broken-age1

Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Year: 2015
Developed by: Double Fine Productions
Published by: Double Fine Productions
Platforms: Windows, OS X, PS4, Vita
#463
Feeling Like: Split in Twain

I always try to enjoy games as they are, and ignore extraneous circumstances. Even though the price of a game shouldn’t affect the quality, it certainly impacts the perceived quality. Games are often applauded if they come at a bargain, while a short campaign (regardless of quality) at full cost is usually maligned if it’s only a few hours and doesn’t include multiplayer.

Nowadays with constant expansions, micro transactions, invasive DRM and an average shorter shelf life means games are more prone to judgments that don’t even include mainstays like characterization, level design, music or graphics. One look at No Man’s Sky and you’ll quickly realize that millions of customers felt outraged and lied to, but likely would’ve been a fraction as angry if the price tag was $30 instead of $60. Expectations, hype and community involvement have become so pervasive that I feel many games are harshly judged before they’ve even come out.

Now throw in Kickstarter, which I think is just terrific, as long as fans know what they’re getting into. An individual, or small group of artists and designers now have a much more personable outreach in asking for support. It’s not a bank loan; the money is coming from a much more emotional angle and the return is absolutely not guaranteed. No interest on top either, as far as I can tell. By pleading their case, developers such as Broken Age’s Double Fine can crowd-source funding without being at the mercy of a big publisher and their demands. They don’t have to sell anybody, save for thousands (ideally millions) of prospective buyers.

broken-age2
And who wouldn’t buy THIS?

Broken Age is such a result, but the cause for ire wasn’t the price. It was due to the hardest part and the worst type of game. The waiting one. Broken up into two distinct acts that were released nearly a year and a half apart, the narrative certainly didn’t benefit from this. Particularly since the two halves of the game contain almost the same areas and characters and, from a glance, didn’t benefit at all from 15 months’ worth of development after the first half had already been released. What the hell?

Was it the overwhelming response of receiving 3.5 million dollars from 87,000 backers? Or was the lack of financial pressure responsible for a lackadaisical release? Should any of this matter when judging the game as a whole? When the dust clears, I fear Broken Age will be a case study on crowd-sourced video games and a measuring stick for the demand of nostalgia, rather than on its own merits. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have hoped.

The game certainly has some standouts; the main characters (Shay and Vella) are easy to relate to and I thoroughly enjoyed Vella’s never say die attitude and her insistence that Mog Chothra (love that name!) should be fought, and not placated. There’s a tree that you’re forced to make sick to solve a puzzle. The voice acting is top notch and the graphics look like an instagram filtered children’s story book. Few games put this much effort, or skill, into the writing. Major props for that!

Unfortunately, the second half really does suffer compared to the first. Very few new rooms, the plot is nowhere near as interesting, and the puzzles are WAY tougher. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not good at solving things unless I can do them quickly and with little effort. A walkthrough was consulted, my eyes rolled more than a few times and I couldn’t help but think that the point and click adventure games have evolved beyond the Secret of Monkey Islands or the Day of the Tentacles. I think Broken Age would have been better received in the past, but I sure am happy that Double Fine took a risk, were greatly rewarded for it and I got to point and click my way through a giant space ship with an ice cream room and a talking fox. Hardly a waste of time.

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