given that it saves their entire villages from being destroyed, Vella would rather find a way to kill the creature. Unfortunately for her, no one else agrees. She escapes the Mog and embarks on a mission to find out more about Mog Chothra, and how to kill it.
The game is split into two acts, with the second act being considerably longer than the first. The two stories are entirely separate but you can switch between them at any time. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the two stories do eventually come together, but you can play either story through to the end of Act 1 without starting the other. But it’s a useful feature for when you might be stuck on a particularly difficult problem, and you will most definitely be stuck on many particularly difficult problems.
So, pointing and clicking. You will move through different areas, meet characters, find objects, combine objects, give combined object to character to get an item to put on top of something. I really don’t want to say too much about the story, but: you’ll have to contend with a snake who will strangle you if you get too close, you’ll steal an anti-radiation suits from a cult, you’ll frost cakes, the list goes on. There is no tutorial or hint system in this game, it also involves a lot of backtracking across areas. If you walk off to the side of the screen the game has to load, so although loading is very quick, a fade to black and back again, you’ll be doing it a lot. There are also surprisingly few locations in the game. Whilst I got through the first Act of the game with relative ease, the second, much longer part of the game sees many multiple objectives to complete, with it never being entirely clear what it is that you need to do to complete each one. I found that completing puzzles boiled down to being resolved in one of three ways: you solved it yourself, you fluked it by trying ‘everything on everything’, or you resorted to looking up the answer somewhere. There are some really difficult puzzles later in the game and you’ll really need to take notes (pro tip: or take screenshots with your phone) and due to the random nature of many of the puzzles, a guide is only of limited help.
As I said in the introduction, this is very much a traditional point and click adventure game. Of course it is, and it’s what the fans kept asking Tim Schaffer for. He made all those great old games, why can’t he make one now? The answer was always that it would never sell enough copies in today’s market and no publisher would stump up the cash for a game that wouldn’t make a profit. And so he turned to Kickstarter and quickly raised over $3m as the rabid fan base practically forced him to take their money. This allowed the team to expand their plans for the game, hire some top voice talent and increase the number of platforms the game was released on. This game came to the Ouya before it came to the Xbox. Perhaps some concessions to modernity should have been made. The game could at least have had a hint system, because looking up the answers online doesn’t sit right. I completed the game in just under 12 hours with only 480 Gamerscore, so plenty of reason to go back, especially due to some of the puzzles having different solutions each time, and maybe get the achievement for completing the game in under one hour. I did really enjoy Broken Age, despite the difficulty.