Having started out life as a wishful campaign to revitalize the point-and-click adventure before turning into an unprecedented success story for the prospect of crowd-funded videogames, the production of Broken Age has an enthralling narrative of its very own that carries both the hopes for a radical development model and an ailing genre.
The fact then that Act 1 of Broken Age is such a breezy and confident experience is remarkable. Broken Age follows the two separate stories of Vella, a young girl being sacrificed for the ‘greater good’ of her town, and Shay, a young boy trapped on a spaceship being mollycoddled by an overprotective computer for his own good.
The two jarringly disparate environments can be explored in any order and switched at any time, a decision that helps strengthen the overarching coming-of-age theme as well as allaying any frustration that comes from getting stuck at a particular puzzle.
While point-and-click enthusiasts may notice a reduced level of obtuse brain-twisters that defined the genre’s popularity in the 90s, the level of challenge is adequate enough and the simple interface and inventory system help to reinforce a tone that steadily wavers between emotional poignancy and quirky, light-hearted comedy.
Although the reserved voice acting (even from Jack Black in a truly wonderful cameo), pleasant musical score and stunning art design all deserve mentioning it is the sincerity, charm and warmth of the script that elevates Broken Age above being a nostalgic epitaph for its genre.
In spite of the weight of impossible expectation, Broken Age: Act 1 is a success in the only way it needs to be, by being a joyful adventure. Although genre aficionados may be put off by its simplified interactions and the lack of the anarchic humour that defined the genre two decades ago, most will find that if the second and final act of Double Fine’s ambitious project achieve a similar balance between sophistication and silliness then it was a $3.2 million dollars well spent.