Wot I Think: Broken Age Act 2

Over a year since the first act was belatedly released, Double Fine’s seminal Kickstarter project Broken Age is now complete. Act 1 was bursting with potential, if a somewhat flawed PC adventure. Obviously this review is of the second half of a game, so will contain some light spoilers for the core plot (but avoids most). Can it live up to the potential it suggested in its first half? Here’s wot I think:

Broken Age was never meant to be in two parts. It was a necessity of the way the game was produced, but it was never intended. It’s hard to say how much of a role this plays in Act 2’s being quite such a poor experience. Where so much was forgiven of Act 1 with the expectation of delivery, Act 2 is its failure to arrive. It is the gaming equivalent of the air being slowly let out of a whoopee cushion. The vast majority is spent retreading locations that had already out-stayed their welcome in the first half, negotiating obfuscated puzzles solved in the arbitrary order of the designer’s mind, building to a climax that could only ever be a damp squib thanks to the entire failure of this closing part to do a single interesting thing with the plot. It’s very pretty though. And the voices are great.

Choosing not to start, a year on, with a previously-on is an odd choice. Unless you’ve got a superb memory you’re either going to have to replay the first part, or read a summary of what happened, as there is no effort made in this second edition to remind you of anything that’s happened, or who anyone is.

Instead the game picks up as if it stopped only yesterday, with the two central characters having swapped locations. Shay is now in Vella’s realm, Vella on Shay’s ship/monster. And in doing so, don’t expect to be quickly whisked away to new, exciting locations. Nearly the entire game is spent in old ground, with the previous cast, just now with the other kid. And despite never having met, nor having any given motivation for any of their actions, both Shay and Vella appear driven by an implausible need to rescue each other. You’re apparently supposed to believe that and go with it.

So much that was wrong with the first part has been entirely untouched. The PC build still behaves exactly as if it were on a tablet, having to drag items from your inventory and let go of them over objects, as if guiding them with your finger. Its graphics options are still a confusing mess. And no, as expected, there’s no addition of the vital “look at” interaction that is so core to the genre.

The cursor is still clumsy, enormous – again as if for a tablet, not a PC – and so you’ll still mis-click conversation options all the damn time. Oh, and the ridiculous eight save slots the game came with? Not only does that remain, but you’ll have to use the same eight for this one. (Head into your Steam directory for the game, the saves are in there, so copy them to a back-up folder if you want to preserve them. This obviously shouldn’t be necessary.)

Worse, this time so much is so loose. This is exemplified in each half’s opening moments. Right at the start of Shay’s adventure, there’s the green mayor dude choking on a pipe. The spoon in your inventory comments that he needs to be squeezed to be helped with his struggle. But there’s no option to just help him. Shay won’t even try. He’ll just talk to him, stand there watching him choking. The ‘correct’ solution of course being utterly ridiculous. At the start of Vella’s portion, she’s floating in zero gravity, unable to move, but next to a grabby hand about which she observes, “Wow, it seems really interested in boots.” There are boots in Vella’s inventory! This must be a solution. Use them. “It doesn’t seem interested.” (My emphasis.)

And so it goes on, with obvious solutions unrecognised, and the correct paths obfuscated, inevitably requiring traipsing back and forth multiple times across expanses of the game. (They added a double-click to leave a scene, but because nearly every screen scrolls, it’s utterly useless. You will spend huge amounts of time just watching Shay run up and down a hill.)

Logic is so often absent, too. You’re on the ship, you discover people in direct danger of starvation, and it doesn’t occur to anyone that Vella might discuss this with an adult authority figure with whom she has direct contact. Conversation options rarely pop up for major discoveries, making you feel distant from the game. What you’re seeing and realising isn’t reflected by the characters. And the sheer agony I felt when I apparently incorrectly ‘solved’ that particular puzzle and found some sodding food, and Vella refused to touch it “in case it’s poison” pretty much sealed my feelings for the game.

The story, the dominant and warm factor in the first half, here has become a thin tarpaulin strung over the awkward frame of the puzzle structure. Where asking someone a question or directly approaching a challenge would make far more narrative sense, its absence is not even excused away. Instead you must trawl through trying everything on everything, or stumbling upon the few pixels of the sole interactive region of a location that you’d missed, until you can brute force your way past the issue.

And yes, there’s still no option for highlighting interactive objects. That’s fine when such things naturally stand out from the background, or when each screen is so bursting with things to look at or explore than you’ll enjoy the process of finding them. But Broken Age’s locations remain as interactively barren as before, with no obvious difference between the many non-interactive interesting items you can’t look at, and the dull thing you can.

It remains as beautiful as the first half, but that’s mostly because it is the first half. The same locations, some slightly redressed, most left identical, with the same characters, often in the same places. By the end there are a few new screens, and again, they’re beautiful. The animations are wonderful, the pastels-drawing style utterly sumptuous.

And the voice work is, again, incredible. Some of the best ever. Wil Wheaton’s lumberjack is properly funny (one of very few characters to actually do jokes in an extremely sombre game), Elijah Wood is once again unrecognisable and superb, and as with last time, the best actor is the bloke who paid enough on Kickstarter to take part. Jack Black is more disappointingly Jack Black this time out, and his character’s arc is particularly awful, but this is top-of-the-range voice acting throughout.

So often, I found myself infuriated not because I couldn’t solve a puzzle (I finished the game in two sessions (before Double Fine produced a walkthrough for frustrated reviewers), occasionally flipping to the other character when too annoyed at a series of logical dead ends), but because finding the solution required a tedious process of eliminating incorrect routes. The climactic puzzle, which I obviously won’t spoil, was by far the worst example – having to negotiate multiple stages of distraction/repair/location/action in the “right” order, with two characters, where switching between them arbitrarily resets the progress of the other. (To the utterly ludicrous point where a carefully distracted character in a different location mysteriously teleports back to undo your hard work if you have the temerity to switch characters when the backward-designed puzzle doesn’t want you to.)

So often solving the puzzles wasn’t about moments of inspiration and twisted imagination, but about attempting to reverse engineer the thinking of the designer. If it’s not X, and it’s not Y, and it’s not Z, then perhaps they were intending you to do Q? F? Oh, it was P. Sure, great, move on.

Oh, and one particular bloody puzzle involving abstract descriptions of knots deserves its own book to properly break down just how utterly dreadful it really is.

For me, what’s most sad here is the absolute flop of the plot. What had seemed like a build-up to a really smart exploration of coming-of-age moments, the struggles of teenagers in abandoning their childhood to accept their adulthood, is revealed to be an extremely patronising adult perspective of an adolescent outlook. The big reveal about Shay is particularly bothersome (and definitely makes little narrative sense when properly considered). Vella, who had already been granted with Magical Adult Wisdom Her Parents Didn’t Possess, was always going to struggle to go anywhere interesting. But Shay’s situation, being held back by his childhood and oppressive parents, had so much potential. It’s pissed away.

The final moment is so emotionless, so utterly devoid of pathos, that when the credits rolled I just thought “Oh.” That really wasn’t anything I was expecting after hopes raised by the first act.

In the end, Broken Age Act 2 is a retreading of Act 1, with limited new aspects, convoluted and deeply flawed puzzles, and seemingly no learned lessons in the last year’s extra development. It’s still a tablet game awkwardly placed on PC, with little extraneous detail to interact with in any scene, no ability to “look at” anything and as such losing so much of what makes graphic adventures so endearing, and this time out, the addition of being an extended anti-climax.

Broken Age Act 1 was often frustrating, but extraordinarily charming. Two endearing leads, and this apparent interest in deeply exploring the awkwardness and challenges of the transition from childhood to adulthood, of becoming who you are and not who your parents intended you to be. Act 2 feels like a betrayal of that potential. It just unambitiously rolls toward its nothing conclusion, that perhaps answers narrative questions about why there was a monster/ship (in a clumsy way), but fails to address anything that actually mattered about the characters themselves.

Bah. That’s what I say. Bah. I had hoped that Act 2 would be the addressing of Act 1’s shortcomings, and deliver on its strengths, what had seemed so heartfelt and novel. Instead it’s an incredibly pretty, superbly voice acted, crap adventure game.

From this site

123 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Maybe we can have online multiplayer for Gang Beasts, now.

  2. Runty McTall says:

    So…a 7?

    • zenmumbler says:

      Funny you’d say as I read a quick PC Gamer review linked from Steam after this one and while it basically agrees with this review (overly tedious puzzles and design sloppiness but still pretty with some fun moments) it’s a bit more polite about and then hands it a … 73 out of 100.

      • melnificent says:

        100 point scales become 70-100 once a publication reaches a certain size/readership/advert potential. It’s a shame as there are lots of interesting games that would be rewarded with a full use of the scale. With some, like this, being a warning instead.

      • disconnect says:

        73%, you say?

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    I loved part 1, and I am looking forward to playing part 2 this week.

  4. Alien says:

    The one thing I have really learned when playing Broken Age: Most of the immersion and atmosphere is lost when the “look at” button is missing.

    BTW: Will there be a review of “Uncanny Valley”?

  5. Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

    “and as with last time, the best actor is the bloke who paid enough on Kickstarter to take part.”

    Which is whom?

    • KillahMate says:

      John mentioned him in his Act 1 review:
      “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.”

  6. The First Door says:

    I must admit, I rather disagreed with you about Broken Age: Act 1, so I’m still very excited to play Act 2. Plus… to be honest why wouldn’t I just play through Act 1 again before playing Act 2? Of course I’ve forgotten lots of it, and I doubt a ‘previously on’ would cover enough.

  7. Humppakummitus says:

    It’s hard to be negative when all the screenshots are so lovely. Snake hugs!

  8. XhomeB says:

    Just buy The Journey Down, people. Exactly the kind of adventure people backing Schafer’s kickstarter dreamt of. It’s excellent, wonderfully crafted, insanely atmospheric and didn’t have the budget or any big names behind it.

    Quite funny and sad at the same time that pretty much every adventure released last year – Tesla Effect (which was flat out awesome, despite having been made on a shoestring kickstarter budget), Broken Sword 5, Blackwell Epiphany, Ether One – I enjoyed much more than this… thing made with tablets and children in mind.

    • davethejuggler says:

      The book of unwritten tales 2 was pretty great as well. Shame about this, but after the first half it felt a bit inevitable to me.

      • XhomeB says:

        TBoUT2 is great, no doubts about it. I was talking about 2014 releases, though.

        • demicanadian says:

          Hm… To me Sleeping Dragon was pretty rad. I mean story-wise, it wasn’t Broken Sword at all (it was 100% Gabriel Knight game)., but gameplay-wise it was everything that’s awesome in in Broken Sword – non-obvious puzzles, that feel real life-like, and you never have a problem of “what I need it do?”, only “how should I do it?”

    • quintesse says:

      You liked Broken Sword 5? I bought it because I loved the earlier ones but I thought this last one was actually pretty crap. I wouldn’t ever pre-order anything of them again. Huge disappointment.

      • XhomeB says:

        Liked it more than BS3&4. Now, those were rather bad – BS5, while far from perfect (agree here), felt like a solid return to what once made the series work.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      I would add The Inner World to the list. It seems to be the only P&C game that John really praised in the recent years. I only got to play it last month and I must say that the praise was justified.

    • CWeber says:

      “Just buy The Journey Down, people. Exactly the kind of adventure people backing Schafer’s kickstarter dreamt of.”

      Hello no! Did you even play any classics? The Journey Down has absolutely boring side characters who add nothing, the environment is completely dead (no background gags, nothing of interest), the dialogues are dry, the riddles are far too easy. I always cringe when people say that this game (which is btw. nowhere near finished) is the wet dream of P&C-players. It’s not! It’s technically very well done but lacks of everything else what makes this genre so great. If that’s your kind of entertainment, then go ahead.

  9. Monggerel says:

    RPS: Do you think you’re a pathological liar?

    Tim: That’s a very…

    RPS: FALL TO YOUR KNEES AND LAMENT

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Well, that made me chuckle for more than anything in Act 1.

      I don’t regret backing the game ($100 – what was I thinking?!) but it’s certainly turned out to be one of the more disappointing Kickstarters I’ve backed. But hey, we were young and impressionable back then.

      • fdisk says:

        At least you have the decency to understand that’s on you. I don’t think your expectations for a $100 adventure game would have ever been met; I backed it at $15 and feel I got far more than my money’s worth (I consider the documentary alone to be worth more than that)

        My number 1 Kickstarter rule: Back at the lowest level. It’s not a pre-order, there’s always a risk you lose your money. At this point I’ve backed shit I’ve literally forgotten about, so when it finally comes out I’m super pleasantly pleased I spent $15 2-3 years earlier LOL

        • spacedyemeerkat says:

          Oh, gosh. The amount I backed it for doesn’t matter one bit to me. I’d have felt as disappointed with the game if I’d pledged $15. It was all just a bit too twee for my taste but that’s part of the gamble and I’m happy to have played.

    • Azagthoth says:

      I got it! Thanks for making me feel clever.
      On a more serious note, it is sad that it seems double fine will never recreate the greatness of e.g. Psychonauts.

  10. Fathom says:

    Between this and the Molyneux interview, I can’t help but feel RPS has just become assholes trying to get hits for saying mean things rather than legitimate “gaming journalists”, whatever that means anymore. This review is just bitter.

    • PearlChoco says:

      This review indeed sounds a bit bitter. Not like the Molyneux interview of course, but still… sounds like BA is one of the worst adventure games ever. I wonder how many people will agree.

      • John Walker says:

        That’s a very peculiar thing to read into it. It’s clearly not one of the worst adventures ever – this is a genre that has plummeted to depths deeper than any other. It is, as the review says, “crap”. It’s the worst adventure Schafer’s ever been involved in, certainly. But then, he’s created the best ones ever.

        • ssh83 says:

          It’s ok John. After playing Act 2 myself with early access… I think it’s not possible feel the same way as you. It’s just hard for people to understand Act2’s failing without experiencing it. I think Wired did a good job describing the problem, but the puzzles absolutely overwhelmed everything that is good on the artistic side of the game.

          It’s a pity cuz I very strongly told Double Fine to make Act2 puzzles more smooth, intuitive and allow more flexibility than Act 1 puzzles. Then they did the worst possible thing. If they make the puzzles hard, then all that does is exaggerate the “forget common sense, guess what weird thing the designer is thinking” part of puzzles. It inflates the frustration when the game denies your perfectly logical and viable solutions and insist that you do this unrealistic solution that has no purpose being the answer other than to force you to get stuck.

    • John Walker says:

      What an extraordinary thing to claim. It’s a review of a bad game. They don’t tend to be positive. And this review is not bitter, it’s sad and disappointed.

      • Paxeh says:

        After having played Act 1 and reading this review I’m sure the Tim Shafer hype-train has come to a complete stop. Can we just please say that Tim has lost his magic and move on to something as beautiful as Wadjet Eye Games’ Primordia or just as simple as the Sam and Max reboot.

        I dare say that, pardon the pun, Broken Age truly has – Broken my heart.

        Transparency: I kickstarted Broken Age, bought Spacebase DF-9 and subsequently lost all interest in Tim Shafer’s new work.

        • PancakeWizard says:

          This.

        • Fathom says:

          I need to get around to playing Primordia…

          • slerbal says:

            Primordia is great. Certainly not without its flaws, but the setting is so evocative.

          • Sic says:

            Which RPS also panned.

            Let’s just say that I don’t give a crap about what RPS says in any review any more. It’s all trying hard to be edgy and contrary for the sake of it. Worth exactly bupkis.

        • melnificent says:

          I bought Spacebase, The good thing there is that the disappointment from that stopped me buying Anything doublefine related. This, the Grim Fandango and DOTT re-release, and anything in the future. I’m done and from this review it appears as though they’re done.

        • S Jay says:

          Primordia is terrible. Full of obtuse puzzles, one of the few adventure games I just quit.

      • thehollowman says:

        John, I want to say – thank you for being hard on this game. This is your job as a critic, to put games to the test, to really be critical and help consumers. I would prefer you were too hard on a game than not hard enough.

        So yeah, gj.

      • wayfasttippytoes says:

        I haven’t played it yet, but it got 9/10 on the other reviews I checked. Pretty sure it’s not a “crap adventure game” and RPS just gets off on shitting on Tim Schaffer. I liked act 1, and enjoyed majority of other games Double Fine has done. I don’t get the whole hate on somebody for making something? Double Fine doesn’t promise crazy shit and not deliver, they just make stuff they wanna see made. How about instead of shitting on somebody whose back catalog is mostly loved, go create something yourself. Unless your some delusional weirdo you’ll realize its hard to make something that’s really good.

    • Alexrd says:

      Yeah, the bitterness does prevent me from taking this review seriously.

      • slerbal says:

        I don’t think the review sounds bitter, just disappointed at wasted opportunities and some poor decision making that obfuscates some lovely sounding elements.

      • John Walker says:

        Out of interest, what is it you think I’m bitter about? I’m genuinely confused as to what it could be.

        • Widthwood says:

          Largest part of your review is devoted to pointing out CLASSIC adventure game tropes, like ridiculous puzzles, lots of useless navigation, reuse of locations, lack of meaningful story or real drama and criticizing Broken Age for them.

          Surely, by the look of Act 1 it was perfectly obvious (if art style wasn’t a dead giveaway already), that Tim chose to not go for GF or Longest Journey or Dig level of seriousness, instead making very kid and family friendly sort-of-silly game, like modern Kyrandia, Simon the Sorcerer or MI with just SOME deeper undertones.

          This doesn’t make it a crap game, it is what it is though probably not ideally suited for you personally.
          And the rest of negative points, like no “look at” don’t really add up to what is a very bleak view of the game.

          So yeah, after reading WIT some sort of negative predisposition is obvious, whether it’s bitterness or failed expectations or something else. Your twitter comments about reviews of people who liked it being “trite sycophantic nonsense” don’t help proving your point of view either..

          • RQH says:

            Your review of this review seems to assume that there isn’t a good way to do zany adventure game puzzles (or maybe that there isn’t a bad way, which there most certainly is), and seems to be freighted with expectations based on outside reading (John’s Twitter) or some of his (admittedly sometimes contentious) past work.

            I didn’t see anything in this review that seemed cruel or ad hominem (like when someone accused Obsidian of phoning New Vegas in), and he points out (whilst trying to avoid spoilers*) what seems to be at least one clear example of bad adventure game design (if I’ve learned anything from 20+ years of adventure gaming, it’s that when a character expresses interest in boots, you give her your boots. A good adventure game puzzle design doesn’t tell you that information until it’s possible to use it, or gives you some indication of why she won’t take the boots now (she only likes boots covered in jam), at least.)

            Now, if you’re saying that an adventure game can’t be critiqued for having an underwhelming story, or not communicating its puzzle logic through standard adventure game tools (such as the desired “look at” button), or not using the backtracking in interesting ways, then I’m not sure on what basis you might critique an adventure game. I think John is very explicit about his standards for what makes adventure games succeed, and he’s very clear that the game hits all the right aesthetic notes, it just falls down as a story and design. Seems like a fair warning. In fact, it seems more useful than “Well adventure game stories aren’t supposed to be good and their puzzles are supposed to be about reading the developer’s mind, so I guess there’s nothing to talk about except how pretty it is.”

            You could read this review and get really angry that John thinks something’s a flaw in the game that you don’t think is a flaw, or you could breathe a sigh of relief that nothing seems to be wrong with the game that would really bother you, and go enjoy it. Meanwhile, I’m happy to know that I can miss this one without missing much that really matters to me.

            *I feel like avoiding spoilers is noble, but it would help a lot of game criticism to be able to talk about specifics. It’s very difficult to have a discussion that amounts to “I felt like the ending of the plot was unsatisfying” and “I didn’t.”

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            RQH, in the interests of fairness, Vella says that X is interested in (obviously very heavy) boots that are present in the scene, but in her inventory are some extremely light sandals made out of feathers. And the only other talking character in the scene, whenever consulted with anything, will say that X is only interested in stuff that belongs to Y (where Y is not Vella). In full context, it’s really rather obvious what is meant here.

            And yes, in some ways this did remind me of the infamous New Vegas review. John also writes “Its graphics options are still a confusing mess”. I just checked the menu. There are exactly three options. A resolution slider, fullscreen on/off and widescreen on/off (which is admittedly labelled “letterboxing horizontal/vertical”, for some reason, but that’s hardly setting the standard for what is a confusing mess).

          • Bradamantium says:

            “It’s not a crap game, it’s just not for you” is such a worthless notion. Every game is for someone – I doubt there’s ever been any moderately major release that didn’t have even one person saying something rather nice. Every review comes with the great big caveat of “In This Reviewer’s Opinion, ______.” It’d be real tiring to see that before every line though, so we as reasonable adults are expected to, y’know, take that into account. As far as the “classic” tropes he’s picking at, I find most of them utterly insufferable and part of the reason adventure games took a hiatus the first time around.

            I wonder if this was a boisterously excited, endlessly positive review how many comments would accuse John of swimming the pools of nostalgia, complaining that he’s justifying having thrown some money at the Kickstarter, or that he’s simply kissing Tim Schafer’s whimsical ass.

          • Widthwood says:

            Apart from putting lots of words in my mouth, it’s a fine line we can argue about to no end..

            The main point is, you can probably see how bashing an adventure game, that was supposed to be an homage to classic adventures, for having many traditional tropes and characteristics of a classic adventure game, can look a little dickish and makes the review somewhat dubious for someone who actually likes adventures (you know, target audience of this game).

            And yes, his twitter comments do matter in this case, since when reviewer basically says that even those who loved the game should’ve punished the developers with low scores anyway – it clearly shows his negative bias that also seeped into review.

            By the way, I don’t imply that this is connected with that whole Molyneux business.
            Personally, I think John wants genre to mature, and sees high scores for Broken Age as incentive for other developers to follow suit and return to classic tropes as well. This is nothing new and not inherently ‘bad’ of course, for example Call of Duty also gets these type of opinions, that developers should be punished to stop them from ruining the genre.

        • hauntedzoo says:

          You’re bitter because Tim Schafer called you out on the Peter Molyneux interview. watch?v=mnY0TdkXZwI

          • Alecthar says:

            You’re absolutely right, this is clearly an extension of RPS’ baseless crusade against PC gaming visionaries. John and his cronies have no room to criticize, because Schafer and Molyneux’s recent work has been above reproach! Well, excepting Godus and Spacebase DF-9. But Hack n Slash was okayish, and if we’re counting re-releases Grim Fandango is always on point! I’m sure Molyneux will deliver just as effectively on the new stuff he’s promising as he has in the past.

            Sarcasm aside, why would Tim Schafer’s defense of Molyneux (a man he shares an increasing number of distressing similarities with) cause John to become bitter? It didn’t crush this site, or cost John his job, or even really do anything at all. I wasn’t even aware Tim Schafer said anything about the Molyneux backlash until I read your comment. Watching one guy who prefers never to be held accountable argue that someone else shouldn’t be held accountable isn’t likely to inspire such rage (for such a length of time, too!) that it demands a bad review.

    • ribby says:

      What a ridiculous thing to say! I’d say against Molyneux that would be fair criticism. But this is just a review of a game that was not good.

      Are you saying that every time they write about a game they didn’t think was good they’re just being controversial for clicks?

    • Alegis says:

      Doesn’t sound bitter to me. The game is bad. The review is sad about said bad game.

  11. Jayson82 says:

    I replayed act 1 yesterday and as it was the second time I played it did not take long to go through and you know what? I had fun, like how when I first played it I had fun. Which is the point of games right?

    People complained that in act 1 the puzzles where easy and here you are complaining that there is no oblivious solution to a puzzle? If they did that you would be complaining that the puzzles are to oblivious why would they call this a puzzle game if the answers are so easy.

    I backed this game and I feel I got what I backed, a fun game with a great documentary. What more do you want?

    • John Walker says:

      You appear to be cross with me for agreeing with you that Act 1, while flawed, is a fun game.

      This is a review of Act 2, which you’ve yet to play.

      And no, it is possible to design good puzzles that are neither too easy, nor too obfuscated. Those are the puzzles that have good things said about them.

      • Jayblanc says:

        Having now had the chance to play this for myself, I have to entirely disagree with the entire review. The game plays like a classic point and click adventure game, calling back to the likes of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. Which is exactly what I was promised. Your review seems to be “I do not like adventure games that are like Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle”.

        I also note that this game features a well written female black protagonist, who is always presented as heroic and is no one’s damsel. Yet the review barely mentions that. I see no mention of subtle lines you have to work to discover, and I suspect you blazed through the game without stopping to look around and stumble across some answers to your plot questions.

        So yeah, we get it. You don’t like classic Point and Click Adventure Games. Please don’t review them.

        • Hanban says:

          “So yeah, we get it. You don’t like classic Point and Click Adventure Games. Please don’t review them.”

          He says in one of the comments that he loves and still plays DotT occasionally. I’m gonna go ahead and guess that he didn’t like the game for the reasons that he outlined in the review. From your comment my guess is that you like the game (which is a thing that can happen despite of negative reviews) and you want someone who likes the game you like to review the game instead so your personal preferences for what qualifies as a good adventure game WoT can be met.

          • Jayblanc says:

            The problem is that the things he criticises Broken Age for exist more so in DOTT than in Broken Age, yet he compares Broken Age to DOTT poorly. And some of the problems he recounts, are because he missed the in-game comments and hints that provided those clues and explanations. It feels very much like he moved quickly through the game by referring to the walkthrough whenever stuck. And this is a downside, because it won’t tell you how you were supposed to discover the solution organically. The Spinning Boots puzzle in particular has an organic hint discover, and a direct a tie back to Act 1 to explain why the boots in your inventory don’t work, but that was entirely missed out on. That’s not ‘my opinion’, that’s actual in-game content that was missed out by the review.

        • autopsyblue says:

          Could you possibly mention Vella’s arc specifically without tokenizing her? A bad game with a well-written black female protagonist is still a bad game.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      “I backed this game and I feel I got what I backed, a fun game with a great documentary. What more do you want?”

      Well you backed it so you are financially involved, so maybe not a good critical judge. People who haven’t bought it might be interested in John’s opinion!

    • Stellar Duck says:

      “Which is the point of games right?”

      I don’t know? Is it?

      Fun strikes me (and I’m aware I’m basically going Tom Chick now) as a really bad way of measuring anything.

      What is fun, in the first place? Do you think flight sims are fun? I do. But some does not. Are they good or bad games then? I know some people find a lot of enjoyment in FIFA while I only find a bit of fun at times. What is the fun factor of FIFA then?

      Fun is the single most useless way of conveying if a game is good or not and all you people who keep insisting that “it’s all about the fun you know!” are dead wrong about that.

  12. RuySan says:

    It’s not like there isn’t great adventure games from other companies. The Dream Machine, The Whispered World, Primordia, Life is Strange….So many good games in the last few years that it really doesn’t make me much of a difference that Double Fine didn’t delivered.

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      If I remember correctly, Walker thought The Whispered World was crap.

      • RuySan says:

        Walker thought wrong

      • John Walker says:

        You definitely don’t remember correctly. I thought the Whispered World was almost great, but let itself down here and there. Especially that bloody voice.

        link to eurogamer.net

        • Gaytard Fondue says:

          Well, it’s even worse than I remember.
          “The actor providing our hero’s voice needs to have his vocal chords removed, sealed in a lead box and fired into space”

          I mean, really? Is this supposed to be professional?

          • melnificent says:

            Clearly not.

            A Professional would’ve done all of that and then never spoken about it again.

          • Alecthar says:

            You’re mistaking editorial content for professional correspondence. If, for example, John was involved in the creation of the game and was e-mailing a colleague regarding the voice-over and said that, it would be un-professional. In the context of a review, there is no obligation to resort to euphemism. Generally the only professional standards of note in editorial or critical content are to avoid obscenity (to the extent your publication requires) and to remain truthful regarding objective fact. Frankly, only the former is usually followed in most modern publications.

            In fact, it’s arguably more unprofessional to demand a “polite” or “professional” tone in critical content, because it implies a desire not to offend the creator of the reviewed work, rather than to accurately convey your opinion of a work to the consumers you hope to inform regarding its quality. And, for RPS, the tone and content of a review is more important than for starred/scored publications.

  13. PancakeWizard says:

    Not surprised at all. This whole Broken Age saga of 2014/15 represents the absolute worst of millennial gaming chic: Expensive, pointless and badly designed. DF leading the charge into the “it’s my art therefore immune to criticism or basic ludology!” that no doubt is the mantra of the new ‘punk’ gaming scene.

    I thought they were genuinely on a new roll with Stacked and Costume Quest. It’s all come undone rather fast. Is Hack and Slash still good? Or has that gone horribly wrong now as well?

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I feel I should end on a constructive note:

      Play Primordia, any of the Amanita Design games, Charnel House Trilogy or literally any pnc Adventure from yesteryear. The two best Monkey Island games have had a face-lift in recent years. There’s a good start.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Oh, and there’s an excellent retrospective of Loom on Eurogamer right now. Should be tempting if you’ve never played it. It makes Broken Age look ridiculous.

        • Geebs says:

          I finally got round to Loom the other day, and I was incredibly disappointed (having loved all of the other lucasarts adventures). Ok, so it’s pretty but it’s unbearably twee, the plot is Chosen One fantasy nonsense, the main voice actor is both limp and tetchy, and the puzzles are all either insultingly easy or totally obtuse. It really doesn’t have any of the snap or style of the better Lucas adventures.

          • PancakeWizard says:

            It’s intentionally different from the traditional LA adventures, I’ll give you that. But if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

          • jrodman says:

            The one part I definitely agree about: the voice acting is not to my liking. I prefer to play it without the voices.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            Many fans consider the original voiceless EGA release the definitive version of Loom, for numerous reasons. The VA of the VGA version isn’t great and much of the game’s dialogue is significantly reduced to fit on CD using whatever compression technology they had back then.

          • Toupee says:

            But, but… “Grass green! I hate that colour!”

      • slerbal says:

        Yay for Primordia, with a double helping of yay for the wonderful soundtrack which I still listen to lots

    • John Walker says:

      Hack N Slash is extremely good, but way too difficult for me.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Good to know, I’ll give it a shot!

        • Premium User Badge

          artrexdenthur says:

          No offense meant to John, but I’ve had a lot more fun actually learning to program in Python and C++ than playing Hack ‘n’ Slash.
          … I’d link to some kind of learn-to-code resource, but the first page of Google is flush with them and I think it really depends on your personality which one would work best.

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            I am a coder in ‘real’ life, and while I blitzed through a lot of Hack n’ Slash, and I loved the idea, I found it increasingly difficult to keep track of the code as it got complex because of the use of those little coloured shapes instead of variable/function names.

  14. Syme says:

    This all sounds very similar to what happened with Broken Sword 5. At least we got to get that all over with a year ago.

  15. El Mariachi says:

    I bought Act 1 (and never started it, knowing it was incomplete.) Do I now have Act 2 or do I have to buy it separately?

    • majugi says:

      You’ll have Act 2 (tomorrow, when it’s released to non-backers).

      • majugi says:

        And to clarify, yes, it will be free. If you have it on Steam it will update itself to the new (full) version.

  16. majugi says:

    I’ve played through a bit of Act 2 and this review is really perplexing to me. Starting with technical issues, you don’t need to drag-and-drop items on PC (look into the “interaction mode” setting; it’s been there since the official release of Act 1) and interaction spots are highlighted on mouseover which reduces pixel-hunting substantially.

    The plot, writing, and puzzles are better in every way than Act 1, and I even find the environments more interesting on the retread than they were initially, but that’s extremely subjective so I’ll forgive John for being completely and embarrassingly wrong about them.

    • c-Row says:

      Thou shall not point out factual errors to the Walker.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      It defaults to drag-and-drop?

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      I think the jist of John’s point being that the PC version was clearly an afterthought and the mobile version is the primary development target stands.
      There being a setting in the menu to make it work properly doesn’t excuse the fact that they’ve had a year to make it work properly by default.
      I have to admit that if they’d pitched it on kickstarter as a mobile game they’d port to PC I wouldn’t have backed it.

      • Pliqu3011 says:

        You say you backed the project. Have you watched the documentary then? It should give you an idea of the amount of effort it took to port the game to mobile clients.
        Claiming the game is a mobile port is plain disingenuous.

        • AngoraFish says:

          And yet still it feels like a mobile port. Maybe it’s just that the dev team are so used to developing for tablets that they simply built the game around tablet-like systems out of habit?

          Unfortunately, the made-on-PC-but-built-for-tablet feel is becoming more common (eg Windows 8, Godus) as develpers spend increasingly large chunks of their time developing for mobile platforms and along the way manage to forget that PCs aren’t just tablets with particularly large touch screens.

    • draglikepull says:

      I have to agree. I haven’t run into any of the technical issues that John claims to have experienced. To run down them one-by-one:

      1. You can drag and drop items by holding down the left-mouse button or you can enable the click-once option. It’s an option you can switch between, and it’s very easy to find and very sensibly labeled in the options menu.

      2. There’s no specific “LOOK AT” command, but there are a lot of objects in the world that you can click on to get a “LOOK AT”-style comment from whichever character you’re controlling. You can also “LOOK AT” any item in your inventory by single-clicking on it.

      3. I’ve never mis-clicked on a dialogue option. I honestly don’t know how John managed to do it not just once, but several times. The cursor acts like the cursor in any other game I’ve played.

      4. I guess it would be nice if the game had unlimited save slots, but is the 8 save slots provided really much of a limitation in a linear adventure game? What would you even do that would require 20 or 50 or 7000 save slots? I get that “It’s PC so we must have infinite customisation!” but I can’t imagine a scenario in which having only 8 save slots would limit your ability to play or enjoy the game.

      • KenTWOu says:

        What would you even do that would require 20 or 50 or 7000 save slots?

        Achievement hunting. Some of the achievements are so preposterous, so it’s much easier to earn them when you have an ability to save your game almost everywhere you want and have at least 20 slots for that. Replaying the whole game because you missed an opportunity for one tiny achievement isn’t that fun at all.

  17. Geebs says:

    It’s not patronising to view coming-of-age from an adult perspective. All of that fêted business of growing into yourself is a mere blip on the greater arc of turning into your parents.

    • Monggerel says:

      I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy, whose work is coming-of-age stories by way of Cain and Able or Paradise Lost or Moby Dick (which is itself such a story, with a similar trajectory) about half the time, and for his characters (invariably male with one exception) the journey is always a tragic one. Not resulting in betterment and acquiring of confidence and finding of a place to belong but rather disillusionment, confusion and resentment, often leading them to become aimless wanderers, not in search of some mythical meaning, but rather fugitives simply trying to outrun time. If they settle, it is because they don’t have legs to run on anymore.

      Coming-of-age as a clarification of futility. The Sun is always setting, especially when it rises.
      How very goth of him.

    • GepardenK says:

      Aww damn, is that what happened? I always though it was my parents who changed to become like me.

  18. gbrading says:

    Drat. I’ll still play it but I’d hoped with another whole year of time on Act 2 it would have been better than this.

    • GepardenK says:

      Well, the other reviews I have read hails Act 2 as much better than 1 so I was a bit suprised by this one.

      Usually I put more trust in RPS than a lot of other sites, but the tone in this review makes me think I might disagree with it. To be fair I have not played Act 2 so I reserve my right to agree with John, but I will probably not sound so bitter in the process

  19. Foglet says:

    Whoa, that… certainly was ruthless.

  20. Risingson says:

    Sorry, John, but your review tells that you don’t like adventure games to have lateral thinking. And about the object lost in the background… this is really something no adventure game should have.

    Please don’t replay DOTT and do a “what I forgot about”. Thanks.

    • John Walker says:

      No, I enjoy puzzles that require lateral thinking. I do not enjoy ones that require you to guess what the developer was thinking when he randomly chose the order in which to do something.

      I regularly replay DOTT, and adore it.

      • Jayblanc says:

        I really really think you need to reflect a little more on DOTT and what you’ve said in this review. Do I need to remind you of the car-keys? Or the ‘logic’ behind washing a cart?

      • Jayblanc says:

        Also, as I said above, I’ve had the chance to play through this. Your complaints about the puzzle solutions being unexplained are explicitly invalid, because I found in-game hints and explanations for the puzzles you were complaining about! To make a specific example, the spinning Boots puzzle has a specific in-game hint prompt that back-references Act 1, and you appear to have missed it. Did you just refer to the supplied walkthrough to quickly? Did you ignore Tim’s request to replay Part 1 before playing Part 2 to refresh your memory as they’re meant to be played together?

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        I don’t take any particular issue with your review of Act 2 (as someone who played and largely enjoyed it, but yeah, ending is a damp squib) but DOTT is, in my mind, the *height* of guess-the-designer’s-mind puzzles. And I do mean height – they are beautiful, wonderful puzzles once you know the solution. But I wouldn’t really consider them operating under our earth logic.

  21. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Ohh dear, I still had hope after act 1 being OKish

  22. shoptroll says:

    My takeaway from this review is that the designer of Grim Fandango made a new adventure game with Double Fine. Meaning:
    1) It will have a setting that will charm the pants of you and then some
    2) There will be some amount of problems with the implementation
    3) It will have some infuriatingly poorly conceived puzzles of questionable design that require either moon logic or telepathy to solve

  23. Emeraude says:

    Not reading this (yet), but I’m glad I finally get to play this this week end.

  24. Tomo says:

    Wow, this sounds godawful.

    I found the Act 1 pretty dull tbh, and I played through it out of loyalty to Double Fine more than anything else really, to see if it would ever reach greatness. There were a few moments of joy, but it was largely a laborious experience for me. For many of the reasons outlined in this review of Act 2.

    I’m definitely not going to bother with it, despite backing the Kickstarter.

  25. Toupee says:

    I plan to support this game if only because the Double Fine Adventure documentary series has so vastly exceeded my expectations. I have a sneaking suspicion I will forever enjoy re-watching and sharing that series many more times than I will Broken Age.

    To be honest, I’m very crap at adventure games in general, so I would surprise myself if I even get to Act 2. Especially if you were to put in context how far I get in most games I’ve played in the last 10 years. (Psychonauts is one of those exceptions!) I can’t even get more than a couple hours into Grim Fandango without a walkthrough, and that’s one of the most acclaimed adventure games ever. (And it is great!)

    But again, I’m going to buy this because I want to support Double Fine. Because 2 Player Production’s doc series opened up my eyes to all of the struggles of video game development, gave me a real inside look at everything. I’m not surprised the art and the voice acting are so good, from what I saw of the people who worked on them.

    It’s sad that Act 2 isn’t the messiah of adventure games, and those who were expecting it to be will probably remain disappointed. I look forward to giving the whole thing a go later this week with fresh eyes and roommates who hopefully are more clever than me.

    And yes John, no apologies, RPS is basically the only review site worth reading.

  26. Ghoul Monkey says:

    Fun documentary though…

  27. bonuswavepilot says:

    Ah well, will give it a bash anyway and see if I agree with Mr W on this ‘un…

    Even if it is indeed crap, I have really been enjoying 2PP’s documentary – they’re quite a lovable bunch.

  28. John Easy says:

    Well this is a very personal review indeed and that’s what I expect whenever I read something called “Wot I Think”. Sometimes it’s just better to read a real opinion on a game than just looking at somewhat blank reviews with a vaguely significant number exposed in golden letters at the end of it.

    In any case I think Act1 was actually not bad at all. I liked the characters, locations, graphics, the grim plot set in a colorful game, and having a few jokes along the way. I will give Act2 a try given that revisiting locations and lack of “look at” don’t really bother me. As for the puzzles and the ending I will have to check that myself.

  29. Marclev says:

    Both KSP and Broken Age Part 2 released pretty much on the same day? Is it Christmas?!

    Shame the review indicates that it’s dissapointing, I’m hoping against hope that I enjoy it though. I’m assuming you can just play from the start and have the two halves naturally flow into another.

  30. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I have just finished the game and I find this WIT extremely puzzling. I’m almost wondering if we played the same game.

    In short, I loved it. I thought Act Two fulfilled the promise of the first third-to-half of the game wonderfully. The puzzles can get properly clever and interesting rather than the fairly obvious use-stuff-on-stuff of the first act, and the story goes in an unexpected, yet very satisfying direction and ties up everything together. Visual and voice work remain top notch, and so does the music. What more could one possibly want from an adventure game? There are several moments that are absolutely up there with the classics. I understand not everyone needs to like it, but calling it “crap” is… very odd.

    (And yes, you don’t have to drag to use, there’s an option in the menu. And no, the game doesn’t feature a recap, because it’s not broken in two any more. The backers were told several times that it’s a good idea to replay act one before starting act two, and for good reason. Perhaps the reviewers were not, I wouldn’t know. And it’s poor form criticising the game for failing to meet your expectations re: a coming-of-age story; the question is how successful it is in doing what it has set out to do, not in what it has not.)

    • AngoraFish says:

      And no, the game doesn’t feature a recap, because it’s not broken in two any more.

      Except for better of worse the game was issued in two-parts. Double Fine can’t have their cake and eat it too. Some of us have better things to do than replay the entire first four hours of a game that we’ve already explored in detail, and that many of us found pretty underwhelming the first time through.

      And it’s poor form criticising the game for failing to meet your expectations re: a coming-of-age story; the question is how successful it is in doing what it has set out to do, not in what it has not

      Except right up the top of the Broken Age Steam page, and in many of their press releases, Double Fine states that “Broken Age is a timeless coming-of-age story”. The setup couldn’t be more obvious with both Shay and Vella starting the game at their own milestones between youth and taking on adult responsibilities. And yet the game clearly fails to go anywhere with that setup. Maybe it’s you who have missed something, perhaps?

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        But there’s no room for a recap in the game, you see. A “previously on” would be ridiculously jarring. Maybe they could have produced a short video and thrown it on YouTube or something, but it doesn’t belong in the game. It’s not an episodic release at all. And you can continue directly where act one ended; the only thing you’ll be missing is a couple of forgotten connections and some subtler puzzle hints.

        And my point about the story is that it should be criticised for what it does, not for what it does not. It indeed takes off in a direction that I did not expect after finishing act one. But this fact alone is neither good nor bad. My expectations of how the story would develop are quite irrelevant when talking about the qualities of the story as such. (Which is really not Tim Schafer’s best work, but nowhere near as abysmal as this WIT makes it sound.)

  31. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    I’m glad to hear it’s finally done!

    GOG’s page still claims part 2 is “coming later”. So I doubt GOG has the full version yet. I bought the Season Pass some time ago and decided to wait for Part 2 to even try Part 1.

    Now I wish I had waited to even consider buying it.

  32. Alecthar says:

    Soooooo…this is an Apocalypse Now/Hearts of Darkness kinda situation?

  33. tehfish says:

    Hmmm… just finished it and i must admit that if i’m disappointed by anything, it’s the overblown negativity in this review.

    Whilst the game isn’t going to win an award for best point and click ever, i don’t feel it even registers as low as middling. It was a good game in my opinion, and whilst there were some issues with certain puzzles (most notably the ‘guessing the details of shay’s first boot one, which required traversing three entire scrolling screens for each attempt), i’ve seen games that are orders of magnitudes worse.

    The game seemed very similar to the first part, with just a bump to the puzzle difficulty. This review just seems overly harsh…

  34. Ooops says:

    I had to scroll back up and check this was really RPS and not Gamespot. Gee, so much discontent about a game review! I understand why John gets vehemently contradicted for opinion pieces (after all, they are here to spawn a debate), and I have done so myself in the past, but for a game review?

    People need to realize it’s OK for a reviewer to hate a game you love or to love a game you hate, and that it doesn’t make the reviewer or the reader wrong. Both are right.

    And by the way, this isn’t a bitter review, many of the game’s strong points (visuals, voice acting) get a good size of praize.

  35. lupinewolf says:

    “And yes, there’s still no option for highlighting interactive objects.”

    There is, though. Right analog sticks cycles through interactive objects in the scene. Not sure about how to do it on keyboard.

    Regarding the puzzles, I was never stumped for more than 10 or 15 minutes. I played Act 1 again just before playing Act 2, so maybe I was more “attuned” to the type of logic they expected from me? Anyway, I just wanted to mention that the puzzles, to me, weren’t so bad. I even loved the knot thing! Why did you hate it so much? They do “teleport” you back and forth so you don’t lose much time.

  36. ZechsMerquise73 says:

    This guy really doesn’t understand the story. Its not about ‘being a teenager and being misunderstood’, its about being lied to and living for a lie, and learning to live with overcoming those realisations. Its not about “aliens vs birds” at all. He says that other guy doesn’t understand what hyperbole is, but his angry tirade is clearly over emphasising elements of the plot to make them seem like the main point, and outright making things up. There are no aliens. The birds were in act one and are not a major feature in the storyline.

    I don’t mind him having an inaccurate opinion (if you do, you should really keep it to yourself, though), but because Rock Paper Shotgun has some kind of deal going with Steam, anything their lightweight writes put out gets put to the top of the news feed. So every time you go to play the game you have to see this guy saying how bad it is. He can do his Fox News “I need ratings” thing, but don’t shove it in my face, please.

  37. BabbeFax says:

    Is this for real? This is prolly the shittiest rewiev i’ve seen so far. Most of your text is just whining about irrelevant stuff, like are you really complaining about the cursor being to big? And just because there isn’t an option to “look at” your inventory items dosen’t mean the option isn’t present in the game, most of the time when i just clicked on my items shay or vella would give me a pretty good explanation of them + hints. And even when i didn’t get a good axplanation i just used the spoon or the knife to give me hints and that seemed to work out pretty well. I don’t dissagree that the game was kinda a flop, but you don’t even seem to be bothered by the ending. They litteraly just threw something together for the ending, like was it really necesary for vella’s granny to be a bad guy? She was litteraly in like two scenes in the entire game and for some reason they thougt it would be interesting to make her a bad guy for no reason and then never explain it? And i guess its just me but i was hoping that shay and vella would atleast have a cutscene where they have a conversation, but in the end all they show you is just them staring at eachother for awhile and then they just smile at eacother and thats the end. I dunno i just kinda felt that they had no real connection in the game… You don’t even get a deeper backstory on the badguys, the only thing i got is that they want to kill all “disgusting” humans, use vella to “perfect” themselves and that they were a gene manipulated species of humans. Like i want to atleast know how and where they were created? But i guess these are my opinions, i still think your rewiev was kinda shitty though. Btw when vella is in fake space in vacum if you use the knife on the “mom” arm it will tell you that the arm only reacts to items that belonged to shay, so no you can’t use vella’s slippers on it, it’s only interested in the boots because they belonged to shay.