Critics Corner: Broken Age – Act One

broken-age-headerThe old Building (Critical) Consensus posts were never exceptionally popular and I was getting tired of doing them so I’ve decided to reboot the concept. I like the sort of meta-review summary of BCC but I’d like to try something a bit different. Rather than overall conclusions or summary statements, we’re going to look at detailed critical assessments on the game with specific opinions about gameplay elements, story, graphics and so on. So welcome to the Critics Corner.

I don’t think that Double Fine Games were planning to revolutionize indie gaming when they launched their Kickstarter campaign for Broken Age but that’s exactly what happened. What was just a project to make a Tim Schafer point-and-click adventure game ended up turning the industry on its head by showing that crowdfunding was a viable means to fund game production and that small devs weren’t always beholden to the whims of big publishers.

Still, Double Fine showed some of the issues with crowdfunding. Almost two years after the campaign launched, Broken Age is finally here but is being released in two parts to help fund the completion of the second half of the game. Scope creep and delays weren’t really considered a major risk to crowdfunders at the time but people think about it now.

So what do the critics think of Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s return to point-and-click?

Story

“Both stories are engrossing and highlight a certain childish curiosity that I haven’t felt in a long time. I adored every second wandering through these worlds – the dialogue on all fronts is hilarious and crafty, the story elements thoughtful.” – Destructoid (9.5/10)

“I fully expected a Tim Schafer adventure game to be rife with humor, and Broken Age certainly delivers. But what I didn’t expect from Broken Age was a story that contained such powerful themes of loneliness, sacrifice, and what it means to really grow up.” – IGN (9.5/10)

“You can switch between these two freely, and help guide Vella and Shay as the innocent worlds of their youth collapse around them to reveal the often harsh realities of adulthood. It’s a somber tale, but one that is tempered by the colorful and humorous style that has become developer Double Fine’s hallmark.” – Gamestop (7.0/10)

Gameplay

“The game allows for switching between both stories seamlessly, which is not only creative, but a very useful feature. I enjoyed going back and forth regularly because it allowed for me to pace out the stories (for example, not getting too far on one side) and also gave me a chance to escape if a particular puzzle was stumping me.” – Destructoid (9.5/10)

“Broken Age skirts that fate with really well-balanced and smart puzzles that are never so obtuse as to require a hint system — which is good, since there isn’t one to speak of — but challenging enough that I took my fair share of breaks to stare at the ceiling and pray for more intelligence than genetics and public schools provided me.” – Polygon (9.0/10)

“At first, Double Fine appears to be holding the players’ hands a little too much. Early “puzzles” are more like simple busy work, and there’s a lot of repetition and railroading that chugs the story along at an almost rushed pace… While there are no mind-breaking leaps of logic – as found in the classic adventure games of yesterdecade – Broken Age settles into a very nice reflection of classic point ‘n click exploits, as players match wits with the world’s colorful inhabitants, pick up items, and combine stuff to solve riddles and overcome hindrances.” – The Escapist (8.0/10)

Graphics/Audio

“The new Double Fine adventure surpasses its predecessors in its lush presentation, which creates the illusion of a world I’d be happy to move to, or at least vacation in.Broken Age brings a storybook to life, one with shades of Lane Smith’s off-kilter work in The Stinky Cheese Man and other Jon Scieszka books. The soundtrack is a stunner as well.” – Polygon (9.0/10)

“Double Fine drew flack for the all-star cast it assembled for the game – or rather its imagined share of the budget – when it was revealed that Broken Age would be released in two parts because the studio needed more time and money to finish it. But their presence, allied to the quality of writing on display, feels entirely justified. It’s a joy to listen to every line (at least the first time around), so entering into a dialogue tree never feels like a chore.” – Edge (8.0/10)

Overall

“I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly think Broken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters – and that certainly isn’t broken.” – Destructoid (9.5/10)

“It feels more like an interactive cartoon than a classic Lucasarts game, but providing you’re aware of that Broken Age delivers a jolly nice time. It’s just lovely. That shouldn’t be enough, but in this case – it really is.” – VideoGamer (8.0/10)

“Pleasant but undemanding, gorgeous but lacking in depth – fans will be forgiven for expecting something a little more chewy, a little more experimental, from a developer who made his name by turning adventure games upside down.” – Eurogamer (7.0/10)

About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on January 28, 2014, in Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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