Broken Age preview: head in the clouds

After a hugely successful Kickstarter effort and a lengthy development cycle that's occasionally hit some bumps in the road, Double Fine is ready to begin telling the tale of Broken Age. Shacknews briefly went hands-on with the storybook-like adventure game, enough time to witness the beginning of an intriguing story of two worlds.

The Broken Age demo began with a bird nesting in the cloud world of Meriloft, as the game's heroine, a young girl named Vella, crash lands in the nest. After getting shooed away by the bird, it was time to determine where to go next. There were no tutorial prompts, hints, or text to point me in the right direction, as the game waited for me to make that determination myself by clicking on an object or person.

The dialogue tree options were shown through interaction with an eccentric family, led by a father that opted to remove a vowel from each of their names. This is where Double Fine's affinity for offbeat humor began to shine through, as each option led to particularly oddball exchanges. Aside from offering a sense of levity, these conversations also proved useful, as they provided additional exposition and gave hints on where to go next. One character even offered a ladder to add to my inventory.

Broken Age's inventory system works as it does in most adventure games, in the sense that an item is meant to be used in its proper place. However, there's also a little more freedom than that. I attempted to use the aforementioned ladder to try and retrieve a golden egg from an elevated nest, but wound up falling through the clouds. Since I needed another item first, I walked away and ventured towards the cult leader, Harm'ny Lightbeard, who was voiced by Brutal Legend's Jack Black. To access his nest, the guard asked for an offering, to which I simply offered up the ladder and made my way through. The additional sense of freedom to find different uses for items felt intriguing and I'm curious to see how this idea extends to the rest of the game.

Our time with Broken Age was all too brief, but the atmosphere created by the game's storybook visuals, the high-production instrumental soundtrack, and the fully-voiced characters (including Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, who you can see in the trailer below) left a good impression. Broken Age is set to release on Steam Early Access in January.