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Broken Age Act I

Remember when CHUD suggested that Schafer should never make another game again? Jason, being Jason, obviously thought otherwise, and Jason, being the Mojo-er he is, wrote a lengthy rant article stating how that was utter BS.

Thumb You will punch yourself when you figure out how simple this puzzle actually was.
Jason was right, of course, and should you be in need of evidence of his infinite wisdom, you don't need to look any further than Broken Age. This is the type of game where every inch of the world should be explored and interacted with, the type of universe that truly and wholly immerses you in the way a movie couldn't.

As far as gameplay goes, it's a mix of old and new; classic adventure gaming and modern mechanisms. And for those who feel earlier Schafer games had gameplay that got in the way of the stories and the worlds, fret not. While Broken Age has its share of fiendish puzzles, they are not monkey wrench-frustrating, and a streamlined interface makes everything just a bit simpler than it was in the adventure game of yore. Some might still say it's a bit too easy, and that's fair enough, I suppose. Times have changed a bit since 1998.

Make no mistake, though: This is, at heart, a classic adventure game. It even includes inventory items that can be combined. No disrespect to Telltale's current crop of puzzle-less games -- The Wolf Among Us has been very intriguing so far -- but it feels refreshing going back to the days of some real puzzle solving.

Thumb Not quite as dangerous of a situation as you first would think it was.
Yet, the star of the show here is what makes Schafer's games downright special: Story and worlds; dialogue; characters; all wrapped up in bizarre clothing.

Following Vella and Shay, this is in many ways a story of growing up, and of teenage rebellion. Why should Shay live the mundane life inflicted on him by a computer AI mimicking his parents? Why should Vella let herself be sacrificed to Mog Chothra to appease a monster which the town should fight instead? And what ties the two characters's stories together? Anything? Or are the two stories just bound together by similar circumstances?

Whatever the case may be, it's nice being able to switch between the characters at will, Day of the Tentacle style. One story might not directly impact the other, but when stuck, you don't have to sit around frustrated, trying to figure out that one puzzle.

The type of puzzles you go through in each world are different, too. Vella's are a bit more of classic adventure style; Shay's are more modern. Jumping between the variations makes the whole gaming experience a lot less frustrating than it could have been.

Which again means the mechanisms don't get in the way of enjoying the story and the world, and thank god for that. What an odd world this is, with bizarre characters, beautifully presented in the art style of Nathan Stapley (and Scott Campbell and probably many other artists that should be credited too). The minor details; the animations; the colors. They paint a world that's like a living, breathing storybook.

Thumb Echoes of The Hunger Games.
And the music? As stellar as anything Peter McConnell has ever done. The style of it is even be a bit different from his usual work. There's a quiet subtleness here that goes well with the mellow feel of the world. It's graphics and music married together in perfect harmony, in a way that I haven't seen since Grim Fandango or possibly even LeChuck's Revenge.

And speaking of Monkey Island: Broken Age's dialogue very much reminds of the first two entries of that series. If you ever need a reminder of Schafer's contribution to those games, well, this should do it. That's a very good thing. It is also beautifully delivered, the dialogue, by both A-list actors, like Elijah Wood and Jack Black, and equal A-list video game actors like Nicki Rapp.

Is there anything that lets this game down then? Honestly, not really. Not truly. There was a bug that made the screen go black after a scene, but going into the option screen and back again pushed the game into gear.

Some might take issue with this just being the first act of the game, but… It is what it is. Waiting a few months for the next part shouldn't kill anyone. And if you finish this game in a few hours, you're doing it wrong. Explore the world, enjoy the dialogue, interact with everything you see. There is so much to do in Broken Age, and there is no -- no -- need to cheat yourself out of what is a stellar gaming experience by rushing through it.

Yes, I am gushing over this game. Those who are disappointed by Broken Age are insane, plain and simple. You might disagree with me, and that's fair enough; there is no shame committing yourself to a mental hospital.

Broken Age is an adventure game that easily could have been a direct follow-up to Grim had it been released in 2002 or whatever. It is a beautiful, fun, strange game, one that marries old with new, and one that any and all adventure game fan should love. Want to reminisce about being a teenager, shaking your fist at the world? This is a good reminder, and a reminder that you might just have been right all along.

It might be too early to pick game of the year in January, so let's just say it's a contender. At the very least.

Broken Age is a special game, one that any serious old time adventure gamer will love, and one that equally will appeal to those who simply love a great story and strange, wonderful worlds.

Thank god for Kickstarer for making Broken Age possible. We truly owe you one.