The RPS Verdict: Double Fine’s Broken Age, Act 1

From the distant, waterlogged land of Bath Spa, John Walker sits at a keyboard and dreams of another world. A world by the sea. A world where 95% of its male population are bearded and wear Converse. Untold distances away, in said sea-neighbouring world of Brighton, Alec Meer also sits at a keyboard and imagines a tourist-besieged town made up of yellow buildings and fading magazine publishers.

Somehow, the two writers’ minds reach each other across the gulf of space and time. And they have something they must discuss: Double Fine’s Kickstarted revivalist adventure game, Broken Age, whose first ‘Act’ was released last week. They talk of its two lead characters, they talk of its unfinished nature, they talk of its puzzles, they talk of what they wanted but what they got, they talk of shrunken heads and peaches.

Alec: Which character did you play first, then?

John: I played the boy, Shay. Not all the way through, I alternated a bit.

Alec: And why was that?

John: Just random pick.

Alec: I did the same, because I thought Vella, the girl looked more twee. Of course, that proved to be deliberate on the game’s part, for subversion of expectation. As I discovered when my laptop-grabbing baby somehow hit just the right buttons to force a character switch on me earlier than I’d planned to.

John: I don’t remember giving it any thought. I just clicked the one my mouse was nearest to. So what’s your overall reaction to the game?

Alec: I liked it, I think. It’s very pretty and has excellent world/concept design. Though I must say it never made me laugh and I found the voice acting weirdly muted for the most part. In the lead characters, specifically. The supporting cast cuts loose a whole lot more. I suppose that’s to make the leads seem like real people rather than Guybrushes, but unfortunately they both seemed a bit damp to me.

John: The farther I get from it, the less I like it. The more I remember the completely awful parts, the dreadful puzzles like the peach with the guards, or being required to fall through holes in clouds moments after the game teaches you falling through holes in clouds is bad.

Alec: Yeah, the solutions are very A-B, early Telltale style. There’s no real ingenuity there, it’s the try everything on everything until something clicks approach, or it’s already screamingly obvious from afar.

John: Exactly. It’s a nice enough story, but it’s not a very good adventure game. Which is just plain weird.

Alec: And yes, a lot of faintly wretched attempts to retroactively justify the less logical puzzles in dialogue, as with the peach, those torturous puns about pits that barely made any sense. I’m still holding on to some hope that the puzzles will escalate in act 2, if you go into with your existing, albeit small inventory.

John: My dad’s currently playing it, and his frustration with it has rather compounded my own. Where I flew past things because I’m used to poor adventure puzzles, he’s hitting walls and getting rightly annoyed.

Alec: Interesting. What bits particularly are stumping him?

John: The peach puzzle especially wound him up.

Alec: I had to go and get a second one as the lumberjack ate my first one. Which was a really pointless, timewasting false positive

John: It’s utterly beautiful, and I so deeply love the theme that Schafer wants to explore – of the teenage process of discovering who you are independently of your parents and expectations. But it feels as though it’s been made by a casual games developer trying for something a bit more hardcore. Not the mind behind Day Of The Tentacle or Grim.

I know I’ve banged on about it before, but the lack of a “look at” is just inexplicable. Until you realise this was a game designed for iPad.

Alec: I do wonder what’s on the cutting room floor. I can’t imagine that they’re simply unaware people want complex puzzles, so perhaps they’ve tried stuff and deemed it unsuitable

John: I don’t even want complex – I want smart. Puzzles that make you feel clever for solving them, and make you laugh when you understand them.

Alec: The headshrinking puzzle was the closest to that, although three very similar looking doors took some of the fun out of it.

John: Yes – that was a nice puzzle, although sadly one I solved long before I was presented with the need for it. So I realised, “Oh, I’m going to need a small head for something,” then had one by the time I met the scene it was needed in.

Alec: Yeah, I second guessed the game a little too often. Partly because there’s perhaps too much hinting/foreshadowing in incidental dialogue. Which would again speak to being afraid of scaring off casuals. And that’s where the game gets so problematic; it’s been funded by adventure game hardcore types but its eyes are apparently on the massively mainstream mega-cashpot.

John: But you began saying you liked it, and I’ve taken it to my negative place. So what made you like it despite these complaints?

Alec: It’s mostly that I enjoyed being there, and both characters winding up not being what I’d expected. And to some I degree I liked that the puzzles were set at a level that the game flowed, as opposed to having the stop-start-what-the-hell-do-I 90s ethos. But as you say, when you’re further away from it you realise you don’t feel intellectually satisfied with yourself, as you would after solving great puzzles.

John: What were you expecting from the characters?

Alec: I was expecting the boy, Shay, to be brash and go-getting, whereas he’s resigned and hesitant and weak, and entirely dependent on children’s items. Vella I’d expected to be cute and inquisitive and helpful, whereas she’s brash and go-getting. Even though her oddly subdued (and indeed cute) voice acting works against that.

John: I actually found Vella’s side to be problematic. It’s great that the female lead is independent, and wants to find rather than concede. That’s all good. But then absolutely every other woman or girl in the game is either a controlling mother, or a vain idiot. The message becomes, “Look how she’s not like the rest of women”. Which is a pretty gross message.

Alec: Though in fairness all the men are fatuous. It’s unkind to everyone except Vella.

John: Yes – the game lazily confines men to being stupid, and women to being bitchy or controlling. So our heroes get to stand out by being other.

Alec: I suppose there’s a question of whether it’s unwittingly problematic in terms of her being the only woman to realise she can be something else, or whether it’s deliberately creating an alter-world where that is the case – that that is the high concept rather than the monsters and magic birds. I don’t feel ready to decide which it is yet.

John: Yes – there’s certainly an argument for its being a dramatic device to say, “This is a homogenous background, into which these characters are destined to join, but we’ll help them break free.” In that sense, it’s less problematic.

Alec: It’s also a narrative conceit used by many children’s stories, which this game is clearly trying to evoke. Almost all the baby books we have here (which are far beyond my nine month old’s pay grade, to be honest) involve the protagonist (usually an anthropomorphised animal) suddenly deciding to do something different from all the others, or from the expectations placed upon them. I was reading Connie one about a princess who refuses to comb her hair the other day. That rejection of conformity conceit applies to both lead characters in Broken Age.

John: I agree with what you said about the voices. While apparently the super-famous people worked for rate or less, it still seemed weird to cast Jack Black to play a calm, boring man. Or Pembleton Ward to mumble. While Elijah Wood wasn’t recognisable as Shay, I did enjoy his performance a lot. I thought he played the kid with a deft subtlety.

Alec: I sort of preferred that to ‘oh it’s Jack Black and now I’m distracted by that’. it was the lack of big zingers that troubled me more.

John: However, the stand-out performance was the dude in the spaceship in Vella’s story, who was some game producer who chucked in a big chunk of change.

Alec: Yeah, and I loved the overall strangeness of that scene. In fact Vella’s story was good at keeping me on my toes in terms of unexpected scene-switching

John: Yes. I enjoyed her stuff once I was past the very poor cloud section. From the woodcutter onward, it came alive.

Alec: And I guess the game is exploring different avenues of the adventure genre with each story – the weird, surrealistic worlds of her story, the room escapes of the boy’s.

John: I really wish they’d released it as one game. I think they did themselves so much harm breaking it in two. They created an abortive and unsatisfying experience, when what they need is to somehow figure out a way to sell an awful lot of copies to people who didn’t already buy the game two years ago.

Alec: Yes, and while this feels lavish it is very hard, from an armchair producer point of view, to see why they needed even more money. Other than for voice actors.

John: I’ve heard it was art.

Alec: It lasted longer than I’d worried at least; I did feel I’d had a game, and with an enticing rather than frustrating break point. Though clearly I’d much rather it had continued.

John: But this still doesn’t work for me. Clearly after $3m came in, they scrapped plans for a $300k game. But I feel like surely it’s part of the job to budget for that? Like you say, armchair producing.

How long did it take you? I got through it in four hours, without rushing.

Alec: It’s hard to say, as I played it during baby naps across three days. This may be why I liked it a bit more than you – it fits into that lifestyle well. Binge-playing I’d probably have felt an awful lot more short-changed. The perennial reviewer’s dilemma.

John: Yeah.

So then, we’re agreed, 10/10, the greatest adventure game since the last time we remember playing an adventure game which was in about 1998 maybe! Wait, no, sorry, I was thinking of ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE ELSE.

Alec: But yes, on budget, it’s almost impossible to shake off concerns that they switched course to pursue a crossplatform megahit rather than simply meet the expectations of their original backers. Perhaps that’s fine; perhaps if it works it will help open the door to more structurally ambitious adventures for a wider audience.

It’s a hard game to judge until it is complete, and until its repercussions are known. It feels a lot like watching the pilot episode of a new TV show with promise and not yet feeling like you’ve clicked with the cast, but feeling a dim compulsion for more.

John: Yeah. I really hope I can tear up a lot of my negative impressions by the time we see the full game. Unfortunately, for now, this is all we’ve got.

Alec: Yes, essentially it feels like a pulled punch. Though I do have affection for the fact that someone is trying to throw that punch at this level. Which is not the same as giving it a free pass because of who’s making it – it’s just giving them a little more patience because they are trying to make this genre feel different without abandoning its roots. Just got to hope they’re planning to push players harder in the latter stages

John: I don’t think I agree. I think there are plenty of adventure games about at the moment, and what I wanted from the man who’s the best at them in the world was another game to love as much as DOTT or Psychonauts.

Alec: I mean in terms of making people want to play because it looks beautiful and strange, rather than because it’s an adventure game. Unfortunately the latter creates huge expectations, an albatross they hung around their own neck.

John: See, I think the issue is there are other beautiful adventure games, and this one really has abandoned the genre’s roots. I think that gets to the nub of my issue.

Alec: I suppose one does have to wonder if they’ve looked at the Telltale games doing well commercially and decided they need to be emulating them more than they do early Lucasarts,

John: Who knows.


Alec: 10/10

Broken Age Act 1 is out now, with the second half to follow as a free update later this year.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I am currently going through the documentary series and it is amazing, worth so much more than the price of admission. Interesting to see if they’ll get to the design switches – it’s in a tough place of wanting to document the game design without completely spoiling every facet of it for the backers.

    But yes, I think everyone involved agrees that splitting the game in two was not desirable and was a last-ditch effort to salvage a poorly-managed project. I hope it works out for them; at the end of the day I want a great game for posterity, and while I think (for some of the reasons John mentons) this won’t be a total classic, I think it will be very pleasant and a very accessible entry point to adventure gaming.

    • caff says:

      I too absolutely loved the documentary, and I think Double Fine are a great company who deserve every chance and every opportunity to change the games market for the good.

      Little details like using a proper orchestra fill my heart with joy. The music sounds basic but it’s beautifully performed.

      I wasn’t overly wowed by Broken Age, but I am looking forward to the second part, and as an experience I enjoyed it as a whole.

      • Premium User Badge

        bokkiedog says:

        At a time when – unforgivably – even major TV series are lazily using crappy sequenced music, that this game recorded a live orchestra is notable and definitely a major point of kudos.

    • Synesthesia says:

      coo, i’d love to see that. Where can i get it?

      • AngoraFish says:

        It will be released for real money once Part 2 of the game is out. Backers got it for free. Per OP, well worth the price of admission, regardless of price.

        It’s an absolutely incredibly well produced, engaging documentary. Far better than the game, in fact.

        • Acorino says:

          Actually, according to a recent post by Greg on the DF forums, the documentary will soon be available for sale again.

      • burth says:

        You can get the first episode for free on youtube: link to
        The other episodes (the most recent one was 14, I think) are supposedly going to be available as digital downloads directly from the documentary crew within the coming month(s?). All episodes so far have been great, and there are a number that run for more than 40 minutes, plus an additional bunch of “sidequest” episodes that focus on single team members or old Schafer games.

        Whenever a new episode comes out (like the most recent sidequest today) I get so excited that I basically drop everything else that I’m supposed to be doing. I’m really looking forward to rewatching the entire thing when part 2 has come out (or maybe leading up to the release?). At that point it will probably be around 15-20 hours of material. Crazy.

    • taristo says:

      I totally agree, the documentary was masterfully done.
      If anyone wants to have a taste, the 2014 Amnesia Fortnight will have daily episodes by 2 Player Productions on producing the Top voted game prototypes: link to
      There’s still a day or so left to vote.

      They put the Amnesia Fortnight 2012 episodes Online on YouTube for everyone to see too by the way: link to

  2. Wret says:


    Why do I feel that’s there just to confuse someone and send them spiraling out of control into the side of a volcano in a panic.

    • RedViv says:

      Following that tumbling further down, landing in a pile of discarded board game boxes, being approached by a lady in a giant fox suit, telling them that The Time Is Nigh while handing them a keycard.

  3. carbonated_cottage_cheese says:

    I’d play this if only the artstyle weren’t so horrendous.

    • crazyd says:

      That is insane talk from the mouth of an insane man. The art style is lovely, and the game looks amazing.

      • AngoraFish says:

        The art is the best part of the game… arguably the only good part of the game.

    • Synesthesia says:

      i’m sorry man, it must have been tough to see your eyesight and taste go like that.

    • Vinraith says:

      i’d agree that it’s fairly unpleasant to the eye, but then again I’m not much of a Schafer fan in general. To each their own!

      • LionsPhil says:

        It does nothing for me either, and I am quite a fan of Schafer’s adventures past. (INSUFFICIENT LOVE FOR FULL THROTTLE DETECTED IN THIS THREAD.)

  4. LunyAlex says:

    My main issue with the game is that the writing isn’t as colorful as the imagery would have you think.

    The story itself is nice, the voice acting is pretty good, the main characters are likable enough, and I personally really like the art style, but overall the cast doesn’t ooze personality, which is what I was expecting.

  5. JamesTheNumberless says:

    “real people rather than Guybrushes” – says a lot about what voice acting did to that character.

  6. amateurviking says:

    10/10? Surely you mean Chuckle Brothers/10, or maybe George Orwell/10?

  7. Turkey says:

    When are you guys going to WIT Jazzpunk?

  8. Lars Westergren says:

    I liked it a lot more than you did. The puzzles were alright, I was mildly challenged a couple of times but never got stuck to the point of being frustrated. I’m ready for some meatier puzzles in Ep 2 though, which they have promised.

    I think it is worthy to stand next to the LucasArts classics.

    > It’s great that the female lead is independent, and wants to find rather than concede. That’s all good. But then absolutely every other woman or girl in the game is either a controlling mother, or a vain idiot.

    Not sure I agree with that either? Vellas mother is trying to put on a brave face and “celebrate” with everyone else, but the whispered “please don’t make this any harder than it already is.” and the worried eyebrows over the smile during the feast shows that she is just pretending. The young girl in the clouds is a bit of a free spirit. Her mother the shoemaker just shrugs about her husband being (or trying to be? I forgot) unfaithful – “eh, just your typical male midlife crisis. Still love him”.

    The other maidens are vain idiots yes, but it is clear that they have been brainwashed into celebrating and anticipating their role in life of being eaten alive by monsters.

    Edit: I find it easier to do a pro-feminist interpretation of the themes rather than anti, in fact. The maidens are taught that their main goal in life isto be as attractive as possible. They are literally put on a piedestal to preen and be consumed, and if they aren’t “lucky” to be selected they react with self-loathing and depression. An allegory over how media treats female celebrities, or what young girls are taught to aspire to?

    • AngoraFish says:

      All the supporting characters are completely vacuous, other than perhaps the mother’s comment that I must admit I missed, although even that seems more earnest than actually concerned.

      It’s hardly subversive to play up to established stereotypes, particularly as the game does little to emphasise the ridiculousness of these stereotypes other than via caricature.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        It’s early when you enter the house, one of the dialogue choices on the theme of “Why don’t we fight the monster?”, the mother’s cheerful busy-mother-hen facade cracks, and she crouches down and sadly whispers something like “oh sweetie…. please don’t make it harder than it already is”.

        Most supporting characters in Monkey Island were two-dimensional stereotypes or jokes too, and we liked them just fine. They are there to frame the two main character’s coming of age stories.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Stretching the importance of a sentence or two in light of what is otherwise a fairly overwhelming theme simply emphasises the problem.

          In the end, two-dimensional stereotypes are still stereotypes, which are almost by definition problematic in the absence of any other notably redeeming nuance.

          Also, suggesting that caricaturing vacuous girls is pro-feminist is about as nonsensical as suggesting that Robin Thicke’s music video for ‘Blurred Lines’ is all about female empowerment.

          I have very little memory of Monkey Island, so perhaps the same problems were evident in that as well.

          • Lars Westergren says:

            > Stretching the importance of a sentence or two in light of what is otherwise a fairly overwhelming theme
            > simply emphasises the problem.

            What theme do you see as central? I’m losing track of what we are arguing about, but my most important point is that I object to John’s description of the female characters in the game as “problematic”. The central theme I see in Vella’s story is the contrast between the horror the viewer feels and the cheer the characters seem to feel over human sacrifice. When Vella enterns the house, the mother says “This is all so…so….” and starts to choke up, and then the father sails in and says “I think that your mother is trying to say is that we are so very proud of you!”

            30 minutes into this video

            I’d do exact quotes, but goddamn Youtube is bugged and refuses to play the video for me again.

            There are two possible interpretations, the mother is about to cry because she is happy and proud, or she is about to cry because her daughter is about to die. What she then said and the various little ways she shows how stressed she is suggest the latter. She is throwing herself into the busy-mom role, so she won’t have to think about what is going to happen.

            > Also, suggesting that caricaturing vacuous girls is pro-feminist is about as nonsensical as suggesting that
            > Robin Thicke’s music video for ‘Blurred Lines’ is all about female empowerment.

            They are brainwashed their whole lives into eagerly wanting to be sacrificed. I think it’s pretty clear that is supposed to inspire horror rather than contempt, which is why I object to John’s description of them.

            The bitchy girls in the fishing village are easy to dislike, especially when they are condescending to nice Vella, but remember that they the victims here, about to be killed. They could easily save themselves, if they hadn’t just completely internalized the view of everyone of how a proper girl should behave. Feels pretty feminist to me.

            > I have very little memory of Monkey Island, so perhaps the same problems were evident in that as well.

            They were lighthearted comedy games! A corrupt island governor is in bed with food constantly squirting into his mouth from big nozzles, like some big bloated tick. Nutty professors, fast talking car salesmen and Hollywood pirate stereotypes were everywhere.

            I wouldn’t have minded if more characters were like Grim Fandango, but this is absolutely not a deviation from how most of the old LucasArts games were in tone.

          • AngoraFish says:

            >She is throwing herself into the busy-mom role, so she won’t have to think about what is going to happen.

            I accept that. It’s not a theme that is noticeably pursued, however, for the remainder of part one.

            >They could easily save themselves, if they hadn’t just completely internalized the view of everyone of how a proper girl should behave. Feels pretty feminist to me.

            Perhaps. There’s a fairly strong thread of opinion in liberal-feminism and Western society, however, that presumes people should be able to do whatever the hell they like with their own bodies, be it suicide, prostitution, or whatever.

            By the end of part one, the only thing that has been clearly established is that it’s a perception that everyone buys into except Vela and Grandpa. A valid interpretation at this point is just as much that the girls are willing participants as they are victims.

            For what it’s worth, the girl’s enthusiasm for me was so overdone, implausible and lacking in nuance that I had trouble taking anything out of it other than mildly amusing slapstick, absurdist comedy. Had the rest of the dialogue shown the depth hinted at by a couple of the mother’s lines, the game would have been significantly more interesting.

            > Nutty professors, fast talking car salesmen and Hollywood pirate stereotypes were everywhere.

            The distinction between archetypes and stereotypes is relevant here.

  9. PikaBot says:

    I have to disagree with you on several points. First is that the game did not teach players that falling through the clouds was to be avoided; it taught them that falling through the clouds, although inconvenient, was not actually dangerous.

    The second is that I feel like John is either erasing or unfairly maligning most of the game’s female characters. I’m not sure you could apply the descriptor ‘controlling mother’ or ‘vain idiot’ to, say, Vella’s little sister, or the put-upon mother in the cloud world, or her teenaged daughter, or the Dead-Eye Druids…or even Vella’s mother, honestly, although I don’t remember that opening scene that well. The woman who organizes the Maiden Feasts isn’t either of those either, although she seems mostly to be evil.

    On the whole I really enjoyed part one, although I enjoyed it as a part one. If the puzzles don’t increase in complexity in the second part of the game (as Double Fine have promised it will, and is how games tend to go) I’ll be disappointed, but I’m not worried. The game may not have made me laugh out loud very often, but it was consistently charming, and that’s just as good, and left me hungry for more.

    • Muppetizer says:

      The little girl especially, *spoiler* given Vella quotes her in the final moments of the game *spoiler* I think it’s safe to say she had some effect or substance to her. She was just as much a free spirit (already having tried to jump off the clouds several times) as Vella and just as trapped by familial conventions as Vella had been in the beginning of the game.

      It felt as though the ship’s computer had some thinly veiled depth to her as well, both malevolent and benevolent.

      • PikaBot says:

        Yeah, if anything I thought the ‘smothering mother’ trope might be slightly problematic in Shay’s route, but in light of that ending I’d say all bets are off in the finished product.

    • Wulf says:

      Stopped by to see what they had to say. It’s New Vegas all over again, isn’t it? Double Fine is hardly a corporate empire, so they couldn’t exactly retaliate against this sort of sleazy attack dog behaviour.

      It just all feels played up to be clickbait. If RPS ever had any credibility, it has less so than the likes of Kotaku and Destructoid, now. The New Vegas review was the turning point for me and what soured me on the site as a whole. And I’ve seen far too many hints that the crew aren’t quite as bright as they pretend to be.

      The beauty and puzzles of Broken Age are of the mysteries inherent within the story, it’s of wonder and imagination. You take thought breaks to let new clues percolate, and you consider them, and learn from them. For example, I wonder how many people noticed the Mog Chothra infection inside the ship? The dangling dark grey cables which are a very dominant visual feature of Mog Chothra can be found here and there throughout the ship, and in the wolf bloke’s room, there are loads of them… not to mention the very techno-organic monitors which strike a very obvious dissonance against the aesthetic of the rest of the ship.

      Then there’s Project Dandelion, and what that means to the greater scope of the plot.

      There are so many genuinely fun and clever puzzles there for us to unravel. Sure, they’re not of the authentic sort, but they exist, in the same way they do in any good mystery novel. Which gives it more of that sort of feel. Perhaps it’s closer to something like the old Phoenix Wright games, which also encouraged speculation.

      To overlook these artfully crafted mysteries because it dun ‘ave dose advencher game mechanics wot I remember like is… well, repugnant.

      It’s a lovely game. And one that invites you to solve it.

      Instead of moaning like a bunch of cognitively and emotionally stunted neanderthals, we could be discussing the clues and having fun with the speculation! But no.

      • PikaBot says:

        I think accusations of clickbait are asinine. I don’t doubt that this is their honest opinion. I just disagree with it, and think that their description of the game is at best incomplete.

      • Martel says:

        I’d suggest deleting all of your post but the middle 3 paragraphs. That’s honest feedback, especially since those actually make a clean, coherent post without all that weird, angry internet man thing surrounding it.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        You had me at “percolate”…

        No, not really. You’ll look back at the way you used to write, in 15 years or so, and you’ll cringe.

      • tormos says:

        Those damned RPS types with their vicious attack dog behavior of…. saying that the game didn’t quite live up to expectations…

      • Sivart13 says:

        Somehow the word “clickbait” has become some next-level Godwin’s Law shit, where you can tell how anyone who spouts it doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

        “emotionally stunted neanderthals” indeed

        • Wisq says:

          Used to be, if you didn’t agree with the majority, we declared you a heretic and burnt you at the stake and whatnot. Now, we have to keep visiting your site (which we apparently hate) and repeatedly accuse you of “clickbait” until your audience sees the light.

          Such a burden … can’t we just go back to the old ways?

      • Lars Westergren says:

        You have good taste in games Wulf, and is passionate, which is good. When people have different opinions than you you seem to take it very personally and lash out angrily. That is less good.

        • Harlander says:

          Like everything, passion is something you can have too much of.

      • Wisq says:

        I was going to say your comment is clickbait (for the reply button) but I won’t because that would be taking the bait.

        … wait … damnit.

      • Frank says:

        I share your perspective on the game, but not on RPS. I guess they just happen to hate the modern games that I love.

        That doesn’t stop them from being a great PC gaming blog. I don’t really come here for the reviews, anyway.

  10. Moraven says:

    Best review I have seen of this. Everyone else gave it 8-10 scores and I just did not see it as I played. Other adventure games like Machinarium were better as a adventure and puzzle game.

    I wonder if they will bother to go back and fix any of the issues people have had with Part 1.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      I love adventure games and have done since the days of Maniac Mansion and the early Space Quest games. But the problem I had with Machinarium was the same as the problem I had with the Gobliiins games – there’s no real reward for solving the puzzles except for yet another screen full of puzzles, harder ones too.

      What set the Lucasarts and Sierra games apart for me was that solving a puzzle or a series of puzzles more often than not opened up more of the game to explore and revealed more of the plot and backstory, which was what kept me invested in solving the puzzles.

    • Caiman says:

      The best reviews are always the ones we agree with, right? From that perspective, I didn’t much like this review.

      • Convolvulus says:

        If that’s how you gauge reviews, why bother reading them?

      • Wisq says:

        I haven’t played it yet, so I hate all the reviews because I can’t agree with any of them.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          Wait a minute… If all mice are grey, then all elephants must be mice! Thank you so much, I had completely misunderstood logic until I saw it from your perspective. This should help my programming no end.

          • Emeraude says:

            All mice aren’t grey, that’s where you committed a mistake.

            Would work otherwise.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            That’s where the advanced logical concept of “if” comes in to play!

            The mice, by contrast, come in to play through holes in the skirting board.

          • Emeraude says:

            I thought “Would work otherwise.” was indication enough that this was meant to be a joke…

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Well that bit did, the first bit rubbed me up the wrong way though. I’m probably just in a bad mood.

            Back on topic, I think it’s only natural for people to find reviews they agree with to be good reviews. This doesn’t imply that people only like reviews they agree with, but that they are more likely to enjoy reading a review that confirms their own conclusions about a game. I don’t think anyone can deny this with full honesty.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        It’s hard to deny the truth in this.

  11. Morlock says:

    I don’t get the comparisons with Telltale. The newer Telltale games have such a different philosophy – they tell a story in a very cinematic way, require occasional input and offer a way to express your reaction to what’s happening. I wouldn’t even call Walking Dead and Wolfamongous adventures.

    Broken Age *is* a classic adventure in its core, the only issue is that the puzzles are so easy.

    It reminds me more of Loom than anything else. A fantastical story narrated through somewhat shallow adventure gameplay.

    • malkav11 says:

      You’re talking late Telltale, they’re talking early Telltale – i.e., the abortive Bone series, the first season of Sam and Max, etc.

  12. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Lovely, lovely opening paragraph. Gave me a good chuckle.

  13. fupjack says:

    The whole “there needs to be a to-look-at action” and “The puzzles were too easy” sort of attitude confuses me. Harder puzzles just means lots more people don’t finish the game. That’s a crazy problem to give yourself when it’s a 2-part game and you want people to pick up the sequel.

    That was one of the problems with adventure games – people get stumped and give up. Grim Fandango is really neat but I’ve never been able to make it to the end. It seems a sort of false goal to aspire to, as in it means less people see the story – which is the point of it, not the puzzle exercises.

    • Moraven says:

      Machinarium did it well with the optional hint system, which still did not completely give it all away.

      • Acorino says:

        I never finished Machinarium nevertheless, because I got stuck. I don’t want to leave the game world to enter a purposefully compartmentalized section of the game to get a hint. Hints should be a natural part of the design and be findable inside the game world. I’m glad Broken Age didn’t include a hint system, though it maybe overdid it with hints in certain places.

    • lautalocos says:

      i too also prefer easier adventure games. i tried many times with the genre, but almost always i was drawn away by trying every obeject against every object against every item in my inventory.

      with broken age i didnt have that problem. but still, i really didn´t find anything particularly good in the game.

      again, im not someone that likes this genre a lot, so my opinions is different that most people.

    • malkav11 says:

      I heartily agree with you, and since I found Broken Age’s world(s) lovely and intelligent and very worth exploring and the story nuanced and surprising, I was pleased to see that the puzzles were largely gentle, flowing affairs where exploration and poking at things naturally revealed the appropriate courses of action. This is and always has been how I enjoy adventure game puzzles. Puzzles where I am flat out stumped for any length of time and have to put things down or go elsewhere are moodbreakers and roadblocks to fun, imho.

      That’s not to say I dislike puzzles, only that I don’t think adventure games benefit from really brain-burning puzzles, especially given that it’s far more common for me to get stuck on them because of missing a clickable pixel or explorable area or failing to grok all my options because of strange and/or illogical interactions than it is for them to be legitimately challenging. I’d much rather get my puzzles in the form of a straight up puzzle game that’s got each puzzle laid out all at once and has clear cut rules that I have to master, like in games like the DROD series or Picross. (Also, fuck real-time puzzles, not that that’s particularly common in adventure games. Just saying.)

      That said, the peach puzzle was the one place I was stuck in Broken Age, and it’s because it’s possible to get the peach long before you have any idea what to do with it and then dispose of it equally well in advance. I eventually figured that they must have left the ability to return to the clouds for a reason and poked around until I hit the peaches again, but, ugh.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        Well written. I agree completely with everything you said.

    • PedroTheHutt says:

      More options would’ve meant more flavour dialogue, not just more complex puzzles, just looking at everything and seeing what Guybrush had to say about it was part of the fun of Monkey Island, or trying other actions that wouldn’t really make sense, a lot of things had hidden flavour dialogue.

      And well, like the article states, this Kickstarter was aimed at his long time fans, the people who played Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle, they were wishing for a game with smart puzzle design and tons of witty dialogue. I can’t blame anyone who backed it for feeling a bit betrayed that what they got instead was an easy game meant for the iOS market and casual PC gamers, rather than for the people who actually supported the project.

      Personally, I’m pretty glad I didn’t back it in the day simply because I felt that you shouldn’t back a project you have no information AT ALL on.

      • Acorino says:

        Personally, this Kickstarter exceeded my expectations, I’m already more than happy with what I got. So I don’t agree that the backers, the people the Kickstarter was aimed at, are left out in the cold. I also don’t feel like I didn’t get a true adventure game or something lesser aimed towards a different crowd.
        Besides: the dialogues aren’t witty? Is that even in question? I guess you mean there just isn’t enough witty dialogue (though commanding “look at” usually results in a monologue, but whatev)

    • taristo says:

      Removing puzzles from Adventure games is like removing the shooting from FPS, the strategy from RTS or the interactive from interactive movie games. At that point maybe you should ask yourself if you even like Adventure games at all in the first place and wouldn’t have rather watched a well-animated Pixar/Dreamworks/Disney movie instead and been better served that way.

      This is especially unfortunate because people getting stuck in Adventure games can be helped with a hint system or possibly pick an “Easy” Mode skipping over some of the harder puzzles, or at worst look into a Walkthrough (which nowadays are a Shift+Tab away on Steam) while other people breezing through them who want tougher and more interesting puzzles can’t be helped in the same way.
      And it’s doubly unfortunate because Schafer wooed people with the promise of an amazing “old-school Adventure game” and that is what funded the production in the first place so that is kind of what a lot of people expected.

      It’s the same old story of dumbed down mechanics to appease some sort of perceived broad market that may or may not be ther.

      • Wisq says:

        Yes, it seems like we should have harder puzzles, but also more granular difficulty settings. Like a setting to highlight important items, say, or to have your character say more about their situation / problem at hand (perhaps even talk to themselves). Something that feels natural and in-character, rather than forced and fourth-wall-breaking. Also, something you set ahead of time depending on your preferences, instead of always having hints or solutions be a click away where you risk getting dependent on them.

        Ideally, the player who plays at the hardest difficulty gets no help at all and must really think/struggle their way through everything, while the player who plays at a moderate difficulty gets some good challenges and the easy-mode player gets to breeze on through. All without any player feeling like they’re being cheated of the experience, or that the puzzles are too hard/frustrating, or that they’re being hand-held.

        It’s tricky, but I think it could be done with enough playtesting? Too bad that seems to be something that gets offloaded onto the players these days.

        • Acorino says:

          My presumption is that the game is as easy as it is because Double Fine did playtest Broken Age. You can see in the documentary how they conduct playtests and also hints of how they balance a puzzle (specifically the one of Shay breaking out of the routine).

          • Wisq says:

            Playtesting only delivers the desired results if your playtesters include a sampling of all the desired groups. The fact that people think the puzzles are too easy (note: not played, no opinion here) suggests that either their playtesting audience was not wholly representative of their desired audience, or their desired audience didn’t include people who wanted hard puzzles, or they just didn’t have the time/money/desire to make a game that could scale to different parts of their audience so they went for the lowest common denominator (within reason).

            In any case, I’m not saying they didn’t playtest; I’m just thinking that a tiered difficulty system would require a lot of playtesting to get right, if someone chose to do that.

      • malkav11 says:

        But Broken Age absolutely is an old school adventure game. It’s just that it happens to be a fairly easy one so far. Supposedly Act 2 will feature harder puzzles, the idea, I guess, being that act 1 is acclimating you to how the world works and what sort of things you can expect to encounter and that act 2 will use those principles in more challenging ways. Not sure how I feel about that.

      • Acorino says:

        How did you get the idea that Broken Age hasn’t any puzzles? It has lots of puzzles, just easy ones.
        Of course the question is: Can you call something a puzzle that isn’t a challenge? Maybe not, but then, that’s extremely subjective, right? A certain puzzle may be easy for you, you may solve it immediately as you realize the problem or even solve it accidentally before encountering the problem, but another person may be stuck on the same questionable puzzle for hours.
        Does a FPS or RTS stop being what they are as soon as they’re easy to beat? Of course not.

        Broken Age has the mechanics that are expected of an oldschool adventure game: pointing and clicking, dialogue tress, inventory combinations. But only because it’s too easy it can’t be a true oldschool adventure game? I call bullshit on that one.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, one of the many things that delighted me about the game was that I never felt like looking up a walkthrough.

      If it weren’t for the quality of all the other parts, the so-easy-a-human-can-solve-it-by-thinking puzzles might be annoying or boring, but I really enjoyed spending time in that world and with its characters (neither of which are awfully “problematic” as far as I am concerned). Really, I loved the blind folks’ riddle, and enjoyed all of the foreshadowing, too. I’m in the “adventure games died for a reason” camp (citation: link to ), and like this game and The Walking Dead far more than any of ye olde classics.

      EDIT: Oh, I backed the project, but on the strength of Psychonauts and Stacking (which attacked some problems with adventure games, like an incredibly sparse population and annoying inventory management, in a very cool way). Monkey Island was funny, and insult swordfights are an excellent contribution to world culture, but I’m very glad they didn’t retread that ground, which, in case John wasn’t paying attention, is actually what Telltale was trying to do in its early, frankly unfun, games (I’m looking at Sam & Max here).

      • taristo says:

        Oh, they did “die” for a reason alright, only that article (that an awful lot of people seem to be taking seriously despite being parody) is as far away from it as can be. One thing they did get right is the game they took for their example.

        I’ll give you a hint.
        This is the game they are talking about (Gabriel Knight 3): link to
        This is Gabriel Knight 1: link to

  14. Moraven says:

    The fantastic writing also carries over in Broken Age’s great puzzle design. The logic here is on point, as Double Fine’s strange machinations all make wonderful sense inside the confines of the world. Combining items, navigating dialogue trees, and exploring the world all contain the same sort of joy that Schafer famously harnessed back in the ‘90s.

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

    Some said the puzzles were simple but still gave it 8+. Some said they were smart and great. But the general feeling I got is a lot of the current scores are pinned on DF delivering on a good P2. Its a ok start, but expect greatness coming soon, 9/10!

    On the early reviews and DF reputation along, I think they already sold the copies they needed to. If they deliver on Part 2, the poor Part 1 played by itself will probably be forgotten.

  15. Pazguato says:

    John: “I know I’ve banged on about it before, but the lack of a “look at” is just inexplicable.”

    :o This is getting boring…

  16. Ravenholme says:

    “John: I actually found Vella’s side to be problematic. It’s great that the female lead is independent, and wants to find rather than concede. That’s all good. But then absolutely every other woman or girl in the game is either a controlling mother, or a vain idiot. The message becomes, “Look how she’s not like the rest of women”. Which is a pretty gross message.

    Alec: Though in fairness all the men are fatuous. It’s unkind to everyone except Vella.”

    Sounds to me like they’ve simply added in the usual teenage idiom that they know better than their elders and that their elders are idiots for not seeing things their way. Teenagers, with all the hormones and emotions, are often not the most charitable in their perceptions of others. Since the game’s protagonists are teenagers, this may be an attempt to reflect that perspective, and given the game’s content/themes (as far as I am aware), I find that highly likely.

  17. Don Reba says:

    I really enjoyed the game, even though I did not expect to. Except for the peach puzzle. That was not cool.

  18. Pliqu3011 says:

    I really really liked it.
    The artstyle is perfect, and of such high quality that it could be mistaken for a Pixar film. The puzzles may not have been very hard, but I didn’t really miss them TBH. I think harder puzzles would not have fitted within the “flow” of the game.
    Completely disagree with John about the characters, as previous commenters mentioned the female characters were actually pretty diverse. I get the feeling he played this a while ago and forgot all female characters except Veila, the sacrifice girls and the old woman.
    I also really liked the voice acting, especially David Kaufman voicing Marek I thought was _spot-on_. I can’t think of any other combination of character and voice in a game or film recently that struck me as being so perfect.

    I wouldn’t rate it nearly as high as Machinarium for example (which is actually one of my favorite games of all time), but I still think Broken Age is a fantastic adventure game and I’m glad I backed their Kickstarter. True, it’s very different from DotT, FT and Psychonauts, but I gave my money so Tim Schafer and Double Fine could make the game _they envisioned_, not per se something “old-school” and retro, and I’m glad they did.

    • Premium User Badge

      Waltorious says:

      I also liked it a lot, and I’m a little surprised at the negativity in this post. But I also played over several sessions rather than all at once, which gave me time to think and mull things over in between. I think that helps. It’s true that it’s a different beast than Tim’s earlier games, but it’s still a great game, and I’m excited for the second half!

  19. Dave L. says:

    John, you need to stop harping about the lack of ‘look’ option and holding it up as evidence that this was meant to be a tablet game. It’s not that hard to implement a look option in a touch interface. What it does do, however, is exponentially increase the amount of dialogue that has to be written and recorded (you’ll need 2 or 3 lines each for every inventory item, every environment item that can be interacted with, every environment item that can’t be interacted with but looks like you might, completeley non-interactive things, and non-player characters), which brings with it a pretty significant cost increase. As soon as voice acting became a possibility, a ‘look’ option would’ve gone out the window, even if they hadn’t used the cast they have.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      More importantly, it is a valid design choice, and it’s very much possible that the major reason to have a single-click interface was neither because of tablets or voice budget. It could be a desire to use the cleanest possible interface. Yes, a look-at action can provide additional background and humour, but it (and mouse-over captions) hasn’t been necessary since graphics became good enough to not need those extra words. And, as I’m sure you know, it’s been used by PC games long before tablets with touchscreens. (Zork GI from 1997 comes to mind, but there are many other examples.) There’s nothing un-PC about the interface.

      I love the parser in text based games that have it (if it’s good – give me Inform or TADS rather than a home-brewn system, please), but that doesn’t mean there’s no room in the world for CYOA-style games where you pick your choices from a menu, or anything in between (which is where most graphical adventure games sit). The choice of interface is an important part of designing an adventure game, and I think this one suits the game.

      If you don’t like the choice, that’s fine, but I’d rather see you stating reasons why you don’t like it than going on about your speculations on why it was chosen.

      Edit: I just wanted to add that there has even been some parser based games that have done away with the “look”-verb, purely because of what they wanted do do with the game design. (No tablet or voice acting concerns in a pure text game!) Just because Zork I or Day of the Tentacle did something one way (and it worked) doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do things.

      • taristo says:

        “Yes, a look-at action can provide additional background and humour, but it (and mouse-over captions) hasn’t been necessary since graphics became good enough to not need those extra words.”
        Yes, and turn-based mechanics were just employed in games because of the limitations of the technology! Now that we have real time we don’t need that anymore. And strategy games are not contemporary anymore.

        I’ll have to think about all the great Adventure games and KickStarters coming like STASIS, Mage’s Initiation, Quest for Infamy, Spaceventure, Tex Murphy – Project Fedora, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, Blackwell Epiphany, Shadowgate, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 and so on now to get my blood pressure down again…

        • Wisq says:

          “Yes, a look-at action can provide additional background and humour, but it (and mouse-over captions) hasn’t been necessary since graphics became good enough to not need those extra words.”
          Yes, and turn-based mechanics were just employed in games because of the limitations of the technology! Now that we have real time we don’t need that anymore.

          I think you misunderstand the word “necessary”. Turn-based games haven’t been “necessary” since we had the technology to do real-time games. Does that mean we should have no turn-based games? Absolutely not. But it means we have a second option.

          The same as we should have an option to tell a game by the visuals, not by the “look at” button, and not be penalised for that.

          • Rikard Peterson says:

            Exactly, Wisq. (And the reason why I mentioned liking text games with parsers was to prevent comments like taristo’s.) There’s a place for both turn-based strategy and RTS games. It’d be pretty strange for a reviewer to complain that a new RTS is dumbed down for non-PC platforms because it’s not turn-based.

          • Emeraude says:

            Games haven’t been necessary since they’ve been created either…

    • Lemming says:

      I’m willing to bet that, had they been asked, all the backers would’ve prefered text on screen over voice actors if it meant a more complete product.

    • AngoraFish says:

      The fact that it very much feels like a tablet game would absolutely be my biggest criticism of it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        “It’s been funded by adventure game hardcore types but its eyes are apparently on the massively mainstream mega-cashpot” does appear to be a huge, huge betrayal of its Kickstarting punters. I’m surprised there isn’t more outrage about this, but for now we seem to have the awkward shuffling of feet that the Nice Man who made Good Games seems to be doing wrong, and perhaps that’s just a mistaken interpretation on our part and it’ll all be better in the next part right and we’ll look back on this uncertainty and laugh at how we foolishly wavered in our faith, ahahaha?

        • AngoraFish says:

          Indeed, there is a great deal of sunk cost fallacy-related optimism evident in much of the commentary.

    • Armante says:

      If I remember rightly, you can click on items in your inventory and you will get a line of dialogue about it. I don’t miss the endless “look at..” everything on screen because you were hunting for a solution.

      Games evolve and change. This is how the decided to go, and I’m fine with that. For what it’s worth, they’ve listened to criticism regarding the ‘tablet’ interface, and made some changes to the PC version.

    • Don Reba says:

      If the game was designed for a tablet, it would not have required you to mouse over things to find which are interactive, which is often not obvious. So, it was clearly not designed for a tablet.

  20. HothMonster says:

    What happened to Jim. Have you killed him? Did Horace grow bored and consume him?

    Sorry not article related just realizing I haven’t heard WOT he thinks in long time.

  21. Andy_Panthro says:

    I enjoyed it, but it all felt a little simple. It reminded me of Loom in a lot of ways, like each village having a particular theme and the puzzles being quite limited in both complexity and number.

    I wish they’d done a bit more with the ability to switch between characters, I feel like they really missed a trick there.

    I wrote a bit about it here: link to

  22. demicanadian says:

    I’d like to like this game. Unfortunately I once pre-ordered The Cave and now I can’t take anything from DF without boulder sized grain of salt…

    • Lemming says:

      Not having played this, but having played The Cave, it sounds like this suffers from a similar problem: it just doesn’t do much with the potential it lays the groundwork for and suddenly it’s over.

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        That’s too early to tell, as the end isn’t made yet, but if it lives up to what this first part promises, it’ll without a doubt be my game of the year. And it could end up being one of the greats.

  23. Vandelay says:

    John, you mention that there are many great modern adventure games around at the moment. Which would you recommend to someone who hasn’t played many?

    Personally, I enjoyed this more than you guys seemed to. I liked the recent Broken Sword too, but this was definitely stronger. I would could certainly do with some more intricate puzzles in part 2 though. As you say, they don’t need to be significantly harder, just enough to allow you to have that eureka moment. The piece you mention with the shrinking head worked to some extent for me, but there was little elsewhere. I think the feast sequence also bears mentioning, not because it was a particularly smart puzzle, but because it flowed very nicely, making me feel as if I was coming up with the solutions just in time.

    Also was thrown by the peach puzzle. Not because it took me ages, as I instantly just went through my inventory with the guards, but because I was so surprised when the peach worked. I think I must have been living in a bubble all my life, as I have only heard it referred to as a stone. Is it an Americanism? I heard it recently in an episode of Parks & Recreation too.

    Despite the puzzles, I did love the story and the art throughout, so that kept me coming back. The ending was really great, so definitely intrigued by what will come next in part 2.

    • s732 says:

      Some great ‘modern’ adventure games are made/published by Wadjet eye games. The Blackwell series is a really good place to start if you’re new to adventure gaming. Though the art style is based on the traditional 320×240 pixel style (Which I personally love). And Gemini Rue is a must play in my book.

      Other great modern point and clicks include The longest journey (depending on how modern you mean), Machinarium, The Whispered world, Samorost 2 and more.

      • Widthwood says:

        Of these Gemini Rue is not modern by any strech of imagination – it is virtually identical to a 20 year old Beneath a steel sky. Longest journey – is like what, 15 by now? It is like saying that Quake is modern FPS. Even Dreamfall is old by now.

        Samorost and Machinarium aren’t really the “those” adventure games, like Myst or Gone home or Stanley parable – each of them is more in their own category.

        So yeah, Whispered world and Deponia and Memoria. None of them is close to perfect, certainly no Grim Fandangos or Longest Journeys there. And a bunch of lesser ones like Jack keane, which I don’t even want to recall.

        • Acorino says:

          The Book of Unwritten Tales isn’t too old (from 2009 I think?) and one of the best relatively recently released adventure games there is, both in German and English. John should give a shoutout to the Kickstarter for the second installment, since he liked the first one so much.

          • Widthwood says:

            Hmm somehow always dismissed it mainly because of generic title (I beleive this is called kindom-of-amaluritis)
            Thanks for the tip :)

        • s732 says:

          Gemini Rue is like Beneath a steel sky? Really? Do you mean Primordia? Despite its strong similarities its a pretty neat adventure game. By modern I was thinking of not from the “golden age” though I admit/admitted that tlj is pushing it.

          I just interpreted that for someone who “hasn’t played many”, here were a few I enjoyed that they might like.

          John has provided some for you :)

          • Widthwood says:

            All of Wadjet Eye games are certainly NEW, but calling them “modern”… I guess we just mean different things by it.
            To me any game that is virtually indistinguishable from a 20-30 year old game in the same genre running inside DOSbox just can’t be called modern. Granted, adventures are a “special” genre of games and age much slower than others, but still – this a dead end of sorts, you just can’t copy old games forever and stay relevant for anyone but small group of hardcore fans..

  24. InternetBatman says:

    I really, really, really liked it, but I found the puzzles from the old LucasArts games something to be suffered through, not enjoyed. I’m also a backer, so I’m far from a neutral party.

    It wasn’t quite as funny as I expected, more along the lines of Costume Quest, but I don’t know how you didn’t laugh at the talking tree.

    “They created an abortive and unsatisfying experience, when what they need is to somehow figure out a way to sell an awful lot of copies to people who didn’t already buy the game two years ago.
    Alec: Yes, and while this feels lavish it is very hard, from an armchair producer point of view, to see why they needed even more money. Other than for voice actors.”

    This is a bit of a cheap shot. Judge the game, not the development process.

    • Acorino says:

      I agree, a game should be judged on its own merits.
      And I might even prefer that we got some time to chew on the excellent ending. And much less than Dreamfall gave us, too, ha!

  25. Carra says:

    I enjoyed it except for a few issues.

    I blazed through the puzzles of the boys story. But then the peach puzzle? I didn’t even pick it up in the cloud section. Good game design would have made sure that I had it when I descended without even being able to go back up.

    Also, why does everyone think it’s ok to sacrifice their daughters? It’s just spooky.

    • Acorino says:

      I disagree. Good game design would have made sure that you haven’t the peach when you encounter the riddle. Because otherwise it’s a backwards puzzle where you have the solution right as you encounter the problem or even before. I think there should have been more ways to lose the peach. Because what happened to me was – I heard the riddle, looked into my inventory, saw the peach and immediately connected the dots. The solution was found too fast.

      To go on a general rant: I don’t think Broken Age is a badly designed adventure game overall (compared to other, even highly regarded adventure games). But its puzzle design is flawed, for sure. But then Grim Fandango was tedious to control, had obscure puzzles whose logic didn’t even become obvious after they got solved, Full Throttle had the awful Mine Road and Destruction Derby sequences and the junkyard puzzle which inexplicably can only be solved one way even though other ways would make just as much sense, oh and the “click the right spot to kick the wall at”…geez, what did people expect from Tim Schafer, seriously? All his adventure games had serious design flaws! In my estimation Broken Age is the best designed adventure game of the ones he designed on his own, by far!

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > Also, why does everyone think it’s ok to sacrifice their daughters? It’s just spooky.

      It is subtly hinted at (perhaps too subtly), that some people are just very afraid. If you speak out against human sacrifice, you might be next after all. Though some like Lavinia just seem to be very conservative “this is how we’ve always done it” persons who lack empathy, and place their own social status above the lives of the girls.

  26. Lemming says:

    I’m hoping it sets itself back on course for the second half, as I won’t be buying it until it’s finished, but that doesn’t sound promising. Getting everyone who loved the classic adventure games to back it then pull a switcharoo to make it into a half-arsed ipad game is pretty fucking poor from Double Fine.

    • PikaBot says:

      They promised to make an adventure game, and to be Double Fine. They made an adventure game, and continue to be Double Fine. I don’t see this supposed switcheroo.

      Although I’m sure some of the backers had visions of text parsers dancing in their heads, the reality is that Double Fine didn’t promise to resurrect the SCUMM engine, or to make Day of the Tentacle 2: Tentacle Harder, or indeed much of anything. Their pitch was so vague that if it wasn’t the first big Kickstarter campaign and it didn’t have Double Fine’s name attached to it, it would have been laughed off of the internet.

      Whether it meets your personal expectations or not, they’ve done exactly as they promised – or will have done once act II is finished, anyway. Accusations of bad faith are pretty uncalled for.

  27. Phantom_Renegade says:

    I think what I liked most was the art. The gameplay was bad, when it wasn’t being terrible, the story was all over the place, some of it great, some of it awful. And the big reveal was glaringly obvious from almost the get-go. The smaller reveals were slightly less obvious, but I’m hoping that this trend doesn’t continue. The voice cast was mostly good, with Jack Black being a bit disappointing. At the end of the game though, and indeed all the way through, the only character I cared the least bit about was Vella.

    Also, everyone in Vella’s world is ridiculously insane, sacrificing young girls and actually thinking it’s a fantastic idea rather then a vile stopgap measure? Me liking Vella might have to do with her being the only character not holding the idiot ball. On the other hand I quite like her attitude towards the whole thing.

    The less said about the actual puzzles, the better.

    As for the look thing, I’m actually not fussed about that. It’s rather redundant now that we have actual graphics to look at, and the adventure games that do still have them either use them as pointless filler, or they just serve to hold things up. I can read a book before having to look at it and go “Oh it’s a book, I can read that!”

    Soundtrack was alright, but I guess after recently playing ACIV, SRIV, Bastion, Monaco and Brutal Legend, I might be a bit spoiled when it comes to soundtracks.

    Mixed bag in all. I fucking adore the artstyle and would probably have bought the game for that alone. They ever release an artbook for this I’ll snap that up like nobody’s business. But the 2nd coming of Schafer this is not. If this the best he can do storywise, it’s likely my last time kickstarting him. But the 2nd half might still blow me away. I’d even accept more delays if that means a better experience. Just…sometime this decade please?

  28. Viceroy Choy says:

    I absolutely loved Broken Age, something I can’t say about adventure games in general. The only developer whose adventure games that I particularly enjoy are Amanita’s (didn’t quite gel with Machinarium but fucking adored Botanicula) because there isn’t as large a focus on unintuitive “puzzle solving” as there is on “look around this crazy and gorgeous world, also here are some light puzzles maybe.”

  29. Acorino says:

    So then, we’re agreed, 10/10, the greatest adventure game since the last time we remember playing an adventure game which was in about 1998 maybe! Wait, no, sorry, I was thinking of ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE ELSE.

    Gamespot 7/10
    Eurogamer 7/10
    God is a Geek 7/10
    Gameplanet 7/10
    Game Front 7/10
    Metro 7/10
    Metacritic 81/100

    Basically: Shut up, John.

    Also: Did your father ever play The Longest Journey? I’m sure he would find a lot more to curse about in that game…

    • Gap Gen says:

      EDIT: Sorry, misunderstood your post (and what John said the first time I read it)

  30. jfrisby says:

    I personally like the “stop-start-what-the-hell-do-I 90s ethos” and think it’s pretty core to the experience, along with enough stuff to interact with in the meantime..

  31. mickygor says:

    I never completed any of the 90s games, despite being totally enamoured with all of Schaefer’s works without even realising he’d worked on them at the time, simply due to the level of complexity and obscurity with the puzzles and pixel-finding. As such, I really enjoyed Broken Age. Not too challenging, good flow, likeable leads, and a great setting. A game you could happily play through with kids, too. Looking forward to part 2 now.

  32. _Nocturnal says:

    It saddens me that my most reliable source of joyful videogame coverage doesn’t like a game as much as I do. I’m pretty sure I can’t agree with most of your criticisms towards the game, either. Still, thanks for trying a second time to express where you’re coming from. Now let me hug that grumpiness out of you two!

  33. taristo says:

    1: The word “problematic” should be banned from existence since it apparently lost all meaning.

    2: I think animation and art cost the most, they even contracted an external studio for said things: link to

    3: Regarding the cost I am always reminded of this citation by Daedalic founder Carsten Fichtelmann:
    “I unfortunately have to admit that the combined budget of Edna’s Breakout, Harvey’s New Eyes, 1.5 Knights, Deponia, Chaos on Deponia, Goodbye Deponia, A New Beginning, The Whispered World, Satinav’s Chains, Memoria, 1954: Alcatraz and The Night of the Rabbit was less than 3M Euro. These are 11 adventure games with a mean length of usually 10 hours. None of these titles is just average! I have no idea what we’d do with 3M. A Heavy Rain, maybe. Should I be depressed? I just think it’s alarming that TS wanted to have 0.3M $ and now 3M are not enough. By the way, Deponia 1-3 is more than 40 HOURS long (!) and competes internationally, everywhere.”

    • Widthwood says:

      This quote is funny in a way, because it means since adventure game fans just threw 3 million for a promise, and they didn’t buy actual games Daedalic makes – perhaps there is some problem with them, and their length doesn’t matter much.

      Following that logic it means if Tim made a game like a Daedalic one – it would have disappointed most of his bakers since they obviously don’t like them.

  34. Gap Gen says:

    “From the distant, waterlogged land of Bath Spa, John Walker sits at a keyboard and dreams of another world. A world by the sea.”

    Have you *seen* Somerset lately?

  35. Bull0 says:

    You didn’t laugh at the talking spoon or the yarn buddies? Heart of stone, you.

    • Gap Gen says:

      The talking knife was amazing. I also had a lot of fun cycling through all the cereals, although I think one of them gave me a crash bug?

  36. ixatapa says:

    “I was expecting the boy, Shay, to be brash and go-getting, whereas he’s resigned and hesitant and weak, and entirely dependent on children’s items. Vella I’d expected to be cute and inquisitive and helpful, whereas she’s brash and go-getting.”

    Aren’t your expectations very stereotypical of child characters? Their actual design seems to go against stereotypes which is a good thing

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, that comment felt a bit weird to me. Isn’t it good that culture is moving away from slender, snow-white maidens cowering behind the rippling muscles of a stoic warrior? Plus, it kinda makes sense in the fiction – Vella may well have learned her warrior spirit from her grandfather (I guess? or she should be independently badass, or nouveau-badass as the salons are calling it these days), whereas Shay would likely be depressed and demotivated from years of being trapped in the same environment with no human contact.

      I thought the fact that all the other girls wanted to be eaten was OK – it seemed more like a comment on how weird society can be and how it programs us to think bizarre things rather than a criticism of people who have a higher risk of osteoporosis but a lower risk of haemophilia.

  37. Pneuma_antilogias says:

    Broken Age is one of those games I really wanted to like but can’t quite get myself to do.

    I’ve backed this project on KS and I feel that something is seriously amiss when, the most interesting part by far, is the accompanying documentary.

    A documentary which was supposed to have cost 100,000, back when the game was supposed to take 300,000 to make, before the huge success that changed (?) the way games are funded. Forever. Or until one of those great Kickstarter successes turns out to be a flop.

    Broken Age is by no means a flop, far from it. Its art is beautiful, it has lots of interesting ideas, even if nothing found in Act 1 is quite groundbreaking, while some of the puzzles and concepts are mediocre, at best (the “blind guards”, in particular, is at some turns of the dialogue too creepy to be funny. It’s ok, at times it’s even good, but not the great success I was hoping for.

    Parallel stories have been done before, with much better results (as in the case of the sublime Day of the Tentacle, for example) and strong, independent, daring heroes are not exactly a groundbreaking concept.

    For me, the basic problem with the game is that the story incorporates many interesting ideas, but does not spend enough time on each of those ideas to flesh it out sufficiently -let alone make me care about the people I meet. Cloud Colony could have been a setting for an entire game in its own right, and we get to blast past it in a couple of hours, and that’s really stretching how long you can spend “exploring” its limited settings. As for the Lumberjack, that was a cameo appearance par excellence.

    In short, Broken Age feels like a short stop to visit some ancient ruin, with the tourists going “aaah” and “oooh” and “isn’t this lovely”, but not quite connecting to what they see. A brief encounter with a potentially -but not quite- charming supporting cast, potentially -but not quite- interesting settings, a potentially -but not quite- great game.

    Here’s hoping that Act 2 is better. Much better, please, DoubleFine.

  38. sharkh20 says:

    I enjoyed it. Kind of regret not waiting for the second half as it kind of kills the puzzle difficulty progression. Typically puzzles go from easy to hard as you progress through a game. This goes from easy to easyish medium possibly because it’s only the first half.

  39. ZoddGuts says:

    Yeah, didn’t feel this game was great by any means. It was fun but was lacking in several areas. Too few puzzles and the one’s that were in the game were too damn easy.

  40. socrate says:

    i never found these game that entertaining to “play” if you really can call that playing….its just a bunch of find what to do with which item combination to me its really dull and boring with a story that is linear and usually yes its good…but is it fun to play?no not at all.

    The big problem that this showed to people who weren’t informed on this yet is that most dev tend to over spend and are horrible at managing money…indie would tend to actually put everything on their project even to a point of putting their house or life saving on the line to create what they thought was the project of their dream…today you have people who just ask for money and the people are such idiot that they will throw it at anything and when its not your money and you have no risk of losing anything you really wont do your maximum to actually make something good and great…these company always overspend and that is why people don’t like doing business with them…they are just horrible at managing money,time and people…that is the biggest flaw in today game making industry…thus why no one will want to take risk on new concept or actually think of something “good” because making another dumb twitch based FPS will be a sure hit and kickstarter offer no risk at all for them for bringing “old good game” which always end up being quite lesser and extremely forgettable experience…yes some actually made good thing…but to me very few will be remembered in a few year.