|System: PC, PS4*|
|Dev: Double Fine|
|Pub: Double Fine|
|Release: April 28, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
All right! Act 2 of Broken Age is finally out and ready to be played. It’s been a long time, but the Double Fine Kickstarter project is finally complete. Now you finally get to see what happens to Shay and Vella. I’m ready. Let’s go!
What the heck was I doing again?
Jumping into Broken Age: Act 2 is a jarring experience, to say the least. The game simply continues, as if no time has passed. You don’t get a “previously on” cutscene, a narrator, or even a simple text-crawl to refresh you on what you had been doing. You just start playing, as if you had completed the game just yesterday.
The problem? You didn’t complete the game just yesterday. You completed the game a year ago. All the characters that Shay and Vella had interacted with in the first act have pretty much faded from your mind at this point. All the events of Act 1 are fuzzy in your memory, and while you remember a few standout moments like the worrisome tree or the sly wolf on the space ship, the things these characters did and said are lost unless you go back and play Act 1 all over again.
As a result, the presentation of Broken Age: Act 2 is rather weak because it leans on assuming you experienced Act 1. As is to be expected, Shay now has to travel through Vella’s world, and Vella has to travel through Shay’s ship. This means most of the characters and environments form Act 1 are reused, giving it all a “been there done that” feel.
You’d think this wouldn’t be the case, considering you probably can’t remember Act 1 all that well, but you’d be wrong. The game expects you to remember the events of Act 1 and very frequently references them. You are expected to use items you gathered from Act 1, along with information you were given from Act 1, to figure out where to go and what to do next. It kind of feels like characters are taunting you, expecting you to know something incredibly obvious that you just can’t remember. You know you have seen these characters before, but you have no idea what they are talking about. This makes Broken Age: Act 2 feel too familiar and too spontaneous at the same time.
Most of Broken Age; Act 2’s failings are in its puzzles. It takes a lot from old Sierra point and click adventure games. That is to say, most of the puzzles don’t employ any sense of logic of problem solving. Instead, all you are really doing is rubbing every item in your inventory on everything you can see until the game dings and you are allowed to proceed onward.
None of the solutions in the game are obvious. In fact, sometimes it appears as if the solution is obvious, with characters going as far as actually mentioning items in your inventory that you should be able to use, but instead you have to solve the problems in some other roundabout way. It very much expects you to be inside the head of the programmer, and I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what the inside of Tim Schaefer’s head looks like. Maybe I should go replay Psychonauts.
The problem is that brute forcing your way through puzzles isn’t fun. You never get a feeling of accomplishment for figuring out the right item to use. Instead it feels like you are just doing busy work before you can see the next part of the story.
The game tried to tie puzzle solutions together with switching characters and getting clues in the other scenario. Unfortunately, this isn’t obvious at all. It’s never quite clear when you have to switch, and since Act 1 allowed you to go through every character’s story fully and completely before the end, there’s no real impetus to switch until you get stuck, and at that point you are just more likely to put the game down.