This review deals with the entirety of Broken Age (as it is now sold), even if the text will mainly evaluates the content found in Act 2. You can find our review of Act 1 here.
Kickstarted in 2012 and with the first episode released early in 2014, we're finally getting to taste the whole of Double Fine Adventure - or Broken Age as it was later named. Waiting fifteen months for the second act of an adventure game is far from ideal, but it has finally arrived and the story of Shay and Vella has been brought to its conclusion.
Broken Age is a coming of age adventure that follows the adventures of a girl, Vella, who has been raised so she can be fed to a monster called Mog Chothra in order to save her village for another fourteen years, while Shay is a boy who grows up on a spaceship where he's mollycoddled to complete boredom.
Let's be completely honest here. Broken Age isn't truly an episodic game. It's an adventure that was released in two parts and while there was actually a rather good point mid-adventure to divide it, it is quite obvious that the adventure was originally envisioned as one game and that's how it's best experienced.
One thing that received a bit of criticism in Act 1 was the level of difficulty, and whether Double Fine has listened to the feedback or not, Act 2 sure turns up the challenge as some of the puzzles will likely make you go look for solutions online, or for clues to help you understand how you're supposed to solve a certain puzzle.
It can be frustrating, but ultimately when you've solved the wire puzzle in your Hexapal (you'll know what I mean when you get there) you'll feel as if you're taking off in a spaceship yourself. The problem with this is that players will undoubtedly feel the difficulty spike as they head into the second part of the adventure.
One worry I had about Act 2 is that it wouldn't bring any surprises as the narrative structure sees Shay and Vella switch places for most of it. While it is a bit of a disappointment that there aren't more new environments to explore (the returning environments have changed some, of course), there are plenty of surprising turns left in the second part of the adventure. Perhaps the most unexpected turn of events is how Shay's parents are brought into the fold as Act 2 kicks off.
Broken Age certainly delivers as far as artstyle and presentation goes. There's an arts and craft quality to the design and anyone who happens to look over your shoulder will feel obliged to ask what you're playing. The voice acting - from the likes of Elijah Wood, Jack Black, Jennifer Hale, and Harmonix's Alex Rigopoulos (Alex) - is of the highest calibre.
We've mainly played Broken Age on PC, but we also took the time to sample the game on PS4 and PS Vita. While adventure games feel more at home on PC the limited inventory and nature of the items you interact with in the environments are such that you won't be terribly uncomfortable on console and the game is a great fit on PS Vita.
Overall, having played all of Broken Age, we're not quite as enthused as we were after the first half. Act 2 is high quality, but the narrative and dialogue simply doesn't make us laugh quite as much (though there is a lot of great comedy mainly involving Alex this time around). But our favourite encounters are probably with the somewhat grumpy talking tree who's rather appalled at human exploration of his brethren.
The increased challenge also makes for a slightly uneven pace across the adventure as a whole. Some will no doubt be glad to hear about the higher difficulty, but if you stay away from guides you're likely going to feel frustrated at times (unless you're an adventure game wunderkid). That said, Act 2 does bring closure and, looking at the narrative as a whole, it has to be said that it really comes together nicely in the end. It may not be Tim Schafer's most memorable work, but it offers a nice treatment of some themes that are seldom well represented in video games.
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