Broken Age impressions: the dual narrative of Act 1

With Broken Age, Double Fine has put together an amazing story of dual destinies that its Kickstarter backers should be more than satisfied with.


Broken Age will be released in two parts. We plan on doing a formal review once it is complete. Until then, here are our impressions of the first episode.

If I took a lesson out of the first act of Double Fine's Broken Age, it's that we control our own fate. It's a theme that the game proudly sees through from the beginning of both of its concurrently-running stories, all the way to its cliffhanger ending. It's a wonderful story of dual destinies, all cleverly tied together in gripping, emotional, and humorous fashion.

Vella lives in a peaceful village, where all appears to be well on the surface--all except for a looming monster called Mog Chothra that feeds on human sacrifices held during its Maiden's Feast. Vella is the chosen sacrifice, but her story is about a refusal to blindly accept her fate. In sabotaging her sacrifice, Vella sets out to change the world and come of age on her own terms. Meanwhile, Shay's story is slightly different. He lives aboard a spaceship of manufactured safety, where daily "missions" unfold like something out of preschool television. Like Vella, his story is about finding the meaning of growing up and finding himself against a computer that seeks to imprison him in perpetual childhood.

Broken Age is an engaging narrative that unfolds with classic adventure game mechanics. It's point-and-click at its most basic: players click on characters for conversations, pick up random items, and find practical applications for each one to move the story forward. Fans of classics like like Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island series will feel right at home.

All of the puzzles are simple to solve at first glance, but some are just obtuse enough to require a fair amount of thought. The idea of combining inventory items to craft a solution is a brilliant one, even if it takes a moment to realize that this is a viable tactic. Only once did I truly find myself at a loss to the point that I had to do some serious backtracking, but for the most part, Broken Age unfolded at a brisk pace with enough puzzles to leave me feeling engaged.

Just like the aforementioned classics, Broken Age features entertaining dialogue at every turn. Every character is given witty and engaging dialogue, made better by some truly memorable voice over performances. I found myself laughing at a good number of them, like Vella and Curtis the Lumberjack's conversation about stools or Vella listening to a talking tree's lament about humanity's treatment of wood. I can't imagine anyone not getting a smile out of Broken Age's script.

Players can switch between both Vella and Shay's stories, but given that each tale lasts a couple of hours, there's no real reason or incentive to do so. If anything, switching back and forth does more to disrupt the mood set by each individual story. Once you get into the groove set by Vella's journey to kill Mog Chothra or Shay's mission to escape his overbearing computer, you'll want to see those stories through to the end.

I'm amazed by how well Broken Age has pulled off its double narrative. The first act leaves just enough mystery to put together some thoughtful discussions, while waiting for the climactic ending that the game is building to. It's a story that Double Fine should be proud of, and one that should satisfy its numerous Kickstarter backers.

This review is based on downloadable PC code provided by the publisher. Broken Age: Act One will be available digitally on January 28 on PC and Mac for $22.49. The game is not rated.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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  • reply
    January 27, 2013 11:55 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Broken Age - Act 1 review: the grass is greener.

    With Broken Age, Double Fine has put together an amazing story of dual destinies that its Kickstarter backers should be more than satisfied with.

    • reply
      January 28, 2014 1:25 AM

      Enjoyed all three hours of it. I would have liked to wait for act 2 and do it all in one go but I didn't want anything spoiled plus I wanted to keep up with the documentary series. It wasn't quite as funny as I was expecting from Tim Schafer, but then the subject matter wasn't exactly humorous. There were still a few chuckles and the dialogue on the whole was above average for a game like this. Had a good pace as well.

      Game looked gorgeous, puzzles could have been a bit more elaborate but I'm not complaining. I switched back and forth after significant scene transitions for both characters and it was really cool seeing hints of how both stories could possibly be one in the same and guessing how they would merge together before the act break. That it ended up to be true is still super messed up, and man what a way to end it! Argh, I really want the rest of it now. :(

    • reply
      January 28, 2014 3:31 AM

      I loved it. I've been an avid follower of the doc and enjoyed every second of Act 1.

      I certainly would have liked some more difficult and intricate puzzles, and by playing you can see a much larger and more satisfying game lurking in the background if they'd had more time and/or money. Hopefully Act 2 will be a bit meatier to round things out.

      Overall though, VFM on this KickStarter has been extraordinary.

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