Broken Age from Double Fine Productions ($25 on Steam) is a point-and-click adventure by Tim Schafer, who is well known for games like Psychonauts, Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. This style of game involves no combat, is story based, and has puzzles that move the narrative forward. What make Schafer’s games wonderful and charming is the eccentric, likable characters he brings to life in worlds that amaze.
Unless you suddenly find yourself looking at an obvious interface that needs to be interacted with, some kinds of puzzles are not easy to guess. Those kinds of puzzles that require your character to do a series of actions in a certain order are easier for people who have played p&c adventures before, because they might understand that when something doesn’t work, it could just be that they thought of doing the steps in one order, but the designers had it in mind players do them in another order. But if you’re walking in cold, the point and click adventure style needs to be learned along with being able to decipher the clues that are specific to the content in Broken Age. What could compel a player to do this? Especially since some of the puzzles involve either taking a picture of the screen or taking literal notes? It’s in the world building. The plain fact of the matter is, even if the puzzles are things of genius, the player will only solve them if she likes being in the game world. In my opinion, more than a few of the puzzles in Broken Age are not intuitive, require a lot of back and forth between the same places, and involve going through more dialog trees than you maybe want to. (Especially all the ones that deal with the talking tree, omg SHUT UP TALKING TREE).
But the story — about a girl in a small town who decides she doesn’t want to be sacrificed at the maidens’ feast and a boy on a space ship who decides it’s time to grow up — is so charming, the characters you meet along the way so quirky, and the art so compelling, that the player doesn’t notice the hours flying by…literally…I might have suddenly realized I was sitting in the dark playing Broken Age because the sun went down and I didn’t notice…
I loved this game, and I’d recommend it to people who like narrative heavy games and art particularly. However, there is probably a decent demographic who would find the whole genre of point and click frustrating, and there is also a decent chance that at least some of that demographic doesn’t yet know that this is true about them. So, this is how I’d break it down: for gamers who super enjoy the open world style of gameplay, who prefer their graphics to be realistic and 3D instead of charming and 2D, who can’t imagine a game with just one ending, and who have excellent hand-eye coordination, this game probably isn’t really your bag. For people who usually don’t like video games, but do love comics, for lovers of old school p&c adventures, for gamers who want to identify with characters that they play, and lastly, for people who are not experienced with p&c adventures but who don’t feel guilty googling a solution, check this game out.
I wished I’d played it sooner, myself, because it is a little bit like “coming home,” in that it reminds me of the first PC games I ever played, and it brings back a little bit of the wonder I felt then.