Last year, a videogame creator named Tim Schafer, who was best known for a handful of games back in the 90s, got about a bazillion dollars on Kickstarter to make another one of those games. And now the game is here! I’ve been playing it and it is GREAT. Oh man.
So the game is called Broken Age. It is a point-and-click adventure, a very old and now-basically-extinct genre which is more like an interactive comic book than anything else. You click on a spot to make your character go there, you click on another character to talk with them, you click on objects to interact with them. The interactive part is in puzzles and conversation; you need to get certain information from other characters to figure out what’s going on and what to do next, so you’re presented with a list of responses so you can participate in the conversation. You generally have to pick up objects, sometimes combine them, sometimes “use” them on stuff in your environment to solve puzzles, after which you can progress in the story. Timing is hardly ever important; you don’t have to make precise jumps or press a button at a certain time or anything like that.
Broken Age is split up into two stories: one is about an adolescent girl, named Vella, one about an adolescent boy, named Shay. Vella’s story is a fairy tale, colored with pastel brushstrokes and set in what looks like an 18th-century French mountain village, except with monsters and giant birds and neighboring villages set in the clouds. Vella’s life–and death, it turns out–is not to be of her own making.
Shay lives in space, in a spaceship, his every move controlled by an overbearing mom-computer. He’s given pointless tasks to perform, from which he derives neither satisfaction nor escape from boredom. Of course, he stumbles on a hidden part of the ship, and now I will stop explaining the plot, because the joy of playing this kind of game lies in forcing the plot to reveal itself. It’s a book that requires more than just your attention; it requires your skill, your frustration (though not very much; the puzzles are nice and easy). It’s a book in which you are an active participant.
Anyway, Broken Age is great. It’s a kind of game I’d forgotten I liked; it’s slow-paced, the kind of game you can play in bed with a mug of tea on your bedside table. It is startlingly beautiful in a way that doesn’t require, like, a high pixel resolution; Schafer and his team have their own style of drawing characters and environments which seems almost transgressive when compared to big-budget games. Characters have long, spindly limbs, big heads, and big eyes, like your adolescent self in cartoon form, which is fitting for a game about adolescents breaking free of their prescribed lives.
It’s available on Steam, which is like the iTunes of videogames, for Mac, PC, or, um, Linux, for $25, and thankfully it is a slender enough game that it runs on shittier, older computers, if that’s what you’ve got. The first “episode” is available now, and if you buy it you’ll get the second for free in a few months. And you should! It is very good. Good videogame!
Image by Double Fine Productions