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Broken Age: Act 1

Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Double Fine Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Backers of the Broken Age project on Kickstarter received early access to the latest adventure game from Double Fine, to be released in installments through 2014. The general public gained access slightly later, but the game is now "in the wild" and available to purchase and play through Steam. Our impressions of the first episode were positive and weíre enthused to see how the Broken Age story arc continues over the remaining chapters.

Imagine characters that appear to be animated from cut paper or something similarly crafty, and youíll have a good visual of the Broken Age setting. Itís not literally cut paper or claymation, but itís also steering away from the pixelated indie look thatís been so much in vogue lately. Distinctive, colorful, and simple, thereís loads of charm to be found as you explore the gameís world. Characters are brought to life as much through awesome voice-acting and writing as they are with graphics. Itís a good thing, because there are fewer treasure hunts here than interactions with NPCs, as you attempt to solve puzzles. You wonít soon tire of talking to characters or exploring the vivid world of Broken Age, which feels like plenty of content for a first installment.


Gameplay:

As adventure games go, the main point of interest with Broken Age is the concurrent storyline between the gameís two protagonists. No spoiler certainly, since the gameís original art shares showed a boy and girl sitting with their backs to each other, clearly separated by...something. That "something" is part of what youíll be exploring, so weíll stay quiet on this front, other than to say that Double Fine does begin to shed light on the connection between the two characters in this release.

Aside from the layered stories, each individual characterís story plays out exactly as you would expect from a lifetime of playing point-and-click games. Thereís minimal interface, but you do have an inventory with objects you collect and use to solve a number of puzzles. These puzzles run the gamut from extremely simple treasure hunts to more elaborate chains of actions. The latter are really fun puzzles for those of us weaned on adventure games and looking for more of a challenge, while the former cater to those new to the genre. In both cases, Broken Age is typical in being very linear, so youíll never find yourself in a situation where youíve missed a chance to take the right action.


Difficulty:

The ramp-up from the gameís first few scenes to the final moments of this episode is fairly steep. Players unfamiliar with the basic ground rules of the genre are given a few "teaching" puzzles early on, but may quickly find themselves befuddled. Thereís always an answer to be found by interacting with characters or inspecting objects in your inventory or around you in the game. Broken Age offers some sarcastic but helpful commentary when you try to do something illogical, such as combining fruit with feathery footwear. "This is the kind of fruit that doesnít have feet," quips your character. Moments like this make disappointment and roadblocks slightly less painful, not to mention the option to switch characters at any time if you end up frustrated with one part of the storyline.

Game Mechanics:

That switching between stories is probably the coolest mechanic Broken Age has to offer. Itís conveniently and innocuously placed in the inventory bar, which slides up when you mouse over the bottom section of the screen. This area flashes each time you collect an item, and you can inspect or select items from this area at any time. The mouse icon generally looks like a plus symbol until you move the icon near an object that can be used in some way. Dialogue options are presented in an overlay, and Broken Age is smart enough to automatically move things forward once you select the last bit of conversation with a character. Progress is saved as you exit, or manually at any time.

All these aspects of Broken Age make it feel familiar and comfortable, with the storyline and characterization being what youíll appreciate during your playtime and after you finish this segment. The evolving tale of these two characters will no doubt make for some awesome adventures as the Broken Age saga plays out through the remainder of this year. Thanks to Kickstarter for facilitating the creation of a promising game, and for the fans (including us) who backed it!


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:



PC: Windows XP Service Pack 3; 1.7 GHz Dual Core; 2 GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, ATI Radeon 4870 HD, Intel HD 3000, or equivalent card with at least 512 MB VRAM; DirectX Version 9.0; 1500 MB available space.

Mac: Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or later; Intel Core Duo; 2 GB RAM; ATI Radeon HD 4850, NVIDIA GeForce GT 120, Intel HD 3000, or equivalent card with at least 512 MB VRAM; 1500 MB available space.

Linux: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS; 1.7 GHz Dual Core; 2 GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, ATI Radeon 4870 HD, Intel HD 4000, or equivalent card with at least 512 MB VRAM; 1500 MB available space.

 

Test System:



Mac: Lion 10.9.1; 2GHz Intel Core i7; 8 GB RAM; Intel HD 4000 with 1024 MB VRAM.

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