It’s finally here.
If you’re anything like me, by which I mean you grew up playing through the “Golden Era” of adventure games, then the wait for the second half of Broken Age has been nothing short of unbearable. It’s been over three years since Tim Schafer and Double Fine made waves on Kickstarter, and a year has passed since the first act of the game saw release. Now, fifteen months later, both Shay and Vella have the chance to see their stories through to the end, with the release of ‘Act 2’ marking the end for Broken Age as a whole.
Now, as much as I enjoyed Act 1 of Broken Age, I’m willing to recognize that it had its faults here and there. Our original review will go into more detail than I will here, but the first act was a fairly short affair, clocking in at around four or so hours to finish out both Vella and Shay’s story. The rather short playtime isn’t an inherent issue on it’s own, but the one flaw that stood out to me in Act 1 was how the split narratives played off each other. You see, I decided to play Vella’s story first. For the uninitiated, Vella comes from the small town of Sugar Bunting, which chooses to sacrifice young maidens to a massive monster named Mog Chothra. Vella would rather fight than sacrifice herself, and her story follows her as she narrowly escapes being swallowed whole, and attempts to take down Mog Chothra once and for all.
Now don’t get me wrong, Vella’s story was great to play through, but once it got time for me to play through Shay’s, it became very clear what was going on. While I won’t go into specifics for fear of spoiling the game, Shay’s story revolves around rescuing creatures across various areas of space, and the plot twist that connects Shay and Vella’s story is pretty easy to deduce, if you tackled the game in the same way I did. That, coupled with the lack of difficult puzzles made the first act more of a cakewalk than anything else, albeit an enjoyable one, filled with great characters and a sense of humor you’ve come to expect from a legendary developer such as Schafer.
Act 2 picks up right where the first act ended, with Shay and Vella thrown into each other’s respective worlds (my vague description is merely to prevent potential spoilers). It’s an interesting concept, and the theme of duality becomes more prevalent as you take the reigns and being pointing and clicking through each world. Vella, for example, will spend a good chunk of time exploring the spaceship that Shay grew up on, although this time around it’s broken down and decrepit, a far cry from the clean and sterile world that Shay was forced to grow up in. The same goes for Shay, as he explores the world that Vella had just traipsed through and you’ll immediately see the effects of her actions on the characters and environments.
This sort of “united but separate” design plays into the puzzles as well. Needless to say, Act 2 is considerably longer than the first act, but more importantly, it features more puzzles that offer up a greater challenge than you’d come to expect. The ability to flip back and forth between Vella and Shay is even more important this time around, as little details in Vella’s story might provide you with enough knowledge to make some headway in Shay’s story, and vice versa.
Of course, the main attraction here (and this is evident for anyone who played Act 1, or any of Tim Schafer’s earlier works) is the creativity and wonder on display when it comes to crafting the world Shay and Vella inhabit. While it might not feature the old-school pixel art we’ve all (hopefully) come to appreciate, Broken Age boasts some of the best visuals in recent years, with a soft, colorful painterly look that resembles your favorite children’s book. Dialogue choices are present in full force, and they are just as likely to provide key exposition as they are meant to illicit a chuckle or two. Schafer’s writing is just as strong this time around as well, and is a real treat for anyone that’s been hankering for a good video game story.
And to be honest, nostalgia might play a big role in why Broken Age is as wildly entertaining as it is, but even if you’ve never had a penchant for the point-and-click games of years past, there’s still a lot of fun to be had. While it has certainly taken its sweet time in getting here, Broken Age is everything I could have hoped for, and was certainly worth the wait.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Against all odds, Broken Age has proved to us that adventure games are all but dead, and that Double Fine and Tim Schafer still have the ability to surprise, astound, and humor us.