Broken Age Review

Richard Walker

A tale of talking cutlery, vomiting trees and maiden devouring monsters, Broken Age is certainly unique, if nothing else. The result of Double Fine's record-breaking Kickstarter efforts, Broken Age is a beautifully hand-painted, lovingly animated point-and-click adventure that juggles humour, pathos and puzzles with brilliant aplomb; a game that demands to be played and savoured. And yet, this is an adventure game that while evidently a work of excellence, is not without its flaws.

We'll get to that in a bit, but first, a little bit of background detail, to, y'know, set the scene and that. Broken Age tells the story of Vella and Shay, the former a girl destined for greater things beyond the small town of Sugar Bunting, where she's offered up as a sacrifice to the monstrous Mog Chothra at the 'Maiden's Feast'. Shay, meanwhile, is a teenage boy stuck in an infinite loop aboard a strange space station, awakening to the same monotonous routine of morning cereal, silly missions and huggable yarn creatures. Both understandably yearn to escape the drudgery of their workaday lives.

As such, it falls to you, the player, to rescue Vella from a grim fate within the belly of the beast and snap Shay out of his daily grind, ultimately saving the day and all that good stuff. What follows is a typically fun and humorous procession of puzzles that require a little lateral thinking in some cases, and straight-up off-the-wall thinking in others. You can switch between Vella and Shay at any time, which is especially helpful if you're stuck at any point. It's nice to have a change of pace while you ruminate on possible solutions to whatever conundrum you've come unstuck on, and come unstuck you most likely will.

Beneath the stylised, painterly artwork and cast of colourful characters, lies a traditional point-and-click adventure game that doesn't exactly pull its punches when it comes to posing a variety of head-scratching problems to solve. The majority of Broken Age's puzzles are entirely logical, and as such, reaching a solution makes you feel incredibly smart. Conversely, there are puzzles that require a slightly woolier form of logic, like the untangling of an exceptionally complicated knot, or the fabrication of a part that consists of several, not entirely obvious, stages.

Everything ultimately makes sense, though, meaning you'll undoubtedly experience more than the occasional epiphany when the penny drops and you figure out that tricky bit that's been giving you trouble. Assuming you don't cave in and reach for a guide, that is. Obviously, you're better off working it all out for yourself. It's better that way, even if you do end up having to backtrack and put in a lot of legwork, which can become frustrating at times. Broken Age's puzzles aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a handful in there that might push your patience near to breaking point, especially the instances when the answer was staring you right in the face the entire time.

That said, the payoffs are more than worth it, Double Fine's efforts resulting in an adventure that will live long in the memory, even after the game's somewhat annoying final segment has run its course. Here's the bit about the flaws we promised. It's the concluding sequence of Broken Age that leaves a slightly sour taste, its overly convoluted tinkering with wires, switching back and forth between Shay and Vella, while having to perfectly coordinate one last action to complete the game that leeches any drama or tension the game's closing moments could have otherwise had. It's the only real misstep in an otherwise superb experience.

Indeed, Broken Age's story itself is fantastic, the Act One reveal of how Vella and Shay are connected being a particularly smart narrative sleight of hand that completely alters how you view the events that have led up to that juncture. Broken Age is genuinely excellent stuff then, filled with character, charm and clever humour; proof positive of what Double Fine is capable of within the adventure genre, and undoubtedly among Tim Schafer and his team's finest work to date. It might have been out for two years on other platforms, but if you've yet to try Broken Age, perhaps it's time you jumped in to see what all the fuss is about now that it's finally arrived on Xbox One.

Broken Age

An adventure game with warmth, humour and heart, Broken Age is a joy from beginning to (almost) end. Easily among Double Fine's best.

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Stellar voice acting from the likes of Elijah Wood, Masasa Moyo, Jack Black et al., and a wonderful musical score to boot.


The painted, hand-animated art style is gorgeous and the backdrops are lovely too. What's not to like?


Anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of point-and-click adventure will feel right at home here. Streamlined, only occasionally finicky, controls.


Two lengthy acts and a grand finale mean Broken Age represents fine value for money. You might revisit it too, in years to come.


A decent enough list that pushes you to exhaust every dialogue option, push every button and try everything. Some are exceedingly tricky, however, and I'm sure one or two might be glitched.

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