A story for the ages

With two he­roes, two worlds and plenty of puzzles to point-and-click your way through, bro­ke­nage is a won­der­fully en­gag­ing story of grow­ing up and mas­ter­ing your own des­tiny.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY - By SHAUN A. NO­ORDIN

Point-and-click ad­ven­ture games have al­ways been a happy mar­riage of klep­to­ma­nia and oCD (­ob­ses­sive– com­pul­sive dis­or­der). You’d go around grab­bing ev­ery item that wasn’t nailed down and then ob­ses­sively mash them to­gether with ran­dom ob­jects in the scene in the hopes that they will some­way, some­how, solve a puz­zle.

if you’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced the joy of do­ing crazy things like us­ing Root Beer to ban­ish a Ghost Pi­rate, please go play clas­sic gems like Se­cret of Mon­key Is­land and then come back to this re­view. it’ll give you con­text as to why we’re so ex­cited to write this next para­graph. Ready? tim Schafer — one of the brains be­hind leg­endary ad­ven­ture games such as Mon­key Is­land and Day of the Ten­ta­cle — and his stu­dio, Dou­ble Fine, have re­turned to the point-and-click scene with a new ti­tle called Bro­ken Age. Whee!

Bro­ken Age tells par­al­lel tales of two he­roes in two dif­fer­ent worlds.

in the fan­tasy world, there’s Vella tar­tine, a young girl in a vil­lage full of bak­ers who’s given the “hon­our” of be­ing cho­sen as a sac­ri­fi­cial maiden for a Cthulhu-like god-mon­ster. She quickly re­alises that this is a bum­mer of a deal, and soon switches gears from help­less damsel to as­pir­ing mon­ster-killer.

in the sci-fi world, there’s Shay Volta, a young boy who’s the sole hu­man on a com­puter-con­trolled space­ship. He yearns for ad­ven­ture, but is con­stantly smoth­ered by the pam­per­ing over-pro­tec­tive­ness of his ro­botic guardians, who may in fact be hiding dark se­crets from him.

Al­though worlds apart, our two pro­tag­o­nists will find that they’ll walk very sim­i­lar roads, with each fight­ing to break out of the roles forced upon them. it’s a very touch­ing story, even if at one point you’ll start talk­ing to an ag­gra­vated barf­ing tree.

Hey, it wouldn’t be much of a point-and­click game if it wasn’t at least a lit­tle wacky.

Let’s get the game­play bits out of the way. Bro­ken Age fol­lows the stan­dard con­ven­tion of point-and-click adventures, al­beit its puzzles are quite pol­ished given the ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind its de­sign.

new­com­ers will find that the game is an ex­cel­lent in­tro­duc­tion to the genre. the puzzles are fairly in­tu­itive and there’s no trace of the genre’s in­fu­ri­at­ing pixel-hunt­ing prob­lem. Con­versely, vet­eran point­ers and ex­pe­ri­enced click­ers will need to ad­just their ex­pec­ta­tions se­verely down­wards. De­spite its pedi­gree, the game isn’t par­tic­u­larly dense with puzzles, and you could fin­ish the game in per­haps three hours.

Come to think of it, we never had more than half a dozen items in our in­ven­tory at our time, so you can pretty much rule out overly com­plex multi-step puzzles in­volv­ing gi­ant ro­bot mon­keys or what­ever.

the only gim­mick Bro­ken Age of­fers, game­play-wise, is the abil­ity to switch be­tween Vella and Shay at any point. How­ever, the two can­not in­ter­act (­un­like the three-he­roes-con­nected-by-a-time­trav­el­ling-toi­let in­san­ity of Day Of The Ten­ta­cle) so it feels less like a game me­chanic and more like alt-tab­bing be­tween two dif­fer­ent ad­ven­ture games.

in other words, the game me­chan­ics in Bro­ken Age are pretty vanilla-flavoured for point-and-click adventures, but does that mean it’s bor­ing? Heck, not at all.

Two he­roes, two worlds

The point is to click

See, the game­play’s just a lure to get you started. What’ll re­ally get you hooked, and what’ll re­ally make you want to play Bro­ken Age to its end, is its story.

Tall tales, big hearts

Given Schafer’s and Dou­ble Fine’s wellestab­lished brand of wit and hu­mour, we started play­ing Bro­ken Age think­ing it was go­ing to be an all-out com­edy. our as­sump­tion was proven wrong, but in a good way.

Bro­ken Age turns out to be chil­dren’s sto­ry­book that’s aimed at an adult au­di­ence. it has gor­geous hand-painted graph­ics and a cast of ec­cen­tric char­ac­ters that make you feel like you’re liv­ing in a sto­ry­book fan­tasy world or mag­i­cal space­ship.

Yet, at the same time, its cen­tral mes­sage is more time­less and nu­anced, work­ing on the theme of grow­ing up and in­de­pen­dence. it boils down to a sim­ple moral: Some­times, you have to de­cide what’s right for your­self, and some­times you need to break free of the things that tie you down.

one of our most mem­o­rable mo­ments in Bro­ken Age was when we came to the hor­ri­fy­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that the so­ci­ety Vella lives in ac­tu­ally cel­e­brates the reg­u­lar maiden sac­ri­fices. the peo­ple Vella holds dear, in fact, ac­tu­ally chide her for not want­ing to tart her­self up (­or cake her­self up, to be more pre­cise) so she can be eaten by an un­speak­able ter­ror from the dark be­yond.

it re­ally made us in­vested in Vella as a char­ac­ter, and we re­ally wanted her to suc­ceed on her quest to go against her so­ci­ety’s norms and kill an un­stop­pable god­mon­ster. Folks, this is how you make sto­ries en­gag­ing.

the earnest­ness in which Bro­ken Age tells its story makes the game both beau­ti­ful and mag­i­cal, and we were en­thralled with the char­ac­ters even if said story in­volves de­li­cious ice cream avalanches, sac­ri­fi­cial maidens dressed in cakes and run­ning around a for­est show­ing off your... stool sam­ple.

We did al­ready men­tion this amaz­ing game can also be a bit strange, right?

End game

Bro­ken Age is a great ti­tle, but un­for­tu­nately, there’s one im­por­tant is­sue that we need to re­port to you. Con­sider it a miss­ing puz­zle piece.

the bad news is that Bro­ken Age is ( Point-and-click ad­ven­ture game for PC, Mac, Linux (SteamPlay)

www.bro­ke­nagegame.com ac­tu­ally bro­ken (­ha!) into two parts. only Act 1 is cur­rently avail­able, so if you buy the game right now, you’ll only be get­ting half the story. We won’t re­ally know if Dou­ble Fine will stick the land­ing and have a sat­is­fy­ing end­ing un­til Act 2 is re­leased — as a free up­date — later this year.

the good news, how­ever, is that Act 1 is al­ready worth the price of en­try, even if it’s just for the artis­tic value alone.

the sim­ple, tra­di­tional point-and-click game­play is just the sur­face layer of this ti­tle. What Bro­ken Age truly is, at its core, is an in­cred­i­bly en­gag­ing tale that’s full of heart and ad­ven­ture.

Folks, this one is poised to be a story for the ages.

Pros:

Enthralling story full of wit and heart; beau­ti­ful painted graph­ics.

Wait­ing for Act 2 to be re­leased.

Cons:

bytz@thes­tar.com.my Head in the clouds: Vella’s adventures will take her to ex­otic fan­tasy lo­cales, in­clud­ing a city built on fluffy clouds. no, we’re not kid­ding. This game has barf­ing trees. The sea­side town was a beach to get to.

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