|The review below may contain spoilers.|
Elsewhere, Shay rises for another mundane day aboard the Bossa Nostra, a spaceship designed to keep him safe and free from harm. The result is a children's-paradise-turned-prison, because Shay can do little else but eat ice cream, play with toys, and receive hugs from his animatronic friends.When Vella wakes from an afternoon slumber outside her village, she knows her short life will soon be at its end. An ancient and powerful monster, Mog Chothra, is coming, and Vella will be offered as a sacrifice of appeasement. This is a high honor, both for Vella and her family.
Vella and Shay costar in Broken Age, a coming-of-age story that finds both heroes struggling to break free of their stations in life. You can switch between these two freely, and help guide Vella and Shay as the innocent worlds of their youth collapse around them to reveal the often harsh realities of adulthood. It's a somber tale, but one that is tempered by the colorful and humorous style that has become developer Double Fine's hallmark.
As a point-and-click adventure game, Broken Age charges you with logic puzzles rather than dexterity challenges. Vella decides, against the warnings of her family, to fight Mog Chothra, while Shay devises a plan to outsmart the overbearing spaceship and take control of it for himself. You accomplish both objectives by talking with others and collecting items--tasks that are punctuated with some great humor that keeps you excited to see what sorts of wacky scenarios the game will throw at you next.
Whether you're hopping between head-shrinking teleporters or steering a spaceship by way of scarf knitting, Broken Age isn't afraid to juxtapose its more serious plot points with ridiculous activities. One puzzle finds Vella trying to extract sap from a talking tree. The tree is not forthcoming since it believes Vella is a tree-killing psychopath. Vella decides to own this title by showing the tree a hand-carved stool and describing how the wood was cut up and fashioned into furniture. Disgusted, the tree promptly expels its sappy contents.
Vella's and Shay's worlds may be silly, but they always maintain a consistent logic that helps you work out these problems. Solving a puzzle is never a matter of combining two wildly different things to make a random object unrelated to the task at hand. These puzzles may be silly, but they also make sense.
While this game has you juggling two entirely separate sets of puzzles--one for Vella and one for Shay--the puzzles themselves feel basic and their solutions are straightforward. The complexity of these puzzles does ramp up slowly as you progress further in the game, but it gets cut short when you reach Broken Age's early conclusion. Presumably, since this is only the first half of the full game, the puzzles will continue to grow more complex in the second act, but this remains to be seen.
Whether you're hopping between head-shrinking teleporters or steering a spaceship by way of scarf knitting, Broken Age isn't afraid to juxtapose its more serious plot points with ridiculous activities.
When you're not worrying about brainteasers, Broken Age's vibrant world is a delight to explore. The bright, pastel coloring and soft lighting lend the game's backdrops a storybook aesthetic that complements the game's humorous writing while also contrasting with--and emphasizing--its darker plot. At times, you feel as if you're dashing through the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Some fantastic voice work further enhances this experience, with a couple of great performances by characters seen only once or twice in the game. Hopefully, these characters will make a return in the second act.
Broken Age's world may be fun to explore, but don't get too comfortable. Just as you fall into a steady groove with its story and puzzles, the game ends. Thankfully, the ending provides some resolution while also leaving you excited for the second act. While this game functions as a stand-alone release, it's not designed to be one. This opening act has set the stage for an engrossing tale of childhood's end--let's just hope the payoff is as fulfilling.