The return of the adventure game as a "thing" has been a welcome event over the last several years. Thanks in large part to former Lucas Arts crew, Telltale restarted the genre with a new Sam & Max and have gone on to reinvigorate it with the likes of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among us. Enter Tim Schafer and Kickstarter with the prospect of Broken Age. It was proposed as an adventure game harkening back to the old days of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Well, after an incredibly successful fundraising, we now have that game (ok, ok, the first part of it) in front of us. And it lives up to those expectations.
Graphically it looks amazing. The painted style of the characters and the world is breathtaking and makes you feel like you're playing a painting. Everyone animates incredibly smoothly and the coherent style helps suck you in. It pays to just hang back and look around to drink it all in. There are a few scenes that it all fits together so well, it's not immediately evident what you can interact with, but it's as easy as hovering the mouse around.
The puzzles aren't particularly hard, but that's not a bad thing. Nothing kills an adventure game more for me than a completely obtuse goal. With the exception of one puzzle early on, I pretty much knew exactly what I needed to do and was able to reason my way through them. This is basically my favorite way for an adventure game to unfold, mainly as a vehicle for the story, not so much a puzzle that I have to stop and fight with. That's not to say they're not clever, one in particular in Shay's story is really great when you figure it out. They have promised harder puzzles in part 2, and as long as they are logic based and don't devolve into pixel hunts, I think we'll be ok.
The writing is very sharp. Every character is fun to talk to and learn about. It helps that the world is as insteresting as the
characters, especially in Vella's story as she gets around to several differerent locales. It ended up that I never skipped a dialogue option. Not once was I tired of hearing what people had to say or was in a hurry. In terms of the two sides of the story, I found Vella's much more interesting up front as she's a girl fighting against this crazy ritual that she has to take part in and runs away. Shay's is a little hamstrung as he's only on his spaceship so there's not much variety, but it grew on me as more of the intrigue was revealed. And the end is one of those great moments in games that just made me immediately wish I had part 2 ready to go.
In all, Broken Age is turning out to be exactly what I was looking forward to when I backed the Kickstarter. A classic Tim Schafer story with a modern adventure game sensibility. Plus, it's nice to have the tone of a more recent adventure game not be all "doom and gloom." Now back to staring at my email waiting for the part 2 announcement.
4 out of 5 Dialog Trees