By Michael WORKMAN
There’s a name that may not mean much to younger gamers, but to the lucky few who grew up in the ’90s, it meant quality games with absurdly entertaining and witty writing. That name is Tim Schafer, and he is one of the many amazing pioneers in the point and click adventure genre. Titles like “The Secret of Monkey Island,” “Day of the Tentacle,” “Full Throttle” and “Grim Fandango” are all considered classics that made having a computer in the ’90s so much fun. Now the master is at it again, with the release of Tim Schafer’s latest true point and click adventure since 1995, “Broken Age: Act One.”
Even before LucasArts was scrapped by Disney, many of its former game designers left to work at other companies like Telltale Games. Schafer founded his own company, Double Fine, and has since been doing what he does best – make quirky and hilarious video games. “Broken Age” was funded through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, which accepted donations from the many fans of Schafer’s other projects.
“Broken Age” follows the story of two young teenagers who live in vastly different worlds, but are dealing with similar coming-of-age struggles. One of the stories is centered on a young girl named Vella, who has recently been chosen by her village for a great and honored tradition. Unfortunately, that tradition is being sacrificed to a monster called Mog Chothra. Everyone in the village (including Vella’s family) sees this as a great honor. Thankfully, Vella isn’t so keen on being eaten and decides she will find a way to slay Mog Chothra and stop it from destroying her village. It was amusing to see everyone she asks for help in killing Mog Chothra react with horror that she would even suggest the idea.
The other story of “Broken Age” focuses on a young boy named Shay (voiced by Elijah Wood) who lives aboard a space ship with a computer that has one purpose – keep Shay safe.
Creator Schafer admitted, “I love stories about people alone on spaceships. It’s just a weird fantasy of mine. Just like the computer taking care of everything or automated systems. Like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ or ‘Sunshine.’”
The computer indeed acts like a doting mother to Shay by feeding him, bathing him, and even setting up fake missions for Shay to go on. Calling them missions is stretching it a bit, since they usually involve eating ice cream or being hugged. Shay is understandably sick of this same routine day after day and seeks to somehow escape the ship.
The gameplay is classic old school point and click. Simply click on the screen where the character should move or click an object to interact with it. The story progresses as the player solves puzzles, such as finding a replacement knife for a shoemaker or crossing a cloud without falling through it. Since this was masterminded by Schafer, the game is also filled with hilarious characters and situations. Actor/musician Jack Black voices a strange cloud guru who teaches self-improvement through “lightness.”
Then there are flat-out crazy elements, which include highlights like causing a train full of orphans to fall into a canyon and making a talking tree vomit.
The only problem with “Broken Age” is that a few of the puzzles are solved in ways in which a player has a difficult time seeing the logic in piecing it together.
The art style in “Broken Age” is amazingly beautiful. The bright colors and watercolor look of the settings were wonderful to see. Not to mention, the characters are much more “pretty” than some of Schafer’s previous games. Aside from the silliness of the game, there is something bigger going on in each story. The end of the first act only raises more questions as to why Shay is being isolated from the world or the reason Mog Chothra is gobbling up the young girl.
Double Fine’s “Broken Age” is a wonderful return to the classic days of point and click adventures. It brings two fascinating stories of children rebelling against traditions and seeking more fulfilling lives. The visuals were worthy of praise and the gameplay was solid. Despite a few puzzles that might give people headaches, “Broken Age” Act One was a joy to play. I fully expect Act Two to be even better.
“Broken Age” gets a 4 out of 5.