Hands On: Broken Age

By John Walker on January 14th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

It’s finally here. Well, if you were a backer. After almost two years since Tim Schafer kickstarted Kickstarter as one of the primary tools for funding independent videogame development, the Double Fine Adventure, Broken Age, is in players’ hands. With $3.3m raised, from 90,000 backers, and a year and a half more development than they planned, the first point and click adventure Schafer has made in twenty years will be out proper on the 28th, but the “beta” is with the backers today. Double Fine have asked both backers and press to hold off talking about most of the game until that latter release date, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. But for the moment, here are some early impressions of the first stages of the game.

Edit: Splendid news. Double Fine have lifted the embargo, and we’ll be able to bring you our review very soon.

Broken Age is beautiful. It’s unquestionably the first thing you’ll notice. The aesthetics are entirely unlike anything you may have been expecting from Schafer’s Burtonesque mind, altogether more soft, gentle, dare I say it, cuddly. Looking as though it were hand drawn in delicate pastels, then animated with storybook papercraft, the game is immediately resonant of a lavishly illustrated children’s picture book.

It takes this theme even further if you choose to begin playing as Shay (performed with incredible restraint and subtlety by Elijah Wood), a teenage boy living on a spaceship that looks as though it were built by Fisher-Price. Mothered by a computer called Mom (perfectly voiced by Jennifer Hale), Shay appears trapped in a playpen designed for a two year old. His response is complex, a tension between infuriated and miserable by this peculiar existence, and reluctantly accepting of it, Stockholmed into the laughable series of “adventures” he’s given to do during his days. Rescue a runaway train in a magical snowy landscape, free some creatures from an avalanche, investigate a mysterious object on the ship’s hull, or find out what is troubling another set of sock-woven cuties. Each is insultingly simple, and overtly cute – designed to delight a toddler, but infuriate a boy becoming a man.

Or you could choose to start playing as Vella (you can switch back and forth between each character at will), a young girl being prepared for something called the Maiden Feast. Her family are thrilled, with the exception of her grandfather, preparing her for this big day. A coming of age day, with a party, cakes, close family, and the immediate threat of her gruesome death in the maw of a giant monster.

In a vaguely more modern take on the “put the virgin in the volcano” story, Vella is one of a number of young teenage girls in the village to be competing for the dubious honour of sacrificing herself to sate a beast that would – they believe – otherwise destroy them all. Vella instantly defines herself with her repeated demands to know why they can’t just fight the monster. You just don’t, she’s told. Shut up, put on your pretty dress, and hope you get picked to die.

Both stories see their protagonist trapped in a seemingly hopeless situation, and both looking to find the thread they can pull to unravel it, escape from it, and define themselves as distinct from their parents. It is, in short, about being a teenager.

There’s definitely an oddly sparse feeling regarding interaction. While it was somewhat inevitable that this would be a single-click-style adventure (no options for look at/pick up/lick/etc, but just a single ubiquitous cursor), it’s odd how it’s implemented in this beta build. That with which you can interact changes the cursor to an obscure circle thing, standing for “click on it and something will happen”. It certainly lessens the sense of your direct involvement, and more of your role of clicking to advance the script, but then this is fairly standard in adventures these days – especially those that have ambitions to be released for iPads.

The only other option is using inventory objects on things, and here it’s very strangely clumsy. Instead of moving the cursor to the bottom of the screen, or scrolling the mousewheel, or anything that we’re used to, you have to click on a little icon in the bottom left corner to have it pop up. A small thing, but a weird obstacle for no appreciable reason. Then objects must be awkwardly clicked and dragged onto the screen. It all reeks of a game designed for tablets, with a real lack of consideration for the core platform of PC. I hope they can find time between now and the 28th to give more thought to how everyone’s been playing adventures on PC for the last decade or so.

What I’ve seen in that first hour is very promising. Beyond the controls, everything feels very carefully thought about. And while perhaps some will be a little disappointed by the lack of a more overt wackiness that they might expect from Schafer, you can see how Broken Age is part of a natural progression for the creator. From the slapstick extremes of the sublime Day Of The Tentacle, through Grim Fandango’s slower, more considered tone, to Psychonauts’ underlying sorrow, Schafer’s personal stories have become increasingly invested with a sense of honest, hopeful melancholy. If you continued a line on a graph from those previous projects, it would trend toward the tone of Broken Age.

Whether it succeeds at exploring these themes, whether these ideas of seeking identity as a young person continue to be explored in a manner that would do this opening justice, I do not yet know. I’ve stopped playing to write this at the point where Double Fine have asked people to keep a lid on things. This means that the 90,000 people who are getting a copy of this game today can go on to find out for themselves, but we’re in the rather ridiculous position of not being able to describe it. It’s not clear who Double Fine thinks this is helping, since the one thing they need more than anything else is for those who didn’t back the game to want to buy it ahead of release. Let’s see which major gaming outlet snaps first, eh?

So instead of being able to say, “we recommend you buy this game!” we’re instead forced to say, “we can’t tell you if this game’s any good or not.” The games industry, ladies and gentlemen.

Still, I can tell you that this first hour is promising, and that I’m very much looking forward to continuing. I really hope mouse controls can be properly implemented before the official release, but they’re not a dealbreaker. It is, unquestionably, a beautiful, charming project, and one that’s come from the heart.

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134 Comments »

  1. shadow9d9 says:

    Ah, dumbing the game down for Tablets. Brilliant!

    The dealbreaker will be puzzles to me. if it is Telltalish click to advance a video game story, I’m not interested.

    I didn’t back this because Schafer hasn’t made a good game, in my opinion, in near 20 years. Day of the Tentacle was brilliant. Grim Fandango had an awful control scheme and pretty boring puzzles. Psychonauts was something I tried recently, but was a typical platformer.

    There are plenty of brilliant adventure games that come out every year. The genre is more alive than ever. Schafer abandoned the genre. Interested to see if the puzzles rule the game or if it is another casual clickfest storyteller.

    • John Walker says:

      Psychonauts was in no sense a typical platformer! That is today’s wrongest thing.

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        Stellar Duck says:

        But is it also dangerous?

        • Imbecile says:

          Absolutely. Its the most wrong kind of dangerously wrong too!

          Psychonauts was ridiculously inventive – with entirely different kinds of gameplay on different levels, as well as the odd humour and premise. And how can anyone badmouth Grim Fandango? (though, yeah, the controls were a little iffy)

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            Stellar Duck says:

            The Meat Circus though.

            I never finished Psyconauts because of that.

            Gotta love Grim Fandango on the other hand.

          • derbefrier says:

            It was if it was the first platformer you ever played. Don’t get me wrong it was a wonderfull game with some great level design but it did nothing mechanically that hadn’t been done by pretty much any other console platformer since super mario 64.

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            Jackablade says:

            I never did quite understand the difficulty people had with the Meat Circus. I think I must have fluked my way through whatever the hard bit is.

        • colw00t says:

          He came dangerously close to saying Grim Fandango was bad, which is also wrong.

          • Synesthesia says:

            To be fair, i started it maybe 10 times, never even got close to finishing it. Way, way too long for a point and click game. Duration is a pretty defining factor in the genre, imho.

          • LionsPhil says:

            He’s completely right about its control scheme, though. Grim is good despite its faults.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            I haven’t played Grim Fandango, so I don’t know how long it is, but if it is too long, it’s probably a reaction to all of the criticism of Full Throttle’s lack of length.

      • misterT0AST says:

        Psychonauts WAS a typical decent platformer, which is something you RPS people don’t seem very familiar with, since you seem to dislike most early 3d games, when that genre (Gex: enter the gecko, Rayman 2, Croc, Banjo Kazooie) was at its peak.

        • John Walker says:

          I loved Gex! Even though it was very cool not to. RPS certainly has no bias against the genre! The genre has quite a bias against PC sadly. Adore the Ratchet & Clank games.

          But no, Psychonauts was absolutely not the same as those. Not least that it wasn’t that great with the platforming :-)

        • Philomelle says:

          Enter the Gecko was terrible, though. Worst 3D platformer I ever played on my old clunky PS1, or the PS2 that came after it. It was a huge step down from the first game, though thankfully the third one fixed it.

          This might make me a sinner, but I did enjoy Psychonauts for its platforming. Puzzles, not so much. The theater level was shockingly horrible.

      • Keyrock says:

        Agreed. Psychonauts is amazing. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but each platforming stage tends to be very different from the last, with a completely different theme and feel, and completely wonderful in its own special way. While the platforming mechanics aren’t the greatest, the look and feel of each vastly different stage is wonderful. The way the game ties together all these vastly different and often ludicrous stages is pretty great too.

        Also, the Milkman Conspiracy stage is one of the greatest things ever done in a video game.

        • grom.5 says:

          This level….

          I swear I was as crazy as the milkman after one hour… It’s really one of the most disturbing thing I ever played and it’s enough to put Psychonauts as a great game.

          (next one which made me psychotic ? Hotline Miami, but in a different way)

      • LionsPhil says:

        It was mechanically—a typical awful 3D platformer. It may have had all the Schafer charm in the world, but for me at least that was ruined by the actual game part of it being frustratingly unplayable.

        • Reapy says:

          Yes, I recall getting this later in the xbox life cycle, I loved, loved loved the characters and cut scenes and discovery. I hated the platforming levels, I wanted to hang myself. I couldn’t really get too far through the game due to the gameplay, though I desperately wanted to experience everything else in the game.

        • Ysellian says:

          yeah, really frustrated about the gameplay of that game. Many people praised it to the heavens, but in all honesty I wasn’t to thrilled about it in the end. The story was great and all the humor was there but the game itself just wasn’t great.

        • The Random One says:

          It was not a typical awful 3D platformer. It was an atypical awful 3D platformer. It had many flaws, but most of them were its own.

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          ffordesoon says:

          Please. The platforming might not have been great, but unplayable? No. It was moderately fiddly at its worst. If you think Psychonauts is “unplayable,” you’d jump off a cliff if you had to play an average PS1 platformer like Croc or Gex: Enter The Gecko or Blasto. All of which were quite playable, if limp.

          Bubsy 3D – that’s unplayable. Make your flesh melt like you just opened the Ark of the Covenant, it would.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I probably wouldn’t be able to play any of those either, no. The early-mid 3D era made the platformer the most miserably fiddly and camera-cursed of games.

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            ffordesoon says:

            Well, to be fair to you, I’ve rarely had a problem with the camera in a 3D platformer. There are some that have really terrible cameras, for sure, but I find that ninety percent of the time, it’s just not a problem for me.

            Now, if you’re playing with a mouse and keyboard, then it can absolutely be a problem. But platformers are meant for gamepads, full stop.

            If I have an issue with a platformer, it will inevitably be with some aspect of the movement physics, not the camera itself. I remember playing the first Ratchet & Clank – which most folks rightly consider a very good game – and being immediately turned off by the physics in it. Ratchet skids to a halt just a bit too slowly, and I recall it being possible to skid into a pit. Completely ruined the game for me.

            Well, and it had that weird issue all Sony platformers and action-platformers (from Crash Bandicoot to God of War) seem to have: when you jump, your character rises too slowly and falls too quickly. It creates this weird numb sensation right at the apex of the jump where you feel for a picosecond like your character has stopped moving forward, and then the character drops like they just got half again as heavy.

            The numb sensation is clearly a clue to double-jump, but it’s just jarring enough that I’ve never been able to quite adjust to it. Feels like my character is buffering.

            Man, I can’t imagine what PlayStation Now will do to that sensation.

        • Vinraith says:

          Exactly. Charm is lovely, but it can’t overcome gameplay. At the end of the day, a game shouldn’t be more fun to watch than it is to play.

          • Acorino says:

            Psychonauts is lots of fun to play! And honestly, I don’t understand the complaints about the controls. I remember the first time I played Psychonauts, with keyboard and mouse, I was impressed by how well the controls were, compared to say Rayman 2. Especially the camera controls.
            For a PC gamer there aren’t sadly many points of references of what a good 3D platformer can be. But what I want to know is, how do you compare Rayman 2 to Psychonauts? Do you think it’s even worse?

        • bill says:

          People seriously exagerate how ‘bad’ the playforming was and how difficult meat circus was.

          The platforming was fine and fun most of the time. And it improved a lot once you got a few of the jumping/rolling moves.
          Meat circus basically had one very difficult bit.. but i’ve played large numbers of platformers that had much trickier levels.
          Awesome game, with a really nice expanding hub and different ideas for almost every level.

          The first level is by far the most boring though, in terms of both theme and design.

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        caff says:

        Psychonauts was beautiful – memorable characters and a strong sense of identity and purpose. The lung fish / insane asylum elements were story-writing gold.

        Yeah it was a platform game, but my brain filters stuff like that out. I only remember the good stuff.

        • kalirion says:

          Exactly. Psychonauts is to platformers as Planescape: Torment is to tactical combat RPGs. The actual genre mechanics were passable, maybe, but we remember the games for the things they did beyond those.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I’ve liked a lot of games that were cross-platform released on tablets. Warzone: Anomaly whatever it’s called is possibly better on a tablet, and Waking Mars was just fine with one finger. Eufloria is actually easier to play on a tablet. Not necessary to dumb down stuff to make it workable on the tablet, as long as it isn’t a detailed flight sim or whatever.

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      zapatapon says:

      You sound like you must have had a bad day, every day of the last 20 years

    • Widthwood says:

      Puzzles are very easy, but not too trivial.

      I am a long time adventure game fan, but I couldn’t complete any of Tim’s earlier games without multiple hints from guides and walkthroughs.
      This one is clearly different, I doubt anyone at all would need a guide. Following most basic adventure formula of grabbing everything on each screen gets you about 80-90% of puzzles solved instantly. For the whole act I had to actually *think* maybe several times? Again, this is not because of triviality of puzzles, they can span multiple screens and use multiple items – it’s just that the game is so streamlined you are never confused with vast array of options and possibilities, and using everything on everything at any time takes about 5 minutes at most.

    • Hahaha says:

      People really don’t get double fine do they

  2. squareking says:

    ” It certainly lessens the sense of your direct involvement, and more of your role of clicking to advance the script, but then this is fairly standard in adventures these days – especially those that have ambitions to be released for iPads.”

    This is incredibly disappointing. I mean, I know not many people want Monkey Island’s level of wtf-edness with puzzles, but … what can you do. Machinarium was also a single-clicker for the most part and it’s one of the most enjoyable adventure games from the past decade.

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    Hodge says:

    I haven’t played it yet so I can’t comment on the game either way, but it’s hard not to read the whole embargo thing as a lack of confidence from Double Fine in how it’s turned out, i.e. ‘we don’t want our backers to tell the rest of the world how cack it is’.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      If there was no embargo and all the backers were raving about the game, that would be great for DF. If there was an embargo but the backers still couldn’t help themselves from hyping up the game, that’s still a great situation for DF to be in. However, if you had no embargo and nobody was coming forward to say how amazing the game is, I’d be worried. At least, because there is an embargo, if there is a lack of hype from happy backers, people can put this down to the embargo. So it isn’t the bravest, but perhaps the most sensible decision they could have made.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        Incidentally, the first time I remember coming across the word “embargo” was when playing a game largely written by Tim Schafer.

        • jorygriffis says:

          MAN I KEEP THINKING THE SAME THING

          LARGO TAUGHT US ALL SOMETHING

    • zeekthegeek says:

      When you’re not confident in a game, you don’t send out review copies to press (which they did – see John Walker here, talking about the review copy they gave him!)

  4. Moraven says:

    Time to make a Let’s Play and stream the hell of of this and see what DF does.

    Edit: They are ok with videos, but not after a certain point of the game to reduce spoilers.

    So many KS are giving the press early copies for review. But DF is letting people have it 2 weeks before you can buy it on Steam and telling no one to talk about it?

    • John Walker says:

      I’m not sure being a dick to them is the right response.

      • Moraven says:

        Edit:

        “we request that you be sensitive to spoilers when disccusing the game and releasing Let’s Plays and similiar game footage. We request that any videos you release of the game be cut off after the sugar bunting maiden’s feast in vella’s world and upon meeting marek in shay’s world.”

        So they are not embargoing Let’s Play after all.

        But they are requiring all formal reviews be held until Jan 27th. The same time limit applies to the press as to backers.

        So they are saying I can make a video, but refrain from going past a point (even if you spoiler tag it). Not like a Let’s Play is a obvious spoiler to a game.

        Oh and I am not allowed to “review” the game on a forum or anything? whaaa

        • Answermancer says:

          Well now you can. I’m surprised by all the drama around them wanting to keep the game from being instantly spoiled for everyone who wasn’t a backer.

          • John Walker says:

            It was that asking people not to spoil the game also dragged in asking the press not to review it. And anyone who spoils games in a review is a bad, bad reviewer.

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      Stellar Duck says:

      Actually, you can buy it on Steam now. Which does indeed seem a bit odd.

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    Amatyr says:

    Agree that inventory access method and the click-and-drag to use is a really bad design from a PC perspective. That should be changed.

    I was also disappointed that I can’t press 1, 2, 3, 4, etc to pick a line of dialogue and instead have to click on the line itself.

    I also thought the mouse felt a little slow, it needs an acceleration option.

    • ZIGS says:

      Choose your words wisely, lest they think you’re talking about actual mouse acceleration instead of an option to increase/decrease mouse speed

      • LionsPhil says:

        Actual mouse accelleration, where the pointer movement is scaled as a function of the input speed, would be completely appropriate for a point-and-click interface.

        There’s a reason desktop operating systems, made of pointing and clicking, bother to implement it, you know—it actually helps you target locations quickly and accurately, as confirmed by usability testing. Windows, OS X, and Linux (defaults vary) all do it. (It’s actually an involved enough platform—and contributes to platform “feel” such—that you’d be better off letting the OS handle it.)

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        Vandelay says:

        Not sure if it already does, but there is definitely something odd with the mouse movement already. I think there is a little bit of mouse acceleration on there and there might be difference in vertical and horizontal speeds. It is a bit weird, but I got used to it after about 5 mins.

        • Sic says:

          Are you sure you aren’t just feeling the vsync lag?

          It’s pretty prominent.

  6. nasenbluten says:

    I did not back it because the whole project was just too vague with only a promise for an old school point and click adventure.

    Honestly I don’t really like the art style, I hope the story and puzzles make up for it.

    • Sucram says:

      Played a couple of hours, the puzzles are all quite simple but am liking the writing so far
      .

  7. Turkey says:

    Did you get a sense that every inventory item you tried on an object gave you a different response from your character even if it wasn’t the right combination? I just watched a speech yesterday where Tim said that kind of stuff was a huge priority.

    • Xocrates says:

      They certainly do that a lot, many cases have specific responses even when the puzzles the objects were involved in had nothing to do with them.

      There are still plenty of generic responses though.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    There’s nothing intrinsically bad or shallow about single-click adventure game interfaces. See Legend of Kyrandia and Hand of Fate for proof. However, they had magic and alchemy systems respectively that brought in different depth, and also a good inventory system that made it low-effort to do that most important of all adventure game activities: rubbing everything on everything else.

    • The Random One says:

      I agree completely. The verb mode only serves to give strange responses to trying to eat every object. There is no need for separate talk, push, take, activate and open actions if “use” can replace all of those. It’s a vestige from text adventures, a needless complication.

      Although I prefer two verbs, use and examine, mapped to the two mouse buttons. But whatever works.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Well, I don’t berate Space Quest it’s smell and taste cursors either.

        And I don’t think anyone wants to live in a world where Sam can’t can’t pick that up.

        • Tacroy says:

          Honestly I found that more infuriating than anything else. Stop whining you idiot and pick up the thing that can clearly be picked up!

          It’s a classic case of mislabling your affordances – if I can’t ever pick something up, you shouldn’t let me try to pick it up. If I can pick it up eventually, you should say why I can’t pick it up now.

        • Merus says:

          The smell and taste cursors were clearly mechanisms to deliver jokes, as was random deaths.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I remember now, from other things, which game did this: Toonstruck.

        Oh, but for the second half of that not to have been cancelled.

  9. Moraven says:

    Good to see Double Fine have some common sense. The whole point of turning Broken Age into 2 parts is to get additional funding for Part 2. Why they want to kill the hype coming from reviewers and backers seemed to be against that purpose.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Worth pointing out that Part 1 has a definite end point, so it’s not like it’s completely artificial. But yeah, I would prefer a finished game.

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    Nero says:

    Yeah the interface is a bit weird. It not a huge deal but having the inventory just down left is strange. I also don’t like the size of the cursor, it just seems a bit too big for some reason. Also, when I was combining two items it wouldn’t let me combine item A with item B, but dragging item B over item A worked. A bit strange.

    Some weird quirks but I’m still enjoying it so far.

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      Gap Gen says:

      My biggest gripe is that the skip conversation button skips the whole conversation, not just a single line. I mean, the dialogue and voice acting are great, so it’s not a chore to listen through, but it might be nice to have.

      • Killergran says:

        Yeah, these were both somewhat weird choices of interface. But really, the interface stays well out of the way of the experience for me, so far.

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    Kasper says:

    Inventory is mapped to the i key by default, and can easily be remapped to, say, the right mouse button – which makes it less of a hassle.

  12. szendroib says:

    The embargo is lifted in the meantime, so we can get a full What I think on it.

  13. Noviere says:

    I just finished it — it took a little over 3 hours — and I absolutely loved it. The music and voice acting is great, the art blew me away, and I found the story entertaining. Oh, and it ended at an appropriate point in the story, which was a nice.

    The comments regarding the controls/inventory are spot on. The cursor feels abnormally large. Dragging items especially annoyed me, as I’m just used to clicking an item and then clicking on what you want to use it on. Thankfully I got used to it after a while, and it stopped being an issue.

    The puzzles aren’t really difficult at all though there were a couple points where I didn’t know exactly what to do right away. In the most recent part of the documentary, Tim commented on the difficulty saying he wanted to ramp it up for part 2 which is a good thing. I will say that it’s much more puzzley than the Walking Dead or the Wolf Among Us.

    The story is lovely, and by the end of Part 1 there are some interesting questions to be answered. Like most DoubleFine games, “charming” is the best adjective to use when describing the production as a whole. Broken Age was well worth the wait :)

    • Harold Finch says:

      3 hours? Wow, yet another Kickstarter failure.

      • DrLeoWollman says:

        You realise this is only the first half of the game, right? Once Act 2 comes out later this year the length should be closer to seven or eight.

        Besides, the length of an adventure game is going to depend on whether or not you try to bee-line straight through the puzzles and story, or take the time to explore the world and use things on other things to see if you get funny responses.

        • Harold Finch says:

          The reviews I’m seeing basically say there are no puzzles worthy of the name.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        Length is not an indicator of quality. At all.

        I paid $15 for this and I am likely getting around 6 hours out of it, assuming part 2 is the same length. That’s about the same length and half the price of Metal Gear Rising, which I also happily paid for, and which most people do not consider a failure. However, Metal Gear Rising does not come with a high-quality documentary series about the creation of a game from beginning to end. So even if length was an indicator of quality, Broken Age still wouldn’t be considered a failure.

      • Widthwood says:

        They can easily artificially inflate it by inserting more harder puzzles into locations, but I doubt majority of people would appreciate that…
        And without being stuck on puzzles any quest can be clicked through in minimal time.

      • Sic says:

        Obvious troll is obvious.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      Holy crap. 3 hours!? Easy puzzles!? I was completely right not to support them.

      There are so many amazing adventure games out there and the genre is super healthy. Why did they deserve 3 million again? Go to adventuregamers.com and read up on the last 10 years if you have any interest in good adventure games.

      • Philomelle says:

        Because 3 million is the collective number of money they raised for making the game, not what the game actually costs for a purchaser? Honestly, that’s a pretty reasonable budget for a hand-drawn point-and-click adventure game that lasts about 8 hours. Or should I remind you that an average 2-hour animated movie costs in the area of 150 million dollars these days?

        The game’s actual price is 30 dollars and, having now finished with Shay’s story and being Alt-Tabbed out of Vella’s, that is about as much as I would pay for it. It’s a beautiful-looking game with clever writing, a surprisingly robust story and puzzles that are relatively easy, but also good at clicking that “AH-HA!” satisfaction level without ever feeling obtuse and frustrating.

        I backed the game at 30 dollars, which gets me the game, the documentary and the soundtracks to both. I actually haven’t been watching the documentaries (I’m waiting for the digital downloads so I can watch them in high quality from my HDD) and I already feel like I got my money’s worth.

        • shadow9d9 says:

          Perhaps you are not current with the adventure genre. Games are made for a fraction of this cost regularly and are amazing. they are also not 3 frackin hours long!

          • Philomelle says:

            Can you actually name me all these amazing games that are produced for a “fraction of this cost”? I want actual titles and budgets, not your assumption of how much the game cost to develop from a look at it.

            Also, Broken Age is still not 3 hours long. Act 1 is, but it also stops at a point that feels like maybe a third of the game. The complete title will most likely be 8-9 hours long, which is normal for a point-and-click.

          • rustybroomhandle says:

            I think you’re just whining because you feel like whining.

            1) Length is not a measure of quality
            2) Some, including me, actually prefer shorter well-crafted experiences to hours of filler
            3) The aforementioned 3 hours is just half of the game.
            4) Many of these great games of the past you are going on about are also not particularly long either. Both Syberia I and II for example.are less than 10 hours apiece.

      • Sic says:

        It’s not 3 hours long, this is just the first part. The second part is supposedly harder, so 6 hours, at the very least is likely. Rice, in the documentary, is convinced it’s at least 10 hours long. We just don’t have this metric yet, so saying otherwise is disingenuous, at best.

        Additionally, referencing adventuregamers.com is folly. Some of us have been there since day one, and some of us have played one of the best adventure games of all time (Full Throttle). It took about 6 hours to complete. You won’t get very far trying to be snooty around these parts.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I liked the level of the puzzles. This is the first puzzle game I’ve finished without looking at a walkthrough, though, so I’m not an expert, and I hate being stuck on puzzles. There was one bit in the space section that stumped me for a while, but once I got the idea it was fine.

      • pakoito says:

        I was trying not to be condescending, but here are our participation awards because winning, personal growth or overcoming challenges is not important. Please come forward to receive your lowest common denominator medal, while I take the “you’re a dick” one.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          The dream logic puzzles in traditional adventure games had little if anything to do with achieving any kind of personal growth or overcoming challenges. There’s a difference between puzzles that require logic and problem solving skills and puzzles that are artificially difficult because they’re obtuse/nonsensical, and the latter is what made up the majority of most classic adventure games.

        • jorygriffis says:

          I guess it’s nice that you acknowledge that you’re being an asshole, but, why make the comment at all?

        • Acorino says:

          Oh I’m sorry, but I play games to be entertained and not to get a headache. But please, continue to be high and mighty…

        • LionsPhil says:

          >getting a sense of achievement out of sitting around playing games

          Try doing some actual work.

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Yeah, you might have phrased that less like a personal insult, but eh.

          I can see why puzzle game fans wanting difficult puzzles might be disappointed. Perhaps, like people have said, the first part was pitched at a lower level so the “LCD” (as you put it) backers wouldn’t be put off, and the second part would be more challenging.

    • The First Door says:

      Three hours!? Really? I’ve been playing for 2.5 hours already and I don’t think I’m near the end of this part yet…

      But then again, I’m purposefully not racing through it, I’m talking to everyone and clicking on everything.

  14. PopeRatzo says:

    clicking to advance the script

    Nope.

    • Acorino says:

      Broken Age is an easy adventure game, but it’s a traditional one. The puzzles are similarly difficult to those in The Book of Unwritten Tales and more difficult than those in Dreamfall, I think.

      • Premium User Badge

        drewski says:

        Ooops, wrong reply.

      • Widthwood says:

        I remember being stuck in Dreamfall actually… If Act 2 will be as Act 1 there are simply not enough options open at the same time in Broken Age to be stuck anywhere.

  15. Premium User Badge

    draglikepull says:

    Broken Age seems to be the Arcade Fire of video games: it’s a great thing that feels very much of-its-moment that people want to crawl over each other to claim they were the first one to be way too cool to care about anyway.

    [And no, your "Actually it's like Arcade Fire because it suxxors" response isn't going to be funny.]

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      drewski says:

      It’s like Arcade Fire because at first it was really fresh and interesting, then it got self indulgent and bloated, then it refined that self indulgence into a creative tour de force, which was so successful that it was completely indulged at which point the quality was submerged in a sea of noise.

      Hmm. Metaphor needs work.

  16. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    I’m really enjoying this. Double Fine have created a world that they obviously care about, and you will too. Graphically it’s beautiful and it sounds just right too. There’s a gentle humour and quirkiness about it that’s had me chuckling.

    I’ve been playing for over 3 hours so far, but then I’ve been mucking around trying random combinations of things just to see what will happen with the script/cutscenes.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I liked it. I kinda want more now, and I suspect that even with Part 2 it’ll probably feel a bit shorter than other point ‘n’ click adventures, although it depends on Part 2′s length, I guess. It feels very understated; like someone says above, more charming than laugh-out-loud funny – even stuff by Jack Black and Pendleton Ward felt understated, and they even hired Zim’s voice actor and didn’t get them to shout all their lines. That said, it has nice touches throughout, and some jokes that I really liked. Looking forward to Part 2.

  18. Buemba says:

    When I started playing it I immediately thought the controls felt like they were designed for a tablet, so I’m glad to see it wasn’t just me. It’s not a bad thing necessarily (I am the type of freak who misses the verb grid taking half the screen’s space in a point and click adventure game yet the overly simple controls in Broken Age still didn’t bother me), but it was noticeable noneless.

    The visuals are simply unbelievable and after so many Double Fine games lacking any voice acting at all it’s good to see their type of humor come to life with some really amazing performances here.

  19. Scurra says:

    Well I’m one of those backers who still hasn’t had an actual download code…
    Then again, I am slightly disappointed to hear that it’s far closer to the “interactive movie” end of the spectrum than the “actual puzzles” end. Then again, Broken Sword 5a was a bit like that as well and I enjoyed that far more than I was expecting (although that may have been the nostalgia factor, which this won’t have.)

    • Tacroy says:

      Download codes came from noreply at humblebundle, make sure it’s not in your spam folder.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      I am slightly disappointed to hear that it’s far closer to the “interactive movie” end of the spectrum than the “actual puzzles” end

      I really don’t know where you’re hearing that. It’s far closer to Full Throttle than The Walking Dead in how it plays. In fact, Full Throttle is about the best reference point if you want to compare it to any other point and clicker, now that I think of it.

      • jorygriffis says:

        You’re right. Full Throttle was a bit-too-easy but still complex adventure game with awesome art, story, and voices. I don’t understand quite why people are so mad about Broken Age.

  20. Moraven says:

    I never played Machinarium on PC, only tablet. How was the controls on PC?

    I found the touch finicky at times and wish I had a cursor to explore the scene (icon change).

    • Gnoupi says:

      You control with the mouse, but it doesn’t give you much of a different feel from tablet, as you have to move your robot physically next the the items to activate, so you kinda lose the advantage of the mouse to “look around”.

  21. pakoito says:

    There is no challenge, no puzzles, no flow. The budget has gone fully into production values. Presentation over substance. I came away entertained in the same way I’d be with a movie, but as a game it’s a lowest common denominator pandering “problem”. They wanted people to play through the whole game, feel good about themselves overcoming non-obstacles and see the ending. Something they could sell your grandma or your ADD cousin to get them into adventure games. They made it. I was entertained. It is a well crafted, professional, hard-to-make game, but it’s nowhere near the old-school adventure playground.

    I’d rather have an extended version of the flash games they had in their webpage. Less production values but a lot more, better puzzles. I may had even failed, got frustrated and dropped the game to never see the ending but it’d have felt as if it was an oldschool game.

    • jorygriffis says:

      You’re right, it’s kind of ironic how much more difficult and engrossing the puzzles of the two Host Master games are than the ones in Broken Age. It was a beautiful interactive movie, though. Hopefully part 2 will be harder.

    • Acorino says:

      There is some challenge, but gladly not so much that the story gets grinded to a halt for a long period of time. And I play for the story, too, probably more so than for the puzzles. I think a babelfish puzzle would be much more ruinous to the flow of the game.

      • pakoito says:

        Just because someone misdesigned a puzzle 20 years ago it doesn’t mean all other adventure games were the same or the future ones have to be pretty much a straight line of cutscenes. 20 years of genre evolution didn’t culminate in this travesty. They still know how to make puzzles, Host Adventures 1 had more and better than this game, and it only had 1 hub. But when the emphasis is put into the animation, art and production values a movie is what you end up with. I’m glad you, me and many other people enjoy it, but I wouldn’t call it a good game.

        • Acorino says:

          When you mean better, you mean more difficult, right? Because what else is your beef with the puzzle design of Broken Age?

          Broken Age is just good, period. Also, I think its gameplay beats that of Full Throttle and Grim Fandango by a wide margin.

  22. Hypnotron says:

    Will this game be remembered 20 years from now? As an old fart, this is my #1 criteria for selecting games, movies, tv shows, and novels these days. I just don’t have time for forgettable “entertainment” anymore. I leave that stuff for the people who haven’t learned the value of their own time.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      That probably depends largely on how much you like it. I’m sure there will be people who will remember it 50 years from now, as well as people who will be like “lol i paid $20 for this.”

      • Hypnotron says:

        Uncommitted answer sounds like a “no” to me.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          I don’t know. If your opinions are based on where something fits into some lame pop culture consciousness than I don’t know if pepole will remember it in 20 years. If your opinions are based on how much you like something, like a normal person, then it’s going to obviously depend on how much you personally like it. There are games I hold in very high regard from 20 years ago that I doubt you’ve ever heard of, and there are games from 20 years ago that everyone loves and remembers that I find completely forgettable.

          • Hypnotron says:

            I think you’re making this far too complicated. You attempt to speak for everyone but yourself on this particular game.

            For me, as time goes on the main vibe I’m getting is that the game has some charm and nice production values. And at 3 hours of not very gamey gameplay, I don’t see this game fitting the bill… for me.

            And normally I wouldn’t bother to post. After-all there are countless games I don’t find interesting that I completely ignore. But this particular game had so much hype surrounding it being one of the first of the $million+ crowd funded games where the authors would get to make the game they’ve always wanted…

    • Acorino says:

      In 20 years we’ll know. How could we know on the day of its release? I think Broken Age is galaxies away from forgettable entertainment. Lots of the themes that are set up in the first Act still need to be fully explored in the second one, though. We’ll see how it plays out!

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      basilisk says:

      How could anyone possibly know that at this point?

      Also, bear in mind it’s not finished yet. The story barely gets out of exposition in the first act. Think year one of Grim Fandango. It ends at a very specific and logical point in the plot, but opens up a lot of doors for the second half.

  23. jorygriffis says:

    Great game so far. On the easy side for sure, but the art has me convinced and the voice acting is just the tops.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Lacero says:

    When I think back to monkey island (1&2) there was something that really made them work which isn’t often mentioned in adventure game reviews.

    we get single click discussion (and I’ll argue forever more this degenerated into dizzy style fed ex quests in mmos and rpgs, and that this is where the adventure game slept when it was being called dead). we get “difficulty” discussion which is necessarily somewhat vague and sometimes made more specific by mentioning how sensical or non sensical the solutions are as well as how difficult.

    But for me the thing that blew my child like mind in both MIs was the number of puzzles you could work on in parallel. It made the world seem bigger than the linear story it was, it made progress easier because you could always hope an item would show up if you worked on something else first (I believe they allowed multiple solutions in some cases due to this). It made it more interesting.

    So if you’re reviewing an adventure game please consider discussing the number of puzzles that can be approached in parallel. Despite the resurgence recently most are just too small to allow this to happen which is a shame.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      So if you’re reviewing an adventure game please consider discussing the number of puzzles that can be approached in parallel. Despite the resurgence recently most are just too small to allow this to happen which is a shame.

      Tim Schafer is an old hand at this, so of course he does that. Both parts have a mostly linear prologue and then open up into what’s basically the old three trial structure, except camouflaged a bit better than how Telltale were usually doing it. So because you can switch between Vella and Shay at any time, you can have as many as six distinct puzzle threads going on at the same time.

      But of course it’s not a very long game, so don’t expect too much puzzling. I thought their difficulty was set just right, though. Not primitive and not entirely obscure, either.

  25. Scrofa says:

    The biggest buyer’s remorse I had in years.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You’ll need to give more info than that so we can tell you your opinions are wrong. :P

    • Acorino says:

      boofuckinghoo

      • Machinations says:

        I find its always people boosting a game that shit all over others opinions. I am glad for the warning, after all the lackluster KS games of late, like Shadowrun Returns and now this.

        • Hahaha says:

          It depends where you are (go look at the steam board) but anyhow I think it’s more people putting faith in someone else to make a game they want (instead of you know, doing the work) and hyping the game so much that they could never be pleased.

  26. rustybroomhandle says:

    I am partway through, and loving it so far. I particularly like how the artwork makes the whole thing feel. And of course, the acting, writing, story so far are all top-notch.

    Some have mentioned that the puzzles are too easy. When I play a thing for the story/writing/characters, I generally prefer it to flow smoothly, not be stuck on some part because my train of thought is not as obscure as that of the creator. Just my own preference, of course. :)

    The opposite of this is a game called Violett … hardly any story to speak of, and no writing really, but the puzzles are generally suberb, and you will get stuck quite a bit.

    • Harold Finch says:

      If you’re that interested in the story you should really be watching a TV programme or film, the gameplay is the most important of a game, always has been and always will be.

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        May I ask who appointed you the pope of game design?

        • giuliop says:

          I also ask my dictionary a similar question every time I look up a word. No one ever answers. How strange.

      • bill says:

        Then they should probably have called the genre ‘Puzzle Games” instead. Even as a kid playing classic Lucasarts “adventures” i used to get really annoyed by the way the game kept stopping me from actually having any adventures because I couldn’t open a cardboard box or something equally heroic.

        I mostly gave up on the genre, but the few ones i’ve played recently seemed to do better with integrating the idea of the world and the puzzles.

  27. tomimt says:

    Personally I liked the game quite a bit. The looks, how it sounds and plays are fantastic. What I found great about it that while it’s oldschool it still isn’t oldschool at all. It’s kinda like modern oldschool, avoiding the most common traps in oldschool games., like nonsensical puzzles or deadends.

    It’s atmospheric and vibrant game, something that works both, as a game and as an interacrtive cinematic fiction, something Telltale has been doing for ages, but here Double Fine manages to balance it better. It doesn’t feel as much like on tracks narration like Telltale’s games do and as an adventure game it definetly works better than Telltale’s games.

    Broken Age has a great potential to be even better though, mainly depending on if the second act can improve what was seen here. Tim Schafer already stated in the documentaries that the difficulty curve will be ramped up, as the first act also acts as a learning curve.

    Potentially Broken Age is the best game Schafer has done. But only so if the second act delivers as well. Otherwise it’s merely the best adventure game that has spawned from Kickstarter. And a pretty good game in its genre as well even without Kickstarter.

    • Widthwood says:

      Better than Grim Fandango??… I dunno, Act 2 has to deliver big time for it to happen.

      • Philomelle says:

        I feel like it resonates heavily with Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. Not to spoil anything heavily, but Tim Schafer really likes enjoying the theme of childhood vs. adulthood, and how becoming an adult often means abandoning who you are for the sake of what people expect you to be.

        Grim Fandango explored that theme through the eyes of an adult, Manny deciding to walk out on his adult life and his adult job so he can preserve the idealist in himself. He knows what he does is childish and ridiculous, but he cannot handle the piling regrets anymore.

        Psychonauts explored it from the eyes of a child. Note how a lot of adults in Psychonauts are unhappy because they cannot be who they want to be. Sasha has become a human robot because he could never find a way for his family to love him as a person. Milla’s cheerfulness exists only to drown the grief of her past life literally going down in flames. Oleander’s entire plot has been triggered by his past failures and childhood fears. In order to succeed, Raz has to fight through the grief of adults who lost track of themselves.

        Broken Age is arguably the most sensitive one because it goes through the eyes of a teenager, that sensitive spot where the child has to choose what to abandon in order to become an adult. Its protagonists’ views on growing up are starkly different through chapter 1, which ends right as their views come close to being challenged.

        Taken alongside Psychonauts, it just might complement Grim Fandango better than any other game Schafer produced since.

  28. The First Door says:

    Wow, I can’t believe the number of people who are moaning about the game on here. I played about half (I think) of it last night and absolutely loved it. The characters are well written and voiced, the places are packed full of detail, and the story is really interesting so far.

    Yes, the puzzles aren’t that hard in the first act so far, but I never expected them to be and they still gave me a happy feeling when I completed them. If you’ve played Stacking, for example, you’d have had a pretty good idea of what it was going to be like, puzzle-wise. Plus, I’d much rather a Double Fine game focused on the story and world than on obscure puzzles!