Wot I Think: Broken Age

Having so recently written about the first hour of Broken Age, it doesn’t make too much sense to overly repeat myself here. So it’s well worth reading that first half of this review first. This one continues on from there. So here’s the rest of wot i think:

It feels useful to state what Broken Age isn’t. Broken Age isn’t a wacky comedy adventure. It isn’t a revisiting of those classic LucasArts games of the 90s. And it isn’t – at least this first half of the story – an all-time classic. What it is, is a deeply charming adventure game.

It’s presented, as I mentioned before, like an utterly beautiful children’s storybook, gorgeous pages lavishly illustrated, each deserving of study and scrutiny. The character design is just wonderful, and the breezy delivery of an imaginary, impossible world as perfectly normal, nonchalant, is very refreshing. Whether it’s Shay’s Playmobil spacecraft, or Vella’s monsters-n-giant birds fantastical setting, neither delivers itself with lazy fanfares. Instead they just are, and you just get on with that.

And they’re worth exploring, too. While they’re disappointingly sparse in terms of interactive objects, and we’ll get to the massive limitations of there being no “look at” option, there are lots of unique responses written for the incorrect application of inventory objects, meaning it’s often fun to deliberately try all the wrong things to see what the characters will say. While this isn’t a game aiming for a gag a second, they’re often wry, silly or sweet.

But to reiterate, this isn’t a “comedy adventure”. It’s funny, in places. When it delivers a gag, it delivers it extremely well, and I often chuckled. But the game just isn’t aiming to be a laugh riot, nor even a laugh peaceful gathering. It’s a drama, I suppose, with funny lines here and there. Not a failing in any sense. A rather lovely thing, in fact. Perhaps one of my favourite things about the game.

Each of the two characters’ stories is played separately, and you can switch back and forth between Vella and Shay at will. While my tendency is to want to see an arc through, to stick with the story I’m playing, I did end up switching back and forth. On the couple of occasions when I became stuck, that proved an excellent time to change over to the other character and progress farther with them. I’m glad I finished Shay’s tale before Vella’s – I think it fits better that way around – but either would have worked just fine. The commonalities between their stories are, for the most part, more esoteric than overt – they appear to share much more in quickly established metaphor than they do in theme. But that metaphor is one I’m delighted to see a game exploring: the desire to distinguish oneself from one’s parents and one’s society.

As charmed as I was, and as interested as I might have been to learn more about each character’s situation, there’s no doubt that I’m also somewhat disappointed by Broken Age. And part of that really is because it’s created by Tim Schafer. Although that’s not because I wanted this game to be something it was never intended to. While I want more Day Of The Tentacle as much as the next sane human, I didn’t want it from this game. I’m so delighted that Schafer has developed this doleful tone, a desire to ask more difficult questions of the universe than how to get the fake barf from the ceiling. Questions about identity, purpose and the trappings of circumstance. My disappointment comes from the shallow level into which Broken Age’s toes dip. From this game I wanted much more.

Of course, we’re also trapped in a mid-point – yet another developer who’s made the mistake (for whatever justification) of breaking a narrative game conceived as one whole into two parts. It is, inevitably, stopping short of every ambition it has, abandoning itself midway through any progression it hoped to make. The first half of a story should be giving us a reason to care about the characters, before we’re given cause to put that care into action in the second half. Taking away that second half is incredibly problematic, especially with its ambiguous release date somewhere in 2014.

But still, Broken Age Part One’s characters don’t reach deep enough. Both Shay and Vella are immensely likeable archetypes, but not yet really people. They express attitudes that make me want to like them, but there’s no personal reflection on those attitudes. Vella, asked by her society to be a victim, chooses to be an aggressor. That’s fantastic – that makes me like Vella right away. But I still don’t know why that was Vella’s choice. I still don’t know who she is beyond this, why she was the sort to make such a decision. I’m asked to like Vella because of that choice, and little else. In the end both characters are mostly vessels for a notion, and that doesn’t seem fitting in what this game is reaching for. Laverne was crazy because DOTT says she was crazy. Vella is rebellious and brave because Broken Age says she’s rebellious and brave. As much as the tone has changed, the depth hasn’t.

I’m well aware that these words could be applied to pretty much most gaming characters. But not all. Not The Longest Journey’s April, nor Beyond Good & Evil’s Jade. And not Grim Fandango’s Manny nor Psychonauts’ Raz. And for me, Broken Age cried out for more background, more exploration. Yes – I’m pretty certain that’s to come for Shay’s story in part two – his personality is far more complex, but as yet entirely mysterious – but again, I’m only able to write about the game that’s been released.

However, saying all this, it’s worth noting that Broken Age’s background narrative, the subtle, gentle details of its overarching plot, go far deeper than you’ll see at first glance. There is clearly a huge amount of thought taking place here, and come part two I suspect my feelings will be far more positive as these pieces fully come together.

A problem that certainly doesn’t find excuses in the split is the nature of the puzzles. They’re fine. They’re solveable, not based in tortuous processes of clicking everything on everything – the logic is twisted, but it’s there. But they’re nothing special. Not a single moment made me think, “Wow! That’s clever!” And I was really hoping to think that. Things can be cute (use the innocuous item in a silly way) but never ingenious (put the jersey in the washing machine 200 years in the past). They were workaday, perhaps even perfunctory – they advanced the potentially lovely plot, so I was grateful of having solved them, but weren’t anything special themselves.

And I need to repeat my strongest criticism from the first part of this review: the controls. Broken Age is a game designed for tablets. There’s no getting around that. The PC controls are compromised by this. A single-click interface strips out so, so many options for imaginative ideas. It’s a game designed to be tapped on by a finger, not clicked on with a two-buttoned mouse, and with that goes an enormous amount of potential. And most problematic is the loss of “look at”. Taking this away, and replacing it with a single cursor that might pick something up, use something, talk to it, or perhaps look at it, is very detaching. It takes away a big part of what point and click adventures are about, and it’s a loss I felt heavily as I played.

The cursor itself is clumsily huge, and far too often I accidentally just missed clicking on conversation options which meant abandoning the conversation entirely. It’s a good idea to map the inventory to a mouse button, so you don’t have to use the iPad-necessary clicked icon bottom left to open it, but you’re still forced to click and drag items out of it, and then “let them go” over the object with which you want to use it. Makes perfect sense on a tablet, makes no sense on a PC. It means rather than being able to use the same item on lots of elements in a scene, you have to laboriously drag it again and again if you want to explore all the hidden lines. (It’s worth adding here that, yes, sure, Amanita’s games do an amazing job with a single-click interface. But crucially they’re not narrative led adventures, and they do an awful lot more with that single cursor.)

I can’t decide if the game’s short. It took me just under four hours to finish it. And yes, that is short. But it’s only half the game. Eight hours for an adventure is probably just fine. (People ploughing through this in under three hours really need to learn about roses and how they smell.) Again, the sense of its stopping when you’ve only just gotten started is a result of the misjudgment to break the game in two.

Despite that, the voices are universally stunning. Elijah Wood is just exceptional as Shay, modest, and ideally under-played. And blow me if Jack Black doesn’t also manage the same. Quite why on Earth they felt the need to hire him to play a quiet, calm character I’ve no clue, but that’s who he plays, and he plays it without a glimmer of tiresome bluster. Following the theme, Wil Wheaton also plays completely out of character – a deep-voiced woodsman, stoic and folksy. And Pendleton Ward is brilliant in a tiny, throwaway (literally) character, G’s. The rest of the cast are from the big league of voice artist talent, like the splendid Jennifer Hale, David Kaufman, Masasa Moyo and Nick Jameson. And then out of nowhere, with no previous acting credits, one of the best voices coming from Harmonix boss and super-backer Alex Rigopulos as Alex. Whether it was worth splashing out for big names doing unrecognisable voices I’m not sure – it was their money to spend. But the results are unquestionably superb dialogue, written by someone who has clearly carefully crafted every line, and delivered by people with the talent to capture it.

I’m quite certain that were Broken Age to have come out as a complete game, many of the criticisms above wouldn’t even have been mentioned in a review. Where it falls short it seems very likely to make up for as the story continues. But the game is split, and that means things like character development feel unfinished, and thus unsatisfactory. And will remain feeling that way for months to come. That they are unfinished sadly becomes a poor argument when this is all the game I’ve got, and will be for the next long while.

But as much as I’ve griped, again I say, you have to read the first half of this review too. It’s a dreamy, gentle, melancholic game, created with tangible passion. It’s utterly beautiful, and while not nearly challenging enough, it’s entertaining to play. I wanted much more from it, and perhaps I’ll still get it. I desperately hope revisions will be made to the PC controls, but know that it’s far too late for that to comprise re-establishing the vital “look at” that underlies adventure gaming. But what we have here is the first half of a gorgeous, loving story, and honestly, that’s good enough.

The first half of Broken Age is with Kickstarter and Slacker backers, and can now be pre-ordered on Steam for £17, due on the 28th Jan. The second half is included in all purchases.


  1. Noviere says:

    This review perfectly sums up Broken Age. Well done, John!

    RIP “Look At“ verb

    • Kohlrabi says:

      So, previously people claimed consoles dumbed down games, but now with the huge advent of tablets, the dumbing down in the console era looks like it’s just been the tip of the iceberg.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        For years PC users laughed at Mac users for having single button mice, until they relented. Now we’re back to only using one button, in part because of Apple’s success with the iPad.
        Funny how things work out eh?

      • Vandelay says:

        I don’t really see why a lack of verbs indicates a tablet focus. I can tap a verb grid just as easy as I can click on it.

        I think it is probably more of an indication that they wanted a streamlined interface that had no clutter, something that is fairly par for the course when it comes to modern adventure games, whether you agree with the approach or not.

        I too miss being able to tell my character to pickup buildings or open a cat though.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        There is a gigantic amount of UI usability that is being destroyed by touch interfaces. We’re not just losing the entire keyboard and the second mouse button. We’re losing the entire CONCEPT of Tooltips. The concept of a mouse pointer that isn’t being clicked – but just existing without further input.

        Devs are even starting to claim that tooltips are ‘bad’. That they are a symptom of bad UI design, which is so incredibly batshit insane you wonder if those devs live in Arkham Asylum.

        • BurningPet says:

          There is already an option for “hover finger” that could serve as a tooltip pop up trigger. with the progress of eye tracking, we could see nice things done with Tablets UI’s, and nothing beats tooltips or “hover” drop down menus.

    • airknots says:

      I really miss the clunky interface of old adventure games. I’m particularly fond of the one in Gabriel Knight 1.

    • S Jay says:

      Really great review, sum it up pretty well.

    • sApuska says:

      Has anyone else fallen anywhere within the “mildly annoyed to extremely irritated” continuum with the repetitiousness of audio in recent Double Fine games, specifically Broken Age and Brütal Legend? In Broken Age, I had to turn off the audio in certain climactic situations simply because of the character’s penchant for shouting the exact same phrase, over and over, forever. In Brütal Legend, driving around the countryside hearing “keeping this land safe” or some such Headbanger speech every three seconds was one of the reasons I had to stop playing. It seems that the excellent voice acting and immersion is immediately undercut when your character says “Give-me-some-fruit…Dang” for the fifteenth time, even though by this time she knows that she has no reason to say, “Dang” any longer.

      However, this was a beautiful/wonderful game and I can’t wait for the second half. There. Done.

  2. lumenadducere says:

    So basically it’s good, just not as good as we were hoping it would be.

    I’m okay with that. I obviously won’t know for myself until I play through it, but what I like out of Schafer’s work tends to be more on the narrative side than the mechanics (although historically speaking the two tend to both be fairly solid in his titles). So if it still has his usual skill in the world and dialog then I’ve gotten what I backed in the Kickstarter.

    Now the only question is whether I should wait until Part 2 is released before playing both together, or if I should play Part 1 now.

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      “So basically it’s good, just not as good as we were hoping it would be.”

      I honestly wonder what people expected? (In general, not you in particular)
      If I skim over some reviews I find sentences like “not a masterpiece” or “not a new Monkey Island”

      What the fuck were people expecting? Why is Broken Age measured against the best games of the genre when other games usually are not? What makes Broken Age so special that it “deserves” this treatment?

      • AngoraFish says:

        Because DFA was premised on a developer’s vision being freed from the constraints of publishers and marketing executives through the miracle of crowd funding; where the true uninhibited vision and maturity of Tim Schafer could shine.

        Instead, what we got is a fine, high quality game that is not noticeably different from what might have been produced in conjunction with any one of a number of mainstream publishers.

        • Xocrates says:

          In the age of COD, I would be surprised at the mainstream publisher willing to give the slow, low-key, dream-like game a release.

          Any number of indies? sure. But, any number of mainstream publishers?

        • Tacroy says:

          If it had been made in conjunction with a major publisher, Vella would have had cleavage.

        • SillyWizard says:

          Isn’t the point that without Kickstarter this is a game which otherwise wouldn’t have been made? Not having backed the game or any plans to play Broken Age (because adventure games, yich), I think it’s wonderful that the game is something that is different and doesn’t have the same appeal you typically find.

          The game wouldn’t exist if people hadn’t told the artist, “Do what thou wilt.” He did, and still is. That’s neat!

        • zhivik says:

          I’ll have to agree with this. I’ve just finished the games, and I am definitely not disappointed, but I expected Broken Age to be a little bit more … daring. I have a hard time believing that no publisher would agree to finance Broken Age, a pleasant adventure game, quite well optimised for touch screens, with splendid art and not a lot of hardware requirements. I am going to sound sarcastic and maybe even offensive (not my intention), but the only thing I see a publisher objecting to in Broken Age is its budget …

          I don’t regret backing the game, and I’m looking forward to its second act, but I expected more. If I have to make a comparison, Shadowrun Returns or Wasteland 2 complete fit the justification that Double Fine and Tim Schaffer gave for going to Kickstarter. I am totally going to believe that no publishers would agree to fund either Shadowrun Returns or Wasteland 2. As far as Broken Age is concerned – sorry, but no.

          I think the main issue with Broken Age is that Tim Schaffer didn’t really have a clear idea what he was trying to do, or he changed the concept during the developing process, and when the money ran out he tried to scale it down again, but it didn’t quite work. I get it that the art and vocal talent are superb, but I think there could have been done more. I hope we get something more in Act 2, but I don’t have my hopes up, to be honest. At least we got an excellent documentary of the development process, which is a real gem.

      • John Walker says:

        I like to think I answer that question in some detail in the text of this review.

        • Aaarrrggghhh says:

          “From this game I wanted much more.”

          Well, that’s exactly the thing. Wanting better controls, more character development and better puzzles is nice and fair. But in every game. Sure Schafer has made great adventures in the past but is fruitful to expect a miracle all the time? Is it not longer okay for people to make good games once they made exceptional ones?
          You don’t have to search long to find headlines like: Broken Age is “not a masterpiece”. Actually a quote from a German videogames website review.
          It just rubs me the wrong way that so many people (especially reviewers which should know better) have the completely over the top assumption that Broken Age needs to be the next Day of the Tentacle. (not talking about rps, more the general impression I get from reviews)

          • Acorino says:

            Imo Broken Age is a better game than both Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. Its story and writing isn’t probably quite as great as Grim’s, though.
            I watch an uncommented Let’s Play of Grim Fandango every other year, it’s for the most part watchable like a movie. I prefer watching it a lot to playing the game. I like playing Broken Age, though.

      • Harold Finch says:

        Have a look at the original Kickstarter page for this: link to i.imgur.com

        I wonder where people got the idea to think about classic adventure games from ?!

        • Aaarrrggghhh says:

          I actually don’t see anybody (well, except you good sir) lamenting over that it is not a “classic oldschool adventure”. That does not seem to be a big issue unless having a “look at” option makes a game a classic oldshool adventure out of the sudden. “Oldschool” and “classic” are meaningless terms.

    • Noviere says:

      If I had the willpower not to play it? I would definitely wait.

      The only other consideration is if you are an avid watcher of the documentary. Tim has said that future episodes will include spoilers from Act 1.

    • basilisk says:

      Here’s one answer straight from the horse’s mouth.

      But yeah, John’s review isn’t unfair. If there is one thing I’m worried about, it’s that it feels more like the first third of a game rather than the first half, but in any case the second act can still change the overall impression a whole lot. No, it’s not better than Grim and probably isn’t going to be. But it is a very charming game in its own right.

      • Moraven says:

        They do need to sell copies to fund Part 2. That could apply to people who bought it already or people on the fence.

    • Widthwood says:

      I’d say it is better than expected in some ways, worse – in others.

      But largely comes down to the fact that it is just not finished. This is BETA of Act 1. A not finished version of a part of a game. It can swing any way you imagine, from the worst disappointment of 2014, to the best adventure game ever made.
      So reviews are inevitably affected by what projections for Act 2 reviewer makes. Frankly I think John made the best review out of all, the low point being Polygon’s gushing over something that is clearly not yet there.

      • Acorino says:

        IGN’s is worse, so is Gamespot’s with its puzzle spoilers.

  3. RedViv says:

    I didn’t expect a revelation, so I guess I am good.
    Also: link to steamcommunity.com

  4. AngoraFish says:

    Broken Age is a fine game with an incredible graphic style and a charming story.

    For better or worse, however, it’s ultimately ephemeral when everyone was inevitably hoping for something more monumental.

    The videos, however, have been incredible.

  5. Swabbleflange says:

    My main problem with it is that it isn’t what I signed up for two years ago. When the kickstarter… kicked off, I was drawn into the idea of a return to the pixel-animated, painted-and-scanned days of DotT and Sam & Max. Of course art is entirely subjective, but I really don’t like the way Broken Age looks, and I really dislike the ‘paper cut out’ character and animation style they’re using. It feels cheap and lazy. Likewise broadly scribbled backgrounds that beg the question how much of that three million dollars went to the art department. Are they seriously claiming they couldn’t have made this game anyway?

    Yes, it’s cute-looking and colourful, and I get that it’s supposed to look like a children’s book, but the whole thing feels like any number of current indie adventures, rather than the return to some past glory from a master.

    Edit: In response to Aaarrrggghhh: The reason it has that weight of expectation is because that’s what the genesis and development of the game was built upon, at least in the minds of its backers.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      The art and animation are some of my favourite parts of it.

      There are enough people doing imitation 90s-style pixelart adventures already.

      “it isn’t what I signed up for two years ago.”
      Go watch the original pitch and then decide how much of what you expected come from your own mind. They did not pitch anything quite that specific. They wanted to do an adventure game, they wanted it Kickstarter funded – that was the pitch.

      • effervescent says:

        On this you are right but I remember something about Ron Gilbert being involved in this.
        Not that I don’t trust Tim but maybe I wouldn’t have backed so much if I realized only Tim would be involved.

        Also the name in the credits got me. But again, I was thinking of “name in the credits of a Ron Gilbert game”.

        • Philomelle says:

          You’re definitely imagining that. Ron Gilbert never made a secret of joining Double Fine to make The Cave and that alone.

          • mazzratazz says:

            He’s not imagining things, actually. Take a look at the pitch video. Schafer never explicitly states that Gilbert is on the team, but listen to his phrasing: “We’ve got the perfect team at Double Fine here to make it. We’ve got Ron Gilbert…” That strongly implies that Gilbert is going to be involved, so I don’t think you can blame people for being a bit confused.

            I think that’s also how it was reported back when the Kickstarter was announced: Tim Schafer making a new point-and-click adventure game, and they’ve even got Ron Gilbert helping out! I’m sure they said afterwards that Gilbert was just there for the Cave, but you can certainly see why people’s memory is muddled.

          • Aaarrrggghhh says:

            If you watch the documentary you can actually see Ron Gilbert talking to Tim Schafer about the game. So he was involved but he never played a major part in it. So I don’t see anything wrong in the phrase. But people tend to jump to conclusions.

        • lhl says:

          I think it was pretty clear this would be a mostly Tim Schafer adventure game. Still, in the doc episodes, they do show Ron Gilbert giving some early feedback as Tim works on the core game design and Ron’s in the game credits. IMO, having your in a Tim Schafer game along with Ron Gilbert isn’t too shabby. :)

        • Philomelle says:

          There was also concept art of Razputin on that page. Should we have assumed the game is actually a stealth sequel to Psychonauts in point-and-click form?

          • Harold Finch says:

            Not sure what you are on about to be honest, the original Kickstarter sold the concept as being a “classic” and “old school” adventure game. Pretty blatant what was being implied by putting a screenshot from DOTT in there as well.

          • Philomelle says:

            No, you just assumed that was implied. DFA’s Kickstarter page had screenshots and art from three past Tim Schafer games, Day of the Tentacle being just one of them. A Stacking screenshot was posted two paragraphs above the part you screencapped and concept art from Psychonauts was posted two paragraphs under it.

            It was simply a reel of the developer’s older projects. You’re the one who assumed the positioning of that one particular screenshot means Schafer wanted to add to the massive pile of SCUMM knock-offs, even though every single update (including ones before the campaign ended) had him express interest in a completely different direction.

          • Harold Finch says:

            “Q: What will the game be?
            A: Other than that it will be an old school adventure, we’re not sure. ”

            It was billed as an “old school” “classic” adventure. These are words they used in the original Kickstarter. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts I’m afraid.

          • Rikard Peterson says:

            A “classic” “old school” adventure game is a genre description. I would have been disappointed if this had turned into something looking like DOTT. Great as that game was, I don’t like the idea of sticking with system limitations of the mid-nineties when the possibilities are so much greater today. I backed it when it was made clear that it’d be something new and original.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I was saying that this is the problem with Kickstarter in another comment thread; it creates expectations, when the contract between the devs and the backers isn’t 100% clear.

    • hypercrisis says:

      The kickstarter was for another game entirely, was it not? I was under the impression Broken Age was a side-project.

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        Your impression was wrong. It did originally set a much more modest goal though, so it grew in scope when it became such a success. (But part of the thing was that we’d get to see it being made, so no game design was done before the Kickstarting was complete.)

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Ha, I did not realise that Alex was voiced by a Kickstarter backer (and the character modelled after them). Man, how that could have gone wrong.

    • Illessa says:

      Probably a post-Kickstarter donation of considerably more than KS’s $10k max – that’s the CEO of Harmonix.
      I cringed a bit when I heard about the casting, expecting him to be awful, but whether through natural talent or Khris Brown kicking all kinds of voice direction arse (probably both), he was pretty great.

      • SurprisedMan says:

        If he wasn’t capable, his part probably would have been much more minor, I suspect.

  7. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    Two part review for two part game. Makes sense.

  8. bv728 says:

    I keep seeing people harping on the voice talent, but Schafer has stated that bringing in Wood didn’t change their budget at all, so I suspect much of the more “expensive” was basically charging time at a low multiplier of scale, instead of their normal rates. It’s far from unheard of for that to happen – especially with voice acting, which is relatively low impact to an actors schedule, dropping normal fees to a small boost on scale is used to get into a project they want in on that can’t afford them.

    • Illessa says:

      This. Khris Brown talks in the documentary about always insisting on casting strong voice actors who are there because they enjoy the role over celebrities who are just there for a payday. I believe her words were something along the lines of “It’s so rewarding for the actors, that they come in and do it essentially for free” which I’d take to mean paying them baseline SAG scale. She also said her budget was probably less than what she had for Day of the Tentacle.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Well, supposedly Elijah Wood is a huge fan of the old Lucasarts adventure games.

  9. SurprisedMan says:

    There are a few points of note on the voice casting which might not be readily apparent for those people not steeped in Backer updates from the last several months:

    1) Elijah Wood’s casting actually came about as a result of him being an early backer of the game, long before Shay even existed, because he’s a huge fan of old LucasArts adventures. They kept in touch as a result and eventually he said he’d love to help out on the game.

    We don’t know what he was paid, because they’re not going to reveal individual actor compensation, but we were given assurance that the high profile casting decisions made had no impact on the game budget as planned – so it seems likely he was paid at a rate in line with union rates.

    2) Similarly, Jack Black, Pen Ward are fans of Double Fine, and so a lot of the casting might not have involved such a heavy cost as might initially be supposed.

    3) Alex Rigopulos is actually a high-level backer, who had a backer reward of getting his likeness in the game. He also provided the voice, and some people may know him as the CEO and founder of Harmonix.

    4) A lot of the casting was still in progress, if I’m remembering the order of events correctly, well after the decision to split the game was made – so even if they did spend more than intended on voices (which they have stated they didn’t), then this didn’t have an impact on the decision to split the game which was made mid last-year.

    • Xocrates says:

      Indeed, I recall in the documentary the voice acting director mentioning they had one of the smallest voice cast budgets they’ve ever worked with.

  10. Billards says:

    One complaint, and one observation.

    I’ve seen the video, and they’ve explained why they felt the need for the game to be split into two parts. And I still think it was a terrible idea in terms of how reviewers will perceive the game. The Act I/II ‘break’ works well in terms of how they went through with it, but I have no doubt that a more cohesive game would be seen as a superior product. Similarly, I get all the reasons Broken Sword 5 was split in two, and while I enjoyed part one, they’d have been far better as a single story.

    Splitting games into two that were initially announced as a single product only serves to draw criticism from reviewers, and it makes the product look as though they were scrambling to get it out of the door. While I understand that the financial reasons may be compelling, I’m worried that releasing ‘what we have now’ is a slippery slope, as it tends to preclude the game from being given proper consideration as a full product.

    Secondly, I’ve seen it come up quite a lot that Double Fine are ‘wasting money on big-name voices’. I can’t speak for the whole of the cast, but the latest episode has them discussing the casting of Elijah Wood, and it’s mentioned that he worked at ‘rate’ – essentially the bare minimum he can be paid. The same appears to be the case for Jack Black, based on how they sought his casting. I doubt they blew a significant portion of money on actors for the ‘name’.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      It’s all very well saying that it’s a terrible idea, but is it a worse idea than the alternatives? They explored every avenue available to them to extend the funding of the game – Steam Sales, funnelling the proceeds from Brutal Legend PC, New merchandise, Humble Bundle sales, you name it, and that got them a lot of the way to where they wanted to be.

      From there, options were to make massive cuts to the game and release it around now (in which case we would have been getting the full story, but squeezed into a teeny game) or make modest cuts and release in 2 parts. I don’t seen an option 3 (and no, going back in time and completely changing the scoping of the game isn’t an option).

      In the situation they were in, I think they made the best decision they possibly could have done. I don’t actually agree that splitting the game in two has harmed it – it’ll be that way for a few months, and then the game will be whole. The next time I play this game it’ll probably be from the start of Act 1 to the end of Act 2.

      What’s more, the feedback from Act 1 regarding difficulty is something they -can- feasibly address, and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity had we not seen the release.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Did they ever say why they needed the extra money? Not that they’re obliged to, but it would be interesting from a post mortem point of view to find out why they used up their budget when they initially asked for a much smaller number.

        • basilisk says:

          If I remember correctly, the original plan was abandoned within the first 24 hours and the first million dollars. And they needed more because Tim always, always designs about 20–30% more game than can be realistically made (which they really should have seen coming), and they seriously underestimated just how much work would have to go into the art style to make that painterly look with all its subtle effects and all the animation work as intended.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yes, you’re probably right that it’s much harder to get the game to look like that than just slapping sprites onto a background. But still, millions? I guess money goes less far than it does when I were a kid.

          • skittles says:

            I believe it was also due to them making there own game engine, rather than using something else. Especially as a 3D engine doesn’t really work. And most current 2D engines wouldn’t fit the artstyle they were aiming for. They underestimated that, and a fair bit of time was spent making the engine perfect.

        • Noviere says:

          I don’t recall them ever saying exactly why… But if you watch the documentary, you can infer that the art style they chose combined with the expanded scope of the game ended up being problematic. Originally, Nathan Stapely was going to do ALL of the art. That became impossible as the game expanded, and they had to bring on more artists and then teach them to be able to mimic his distinctive art style.

          Also, I just think it is hard to budget/schedule a game’s development. It seems that games ALWAYS go over budget… What usually happens is the developers then go to the publisher, get more money, provide a new ETA and continue on. As consumers, we just don’t hear about it very often.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          It’s sort of a complex question – I feel like I’ve got a good handle on it because I’ve been following closely, but it’s not without subtelties.

          First important background is that the original Kickstarter budget for the game was $2.2m, not the other numbers people cite – around a million and change went on rewards, and paying the documentary makers.

          Second background, unlike many kickstarter projects, this budget included the entirety of pre-production. The game was built from very first concept, because they wanted to capture the whole process on the documentary.

          Third background is that they chose a new engine for this game, based on the 2D engine MOAI, because the one they had used for their recent games, the Brutal Legend engine was not really fit for purpose. It’s not a complete IDE, it’s just an engine, and so they needed to build the toolchain and workflow around it, which extended pre-production but also made it harder to estimate the budget (it’s difficult to make estimates for how long things will take in an unfamiliar engine)

          So, with all that as background, they still had to get on with designing the concept of the game and starting to write it. A little over a year ago (a good few months into actual production) we first started seeing the first signs of doubt in the documentary that they would be able to complete the game as scoped on the current budget. At this point, a lot of avenues had opened up to them for funding: steam sales were around the corner, they’d developed a relationship with Humble, Brutal Legend PC was being angel-investor funded for release, so they realised that they could attempt to extend the life of the project instead of making drastic cuts to the scope of the game.

          This went on for several months, until they realised that although they’d managed to get much closer to where they wanted to be, they would still have to make major cuts to the game if they didn’t go further still. It’s then when they made the decision, about 6 months ago, to split the game in two, and judging by the discussions in the documentary, it was not one that they took lightly.

          But also, it’s probably an exaggeration to say everything Act 2 depends on Act 1 selling well – they’ve shown themselves to be quite resourceful at identifying funding opportunities, and it’s likely that a lot of work on Act 2 is already complete (because characters and locations from Act 1 are almost certainly going to feature heavily), hence the shorter development time.

      • Billards says:

        Sorry, I made the awkward mistake of furiously clicking my ‘reply’ button too early without looking at the wording. My intention was to highlight how poorly I feel a product will be perceived following a split, rather than the actual financial/gameplay mechanics of such a split. I’ve edited the post to make it far clearer.

        …it sounded fine in my head…

        • SurprisedMan says:

          I think it helps that the ending hook is a stunner. Obviously I’m not going to spoil, but I like a cliffhanger done right. But a good cliffhanger shouldn’t just be about literally leaving the character hanging off a cliff, it should be something that brings everything that went before to a new level.

          I can honestly say the end of Act 1 is excellent, and as something for people to bought the game to talk about for the next few months, it was the best possible stopping point.

  11. Merus says:

    “And honestly, if they were running out of money, you do have to ask just how much they needed to fill the game with a Hollywood cast…”

    This has been bugging me for a while, and now it’s here in the review: as a backer, we can tell how ignorant you are. It’s been intensely frustrating to see comments like this, and the idea that the press should be allowed to post reviews of backer releases weeks before the game’s actually finished and released, and all the other examples of the press feeling like they’re simultaneously entitled to post the juiciest morsels of development gossip without any of the context.

    What’s worse is that you’re not even honest about it (and by ‘you’ I mean ‘you and the rest of the enthusiast press who pulled the exact same bullshit’): we can tell you didn’t see the casting process, that the ‘Hollywood talent’ were told about the circumstances of the project and had a personal connection to Schafer’s previous work, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that they took a paycut. Fuck, we can tell you still don’t really understand why the game’s in two halves despite angry backers shouting it in comment threads every time it comes up. And we spotted how Double Fine’s development was ‘troubled’ while Revolution Software got to pull the exact same trick. I get that the press doesn’t get access to developers (and no wonder when the press will misrepresent their decisions by omission) but at least you could be honest in your reporting about how little you know for sure.

    • Ocki says:

      This! For someone following the developement from the beginning, it’s really hurting when people (media) are saying these things about decisions, they have no inside in. I can only imagine how frustrating this is for the dev team.
      They have these Hollywood actors because they wanted to help and they splitted the game in half because otherwise they would have to cut content. Stop telling people false gossip!

    • John Walker says:

      First of all, I am a backer.

      Secondly, it would be woefully inappropriate for a games critic to invest oneself in the creation of a game. So I have not followed behind-the-scenes as intensely as you have, because it would impinge on my critical approach to the final product.

      You need to get a hold of yourself, and calm the hell down. Your accusations of dishonesty are utterly ludicrous, and you can promptly apologise for them.

      I wrote about my experience of the game. That included just how fundamentally harmful it is to the finished product that it’s been split in two. It doesn’t matter why – the effect remains the same.

      That you think you’ve unfettered insight into the creation of this one game is wholly irrelevant to a critical approach to the finished product. If you bought a microwave that didn’t make the food hot, I’m not sure you’d decide it was okay because the man who screwed the doors on was having a difficult time with his marriage.

      • Ocki says:

        Sorry, I didn’t want to offent you. I was a bit harsh. But as I said it’s just frustrating to read the same critics in and under every news in the last months. To me it always sounds like DF are a bunch of idiots or don’t care about the people who supported them. And then I see the documentation and how they struggle with difficult decisions like the split or being happy to have such nice friends like Jack Black and Pendleton Ward. The backfire they get for trying the best seems just unfair to me.

      • xao says:


        To be fair, you didn’t just write about your experience with the game. You spent one sentence in the review speculating about the opportunity cost of hiring well-known voice actors (“Whether it was worth splashing out for big names doing unrecognisable voices I’m not sure – it was their money to spend”). I’m not sure that’s worth commenters flipping their lids over, but it is there.

      • Sic says:

        What is happening here is simply that the documentary series is exposing how silly speculation of the sort you’re doing is.

        You’re not disingenuous. You are, however, speculating wildly and implying incompetence without anything to back it up with. It’s a cheap shot, plain and simple.

        Normally, your word would stand unabated, but in this case, people do have a certain insight into the development process. It is obviously naïve to wholly accept the version told by 2 Player Productions and Double Fine, but it’s out there, and that version makes a lot more sense than your blind guess. Which, in turn, makes your words much harder to swallow.

      • lhl says:

        I think the most interesting thing about the DFA project, was that all this production information that used to be shrouded is now available, and the “weirdness” we’re seeing w/ how game press, backers, and devs have reacted (the various leaks, and the change in how backers respond in public forums as two examples) is that there’s a fundamental shift in all these relationships, and it’s going to change the context of game reviews as this becomes more common…

        While maybe an over-reaction, it’s now possible to say nope, that speculation on VOA is totally wrong because we have the devs talking directly about the VOA budget, or yeah, there’s actually a 45min documentary section and a forum discussion w/ the producers on the game budget and timelines and the various options available. This stuff is out there, and it *should* change the dynamic of conversations when you have thousands of the core audience that are already “along for the ride.”

        BTW, aside from the game review itself, if you’re a backer and a game fan, you should really catch up on the documentary episodes. They’ve been consistently insightful, entertaining, and honestly, delightful little windows into the game development process (both Broken Age specifically, and more generally).

    • Illessa says:

      For what its worth, there were plenty of similar grumblings around Broken Sword, they just weren’t so bad because a) it’s lower profile than DFA, which has more money and the whole “Vanguard of big crowdfunding” thing going on b) it was announced barely before release day rather than having months to fester and c) they *claimed* the decision had nothing to do with money, wheras the news of the BA split was accompanied by an extensive explanation (often quoted out of context) that yes, it had everything to do with money.

      I get how frustrating it is (I get frustrated too), but you can’t blame people for reporting things as they appear to the public rather than how it actually is, and lashing out rarely helps people understand. Basically you’re getting a little taste of what it feels like to be involved in any kind of project that sees public controversy; the truth of the situation is almost never as black and white as it appears from the outside. Best thing to do is correct stuff that’s egregiously inaccurate as best you can and move on.

      As an aside, I strongly suspect all of this is exactly why Massive Chalice is 100% open to the public. The whole situation where backers get privileged access to the project has hurt Double Fine pretty badly with all the misinformation and confusion the leaks have caused, I imagine they regret that decision a lot.

      • basilisk says:

        Regarding your last point, I believe they’ve actually openly said that. I have no idea where (way too many communication channels to keep track of), but I do think I remember reading or hearing that.

        • Illessa says:

          Yeah I recalled something like that too, but didn’t want to claim it based on some half-remembered interviews and felt too lazy to go digging :).

        • SurprisedMan says:

          They’ve definitely said that the difficulties they’ve had maintaining this sort of two-levels of information thing for Broken Age has made them rethink, but rather than make them want to go secret again, it’s made them just want to open out more, which seems to be the tactic with Massive Chalice, which has been a tremendously open development process so far which has been available for all to follow.

    • d_chandler says:

      y’know, you’re kind of an asshole.

  12. sleepless says:

    I agree with everything in this review. The puzzles are too straightforward, and it needs more exploration and interaction. The world is too empty and small, and the characters, while charming and colorful, don’t have a lot to say.

    I love the story, the art, the music, and the characters. It’s a cute little adventure, but I feel that this epic story deserved a much bigger game.

  13. DrScuttles says:

    Yeah, it’s fine. A wonderfully presented adventure. More Full Throttle than Day of the Tentacle. If Full Throttle had easier puzzles and a 1 button interface.
    For a project born from the idea of a classic, old-school point and click adventure, there’s bound to be a contingent of people who wanted something more SCUMM, but let’s all be thankful it’s no Darkseed 2.

  14. Moraven says:

    Thank you for not being afraid of being critical while still enjoying it. Seems how I feel right now about it.

    Every other review sight are giving glowing reviews, 8/10, 9/10, for a game that is flawed with only half of the narrative. I wish they had given it impressions and hold off on scoring until it was complete. Of course DF needs hype and scores to help fund Part 2.

    Also there was no one mentioning the awkwardness of the controls. I guess no other reviewers felt as annoyed by them?

    • thaquoth says:

      The controls really are not THAT bad. Map the inventory to right click, and the biggest annoyance (having to go to the bottom left every time you want to access your stuff) is gone.

    • DrScuttles says:

      John Walker tweeted a link to Dan Whitehead’s Eurogamer review earlier. A very well considered and entirely sound 7/10. Not that I’m very interested in numerical scores, but the actual content felt pretty spot on.
      As for the business of scoring before completion, I figure that if you’re willing to send something out there and ask people to pay for it, you should be willing for it to be judged and critiqued. It’s not the reviewer’s problem that a game is in Early Access or only Act 1 of 2 or whatever; the creator is already selling it in that state. Any good reviewer should serve their audience first in writing about the product (and obviously they should make it blindingly obvious whether the game is complete or not).

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I read John’s complaints about the controls after I have been playing about an hour of the game, and really have very little to complain about. The ginormous cursor with no clear indication of what happens when you click something was more of an issue for me, but again not gamebreakingly so.

      • John Walker says:

        That would be my primary complaint about the controls.

        • skalpadda says:

          Has there been an adventure game whose controls you’ve liked since the SCUMM days? I’m not being snarky or dismissive, it just seems to be one of the most common complaints you have about them and I’m not sure I understand the problem. A big cursor might be annoying for sure, but isn’t clicking and dragging a fairly standard action on PCs?

          Holding up Amanita Design as an exemplar (or at least a positive contrast) seems rather odd given that the interaction in their games usually doesn’t get much further than pixelhunting and/or clicking everything on the screen (sometimes multiple times, with no indication that multiple clicks are needed) until something happens.

          • John Walker says:

            Clicking and dragging definitely isn’t the norm in adventure games.

            And my mentioning Amanita was to fend off the inevitable, “But Machinarium/Samorost/Botanicula only has a single click interface”, because – as I say – those aren’t the same style of game as Broken Age at all. And that they do far more with the mouse than a trad adventure anyway. The point was, it’s not a good comparison.

            To answer your question, yes, there are plenty of interfaces I’ve liked, and even preferred. My favourite is a rotating cursor, that lets me pick from Look At, Use and Talk, but I recognise that’s a rarity today. I’m generally content with the compromise that most adventures now go for, with left click to Use/Pick Up/Talk, and right click to Look At. Broken Age’s (and others I’ve complained about) removing even that is certainly a step too far.

          • skalpadda says:

            Thanks for the answer. I can see how something is lost when “look at” goes missing, though I suppose I’ll have to play it myself (when it’s done) to see how bothersome the rest is. It may just be that I have a freakishly large tolerance for bad UIs.

          • Hahaha says:


  15. disperse says:

    Can anyone comment on the appropriateness of this game for a 6-year-old? I’m always on the lookout for games that I can play with my son.

    • basilisk says:

      The content is fine. There is some implied violence, but nothing graphical is seen on screen, and the story is quite child-friendly. The main theme will almost certainly fly over his head, though. It’s essentially about struggling to stand on your own feet and getting out of what your parents have chosen for you (even though you don’t know why they’ve done that in the first place).

    • John Walker says:

      There are a few jokes in there that are suggestive, but they’d go entirely over his head. There’s one reference to a marriage breaking up that feels surprisingly harsh, given the rest of the game, but again, not offensive in any way. I’d say yes, it would be a good safe choice.

      The only thing likely to bother him would be that a big scary monster is capturing teenage girls. And the wolf’s eyes might freak him out a bit : )

      • Gap Gen says:

        Marek would have terrified me as a child, but then I had a thing about wolves.

      • Sic says:

        … and his voice, perhaps.

      • lokimotive says:

        I have to agree that that marriage joke seemed a little out of left field considering the tone of the rest of the game. It came about at a point in my playthrough that I was thinking, hey, this would be a pretty good adventure game for a kid I think. *joke* Oh… that was kind of weird… Then again, though I can’t cite specific examples, I feel like those can be kind of par for the course for Schafer games.

    • disperse says:

      Thanks everyone. My son gets scared easily but he also really likes scary things. He usually sides with the villains of stories. 4 hours seems to be a good length, my son got bored of Machinarium.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Note that it’s effectively two stories, so you could play the space bit in one go for 2 hours, then later play the village bit for another 2 (I imagine if your son is doing all the puzzles it’ll take a bit longer, but depends how much you help).

    • AngoraFish says:

      edit: I’ve now finished the game with the kids. We weren’t quite there yet when I wrote the comments below. My five year old did find the ending, with similar themes to the start, scary and disconcerting. I talked her her through what was happening and she ended up reasonably calm, so not scarred for life, but it’s pretty clear that it was a bit much for her. In hindsight, looks like my gut reaction was correct.

      My five year old thinks its the best thing ever, but they’re watching me play more than contributing to the gameplay directly.

      Very early on, the setup is all about getting eaten by a monster, which made me uncomfortable playing with them around (so I didn’t). The ‘eaten by a monster’ thing is set up a lot more personally than the cartoon violence of something like TF2.

      My kids are fine with TF2, as it’s over the top and cartoonish, not to mention obviously not permanent, but I was concerned with Broken Age that personalising the deaths, and some characters fairly obviously not coming back, would have a greater impact and possibly trigger an uncomfortable conversation.

      There is also some implied menace from the wolf character, although my kids didn’t seem to pick that up.

      As for kids playing the game directly themselves, I would have thought that the logic puzzles, although very simple, might require a greater grasp of language, and of cause and effect, than many young children have at that age.

      Certainly the puzzles are easier than Machinarium, although fairly obscure, particularly as they commonly involve multiple components separated by several distinct screens/rooms that aren’t always easy to tell apart. This might therefore prove a tad frustrating unless they’re happy just to wander around. Playing with them, however, would be fine.

      At least in something like Machinarium the puzzles are self contained with a single screen and there are a lot of cute things to click on, which is fun of itself, which is not the case with Broken Age.

      • bonuswavepilot says:

        Isn’t being eaten-up by a scary monster a mainstay of kids’ stories?

        (Not intended to be a criticism of your child rearing, I just seem to remember a lot of those from when I was a kid. Big bad wolves and old ladies swallowing spiders and such…)

        • AngoraFish says:

          No. I can’t think of a single example from children’s television or books written in the last few decades in which death is explicit and/or permanent.

          The examples that you are no doubt thinking about are traditional fairytales, which were written in societies in which children would have been constantly exposed to the death of both animals and people.

          Nowadays traditional fairytales are always rewritten to downplay, imply or (most commonly) write out the death entirely. In the case of Red Riding Hood, for example, her grandmother is usually locked in a closet and rescued at the end, or more humorously, regurgitated alive and thankful for being rescued. Often, for good measure, the wolf repents and promises never to do mean things again.

          There might be a couple of rhymes around that do reference death more directly, but they are largely free of context and therefore the kids clearly don’t have a clue what they’re singing.

          Regardless of whether you think the above is a good thing, under the circumstances, it might nonetheless still be fair for a parent to ask if Broken Age is the best medium through which to introduce a potentially complex discussion.

          • RProxyOnly says:


            Then there is the really long list of others you have forgotten. Death and murder in children’s fiction is becoming as common place as it is in supposed mature fiction. Given the lack of parental supervision, is there really a demarkation between children’s and other fiction anymore… it might say “for mature audiences” but is that actually going to make a difference to the market, except for ENCOURAGING a younger audience?

          • AngoraFish says:

            Harry Potter and similar books are aimed at advanced reading age and above, ie children much older than those being discussed in this thread.

            To see some age recommendations regarding the Harry Potter books, for example, see link to commonsensemedia.org (the relevant book is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, recommended for at least 10+, preferably 12+).

            Apologies for assuming that a parent of young children might know something more about these things than one whose knowledge of the topic is clearly based on recent and vivid memories of their own teenage reading list.

          • Linden Ryuujin says:

            I’m no expert but the good little wolf is very popular in our house, I’m sure there are plenty of others too.

          • Ich Will says:

            Just wanted to back AngoraFish up here, as the parent of a 3 year old there is a massive difference in the material in modern childrens books and tv compared to when I was a child, and even then, when I was a child in the late 70’s/early 80’s it was pretty tame. I remember Grandma being regurgitated and the little pigs getting away to share the brick house.

            That being said, the Gruffalo, while no-one actually gets eaten, the book is pretty clear that all the animals want to eat the mouse, as does the gruffalo. It doesn’t shy away from the subject.

            Incidental, those fairy stories were super gruesome, to the point that I don’t believe they were intended for young children when they were being told, young adults and teenagers were the intended recipients – for example, the princess didn’t originally kiss the frog to break the spell (and why would a toddler or a really young child care about it turning into a prince anyway) she hurled him against a wall as hard as she could, beheaded it or burnt it’s skin off!

  16. fdisk says:

    I personally thought it was a great, borderline excellent adventure game in a genre that is all but dead. I also missed “Look at” a lot. However, the beautiful art, the flawless voice acting, the engaging story and the superb music more than made up for the controls and the simple puzzles.

    I frankly don’t know how to feel about the puzzles, yes, they are simple as hell, but as a 33 year old family man I also don’t have time to be stuck on a puzzle for two hours anymore. I just wanted more of the story, more of this world, and I was grateful that it kept flowing in thanks to the simplicity of its puzzles, being stuck on a puzzle for an hour breaks the flow of the story a lot in other games. While they are simple in this game, they are also far from mind-numbing, you still have to pay attention for most of them.

    Overall, I highly recommend Broken Age to all Adventure game fans or to people who simply like a good story in a game over anything else. I highly look forward to part 2 and assuming it’s also 4 hours long I’d say it’s more than worth the asking price if the 2nd 4 hours are anything like the first.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I’d hardly say it’s a genre that’s all but dead. Looking at my games folder I can find a rather big chunk of adventure games made in recent years such as all the Wadjet Eye games, The Raven, Book of Unwritten Tales and a few free ones I don’t really know when was released.

      Then there are the Daedalus games though I haven’t played them as well as the new Broken Sword game and isn’t there a new Tex Murphy game in the works as well? Then there are the Jane Jensen game and I think a game from a couple of the Space Quest guys on the way. And Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games.

      Sure, you can (and should) argue that not all of these are master pieces but the genre as a whole is considerably less dead now than it used to be. And some people like Dave Gilbert really kept it up when nobody else seemed to. And then bloody Tim Shafer gets all the credit.

      • fdisk says:

        You make very good points, I’ve actually played some of those games myself although what you’ve made me realize is that they were not at all memorable with the exception of the first Deponia (I didn’t play the rest); I guess what I mean to say is that back in the late 80s/early 90s Adventure games were the AAA high selling games we’d look forward to like people look forward to CoD or Uncharted now and Broken Age is the first one in a long time to have articles written about it all over the place and capture the mainstream’s attention. Frankly, after playing it, I think it’s well deserved hype and it somehow managed to live up to it.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      WHAT!? The genre has been THRIVING for YEARS! Just because mainstream sources don’t cover adventure games doesn’t mean anything. go to adventuregamers.com. There have been 5x more quality adventure releases per years than rpgs… Geez.. educate yourself!

      And no, a pretty cakewalk does not make a good game, especially with SO MANY high quality releases out there.

      • Acorino says:

        Broken Age is good (and high-quality). Does that make it a good game? Well…I don’t think that the game was worse because the puzzles were easy and simplistic. You could say the same about the puzzles in Shadow of Memories, it nevertheless was a cracking game! Broken Age is fun to interact with, even if it isn’t a big challenge. A challengeless game can still be fun and engaging. Was Loom difficult, or Thirty Flights of Loving? Were they lesser games because they weren’t? Tedious puzzles are a problem, and some of Dreamfall’s puzzles were easy and tedious. Broken Age’s puzzles aren’t tedious.
        Maybe the conventions of adventure games suggest to some that a minimum level of puzzle fiendishness should be given. It’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

  17. Turkey says:

    Can any of the backers fill me in on why the game ended up with a tablet focus? Was it a thing the backers really wanted from the start or was it implemented later to make it more commercially viable?

    • Illessa says:

      phone/tablets were promised within the first couple of weeks of the Kickstarter campaign so I assume a decent number of backers requested it. IIRC the first project update was that they were going to do full VO, EFIGS translation, a DRM free version, and Win/Mac/Linux/iOS/Android as the platforms.

      Multi-platform is pretty much par for the course for overfunded Kickstarters in my experience, go to any PC project and there’ll be people asking for tablet or console versions. Go to any iOS/Android project and there’ll be comments telling them they’ll never make their goal without a PC version.

    • Xocrates says:

      Mind you, the tablet focus isn’t nearly as big as the review makes it sound. There are a few control quibbles that suggest tablets were kept in mind during development, but adventure games had headed into a single click interface for quite some time now, even before smartphones/tablets became common.

      Pretty sure early Telltale games already used it, for instance.

  18. somnolentsurfer says:

    The comparison with Amanita is a good one in terms of the lack of a look verb. The central mechanic in classic adventure design is puzzle solving, which means I need to predict how something will respond when I click on it. The look verb gives the contextual information I need to be able to do that. In this I’ve no idea whether I’m going to pick something up or push it over. By contrast, Amanita’s games are mostly about play rather than puzzles. The joy is in pushing stuff to see what happens. It’s a tactile touchy feely exploration mechanic, rather than standing back and analysing. Broken Age demands standing back and analysing, but takes away the eyes I’d use to do it.

    But, by God is it beautiful.

  19. Laurentius says:

    What is Save sytem that this game uses ? Obnoxious sytem almost killed Shawdowrun returns for me and greatly diminished my satisfaction from playing Kentacky Route Zero.

    • basilisk says:

      Regular autosave to a designated slot, infinite number of manual saves possible (more or less) at any point.

    • Kasper says:

      My game crashed to desktop when leaving a room, and when I reloaded I was put back in that exact same place with zero loss of progress. Maybe it saves on every area transition?

  20. draglikepull says:

    When I went to install the game on Steam I noticed that the EULA has a clause requiring you to waive class action rights against Double Fine in order to install the game. I’m kind of concerned that no one is talking about this (maybe no one else noticed?).

    It was bad enough when big companies like Steam and Sony started with this nonsense, but now seeing an indie developer do it too is immensely frustrating. When I asked Tim about it on Twitter, he said that they just grabbed “standard” EULA language from somewhere else, which is a pretty poor answer, I think.(link to twitter.com)

    It’s really lousy to ask players to agree to concede an important legal right (which I don’t think should be legal, and in some jurisdictions isn’t) to play a game that they paid for nearly TWO YEARS AGO when there was no such requirement articulated. So now the only options for players are to waive their legal rights or not install a game they paid for a long time ago. Really, really lousy treatment of their customers.

    • Smuckers says:

      From what i understand this is due to a u.s supreme court ruling that happened a year or two ago that basically allowed companies to limit our right to class action litigation. It’s now s.o.p. to include this kind of language in everything from eulas to employment contracts. For what its worth, you can still seek arbitration in the event of a problem, but if you want it to change contact your representative in congress, i guess.

  21. Unknown says:

    I played up until I got the cloud shoes in Vella’s story (about an hour in), and now I wonder if I should just put it aside until Part 2 comes out. I do definitely miss the “look at” mechanic. Half the fun of old-school adventure games was clicking “look at” on everything and hearing some narration.

  22. pilouuuu says:

    I have to say that I’m simply in love with the graphical style of this game. Alongside The Wolfamongus and Curse of Monkey Island this is one of the best looking adventure games ever.

    I have to say that I’m very happy with this game. It’s great to see that adventure games are not dead as many people said for so long. But it’s also a shame that the interactions in adventures are getting so poor. TWAU, The Walking Dead and now Broken Age are becoming almost like an interactive movie and losing the adventure puzzling part. Compare those games to Curse or Grim Fandango.

    I totally agree that adventures lose the absurd puzzles about fake moustaches and the pixel hunting, but I’m not so sure I like they being horribly dumbed down and requiring just click to continue interactions.

    I also feel it’s a shame things like more multiple paths and endings and multiple solutions to the same puzzle haven’t been explored more. Besides that some experimentation with interactive dialogue would be great.

    Hopefully the next step after fulfilling our nostalgia (which is OK) is taking adventure games to the next level.

    • caff says:

      I agree with your thoughts.

      The review above is also spot on – at first I was overwhelmed with nostalgia for this game, but its quality and character have made me hungry for a richer, deeper experience. Fingers crossed we’ll see more developers, particularly in the indie space, tackle adventure/puzzle games with ambition.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      I read that run-together “Wolf Among Us” as though it were one word, like a humungous wolf…

      Now I want to play the Wolfamongous….

      Slightly more on-topic, I have completed the Shay bit and just started on Vella’s section, and thus far have found the puzzles pretty easy. I wouldn’t say they’re quite at ‘click to continue’ level, but I have never had to pause for thought for more than a couple of seconds, or long enough to look at my inventory.

      Incidentally, no the lower-left inventory thing – you can also just press ‘i’.

  23. MadTinkerer says:

    “(And honestly, if they were running out of money, you do have to ask just how much they needed to fill the game with a Hollywood cast…)”

    According to the behind the scenes documentary it was more a matter of running out of time. The game has all new animation systems made specifically for it, different from sprite animation or 3D models. The art is all layered painting, which is a relatively new and different style for games. This all added an unanticipated learning curve for the art, though other aspects of production were mostly on-time.

    The voice cast was much easier to budget and schedule because they all already know how to act. It was the deliberately distinct art style that put things over-budget. At least, that’s the official reason.

  24. wodin says:

    Is this a game or interactive fiction? It sounds like it has little “game” to it.

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      It has as much “game” in it as every other Adventure.

    • AngoraFish says:

      It’s clearly a game, unlike Kentucky Route Zero, which is interactive fiction.

      The dialogue almost always contributes a rationale and context to the puzzles (why you are doing what you’re doing) and there is a fair focus in the dialogue in providing hints in a very traditional way to assist the player to solve the puzzles.

      The fact that Broken Age fairly obviously is not interactive fiction seems to be John’s primary criticism of it.

      Having said that, it suffers from the flaw of all traditional adventure games in that the exercise is primarily about divining what the designer was hoping you would do, rather than applying any actual creativity to the task. There is never more than one way to solve a puzzle.

      • WrenBoy says:

        KRZ seemed to have puzzle solving and exploration when I played the game. What do you think Broken Age has that makes it a game and doesnt make KRZ one?

        • AngoraFish says:

          Selected cut and paste from my Steam review of KRZ:

          Unlike related games such as the marginally more successful The Walking Dead, however, it left me with no real feeling of player agency.

          Sure, there is some flexibility to move around and experience different absurdist vignettes between story-arc set pieces, however these don’t pretend to influence the narrative progression in any observable way.

          As I would define a ‘game’, player agency seems to me a defining characteristic. It is the perception of player agency, even if only a perception, that adds a level of immersion that allows one to be drawn into a story and personally invest in it.

          In Kentucky Route Zero, while the player moves various protagonists around the screen and clicks dialogue choices, these have no noticeable influence on the story other than exposition.

          Unlike KRZ, I get a strong sense of immersion and agency from Broken Age.

          The dialogue in Broken Age is about assisting me to complete a task. In KRZ the dialogue is primarily a click-through exercise in exposition.

          FWIW, I don’t recall KRZ having anything I would personally describe as a ‘puzzle’. I’m abysmally bad at puzzles, so I notice them – I got stuck on the first one in Broken Age (finding a knife) for so long I almost started googling for a walkthrough. I can’t imagine that anyone might ever have to google for a walkthrough of KRZ.

          • Thirith says:

            Player agency, such as being able to define your character through conversation? Why does this count any less as agency than being able to combine the rubber chicken with the hook and using it on the rope across the chasm?

          • AngoraFish says:

            Defining your character through conversation is fine. There are many fine games, in fact, where this is the case. For something to be a ‘game’, however, player choices need to have some meaningful influence on progress or outcomes.

            In your example, which I would agree is arguable in terms of agency as it depends a little on the setup. Ultimately, however, you cannot progress further into the game until the items are combined, and combining the items presumably requires some degree of lateral thinking.

            In the case of KRZ, you are intermittently offered two or more dialogue options and vote for your favourite, after which the game continues in the same way it would otherwise have regardless of the the preference you just expressed. You get to read all options regardless, and as far as I can recall, at no point are your previous answers referenced again.

            I think KRZ is an interesting literary exercise (and no less worthy because of it) as it enables multiple, nuanced stories to be told sequentially however the lack of any meaningful consequence from player decisions makes it something other than a game.

          • Unknown says:

            KRZ has more choice than you might realize. In fact, Act II can have a different beginning depending on how you played Act I.

          • WrenBoy says:

            FWIW, I don’t recall KRZ having anything I would personally describe as a ‘puzzle’.

            At the very start of the game you have to turn on the power to the gas station. To do this you have to get past the guys playing a board game which is a little puzzle. It should be your kind of puzzle also as there is a hint in the overheard dialogue.

            None of the puzzles are real brainteasers but they are still puzzles and are usually a combination of exploration and dialogue, another example being finding Josephs game in Act 1.

            While most of the dialogue choices in KRZ are cosmetic its wrong to say none of them are referenced again. Naming the dog is the clearest example. Even the purely cosmetic choices are so well thought out that it feels you are writing the various characters past.

            I wouldnt say KRZ is the best example of player agency in games I dont think its reasonable to say it doesnt exist. Neither is it reasonable to say its not a game although its certainly an arty, surreal and narrative driven game.

    • John Walker says:

      Is this FPS a game, or an interactive fiction? It seems you just click on the soldiers to make the story carry on. Doesn’t seem much “game” in that for me.

      • AngoraFish says:

        An FPS is a game because aiming requires dexterity and skill (in some cases significant skill), and if you fail to achieve a minimum standard of competence you generally die and fail to progress (or, in multiplayer, end up with a pretty poor kill/death ratio).

        FPS games are analogue, in that there is a practically infinite range of outcomes – you can have a narrow miss or a head shot, you can snipe or brawl, you can shoot left first or right first. Sure, these are microdecisions and outcomes, and games by definition require a degree of contrivance (eg rules), but microdecisions are still decisions and in a FPS the player might be making dozens every second.

        In a FPS game, the point is not the ‘story’, the story is just the justification used to tie the action sequences together and make your decisions appear less trivial.

        There’s nothing stopping people from simply watching a movie or reading a book. Still, some people become PC-games journalists not movie or book reviewers. Unless someone happens to have a mouse fetish, it’s more likely that there is something about games that is demonstrably different from the experience of a movie or a book.

        • Thirith says:

          And KRZ is demonstrably different from experiencing a film or a novel. I have never experienced a film or novel the way I’ve experienced KRZ, and I doubt many people have. The method of interacting with the medium is considerably different – experiencing KRZ is closer in almost every way to experiencing Monkey Island than to experiencing a film or a novel. Doesn’t this mean anything?

  25. zeekthegeek says:

    RE: Voice acting: I’m fairly sure they got sweetheart deals from most of their voice actors. Union-minimum type stuff because people wanted to work with Tim. Certainly that was the case with Jack Black and Elijah Wood.

    • Acorino says:

      Yeah, Kris Brown said in the documentary that the big names did their part “basically for free”. Also that the voice acting budget was maybe even smaller than the one for Day of the Tentacle…

  26. Viceroy Choy says:

    I quite loved the game. Every aspect of the game except the controls and weird frame rate issue due to high DPI/polling mice was fucking brilliant.

  27. Tuckey says:

    I rather enjoyed it so far, the puzzles are just about right for me, not too hard but some moments I had to have a bit of a think. Lost interest when the character switch happened to be honest though, 50/50 if I pick it up again now.

  28. BillygotTalent says:

    So if this game was designed for tablets, this will come out for tablets sometime, right? I haven’t read anything about that yet. Will they split it up or release a tablet version when both Parts are done?

  29. Acorino says:

    I agree that the main characters lack depth a bit.
    Personally I’m already satisfied with Act 1 so far. Yeah, the game ends after a cliffhanger. But even if Act 2 would never arrive, I would still consider the ending to be more satisfying than those of Monkey Island 2 and Dreamfall.
    I also would have liked the puzzles to be a teeny weeny bit more difficult. According to Tim Act 2 is planned to be more difficult at least. The puzzles were fun to solve either way, in contrast to many of the tedious fetch quests in Dreamfall. Yes, I don’t like Dreamfall very much. And consider how long we had to wait and still have to wait for the second part of that story! At least in a few months down the line we’ll get the continuation of Broken Age. I can live with the cliffhanger knowing that.

    • Unknown says:

      Whaaaat? Monkey Island 2 has one of my favorite video game endings ever!

  30. Lusketrollet says:

    I frankly don’t understand the love people have for Jennifer Hale and Nolan North. They’re okay. Not “splendid”.

    • basilisk says:

      But she really is splendid in this role. Just the right combination of a perhaps too loving and caring mother with some peculiar and slightly sinister undertones.

      And as for Nolan North, I was recently reminded of how good (as opposed to just prolific) the guy really is in the relatively small part he has in AssCreed IV. Just a handful of monologues, five to ten minutes in total, but he does a wonderful job there, subtly emotional and very… warm, for lack of a better word. One of the most memorable bits of voice acting in games I’ve ever experienced.

  31. derbefrier says:

    i’ll buy it once part 2 comes out.

  32. fenriz says:

    “Vella, asked by her society to be a victim, chooses to be an aggressor. That’s fantastic – that makes me like Vella right away. But I still don’t know why that was Vella’s choice.”

    We didn’t ask such subtlety of character vraisemblance of Dickens, Austen or even Shakespeare(it’s not entirely clear WHY Othello would act like he did and we don’t care) we ask it of Schafer’s one-in-a-million-years adventure

    Fortunately, you judged puzzles more deeply, that’s what’s important in a puzzle adventure.

  33. kpanda92 says:

    I enjoyed the first half of the game. It reminded me of a point and click children’s game, which over time revealed to be more and more for an adult audience. It’s relaxing to play, (until you get stuck), and is very beautiful to look at. I think more controls/deeper integration would make the game a bit forced and overdone. It’s supposed to be what it is. It makes you think, question things, and take a break from the chaos of life.

    If you need a hug attack, this is the game to play.