Lets talk point-and-click: Review of Kickstarter game ‘Broken Age’

[dropcap size=small]H[/dropcap]ey guys, again, thanks for all your messages, keep them coming! It makes me happy to know I’m helping you and entertaining you!This week I’m going to be talking about and reviewing the classic Point-and-click adventure game, looking at their mass popularity on PC and Console back in the mid 1990’s and what Indie developers have made in the present. I will break it all down at the end with our PAM ratings system.

First of all, I was a MASSIVE point and click fan, Broken Sword on the PS1 really paved the way for me and my school mates back in the day. Some of our younger readers may not remember of have played it, so here’s a little insight as to what it was about.

The main protagonists of the series are George Stobbart, an American patent lawyer, and Nicole “Nico” Collard, a French freelance journalist, although Nico does not appear as a playable character in the original game The Shadow of the Templars.

The Broken Sword series was originally conceived in 1994 by Charles Cecil, Noirin Carmody and Sean Brennan, while talking about the mythology of the Knights Templar. The first three games in the series were all developed by Revolution Software, while the fourth game was co-developed by Revolution and Sumo Digital. The Shadow of the Templars and The Smoking Mirror were critical and commercial successes selling millions, while The Sleeping Dragon and The Angel of Death received mixed reviews and were not as popular as the first two games mainly due to the switch to 3D graphics and that the third game left the “point and click” interface to a more action oriented gameplay. The series appeared on several top adventure game lists. A comic book was produced for each remake of the first two Broken Sword games.

I still find it amazing that the later two games didnt do so well due to the fact they decided to go 3D, that tells me there is still a niche in the market for 2D point-and-click adventure games, so I’ve done a little research and found an indie game on Steam called: Broken Age. It’s so bloody adorable that it’s hard to review coherently. The only thing this game lacks is the kitchen sink!

It comes to us courtesy of Double Fine Productions and ‘bona fide’ adventure-game legend Tim Schafer, writer of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and more classics. It’s a throwback to the games through which he made his name, reviving a genre long thought dead: the point-and-click adventure game. This is no Telltale-style modernisation: we’re talking 100% old school. It is, again, available  on Steam and is currently £18.99. Although the price isn’t in the typical Indie range, but it is well worth the money!  Broken Age began two years ago in a historic, record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. 

Gameplay will be familiar to anyone who played games in the 90’s: exploration, inventory juggling, conversation and gentle puzzlework. But adventure games aren’t about gameplay innovation – the puzzles and thus player enjoyment are driven by the writing. Luckily, the writing and storyline and writing is fantastic. The stories are engaging, the absurd characters instantly identifiable and the dialogue frequently hilarious. And despite saccharine first appearances, there’s also real maturity and wit concealed amongst the frosting. I found the controls very easy to use and the control over the characters was little to none, it really brought a nostalgic tear to the eye.

In a kinda brilliant move, Broken Age tells two parallel stories with their own settings and characters:

In the seaside bakers’ town of Sugar Bunting, Vella (Masasa Moyo) is being prepared for the Maiden’s Feast: a sacrifice to the enormous, tentacled creature Mog Chothra, who comes every year from beyond the Plague Dam to terrorise and cause havoc in the village. Despite the sugary, sweetie atmosphere of Sugar Bunting, this is a dark, Cabin in the Woods scenario, only the overexcited maidens are clad in cake dresses and eagerly offer themselves to be eaten. But Vella manages to escape the ritual, vowing to fight Mog Chothra instead (Clearly a woman of fight). What follows is a enchanting fantasy adventure complete with puffed-up wannabe despots, a cloud-borne bird cult and fish-guts perfume.

Meanwhile in space: Shay (Elijah Wood) is a disaffected young man alone on a spaceship. His parents exist in the ship’s computer like Red Dwarfs ‘Holly’. All his friends are robots knitted from yarn, or talking kitchen utensils, designed to keep him happy and safe. His computerised mother sends him on rigged “missions” whose apparent danger is always supplanted by ice cream, cuddles or surprise presents. But even the snuggliest reality can become stiff, and even sad when the truth behind the lie (which I won’t spoil) is discovered. So Shay leaps at opportunity when the mysterious wolf-costumed Marek appears, offering danger and excitement. While distinct from one another, both storylines share themes of breaking routine, abandoning stupid traditions, and forging one’s own path through potentially dangerous ground. They may be separated by light-years, but Shay and Vella are two protagonists in a pod, almost reminding me of George Stobbart and Nico Collard’s relationship, but too far apart for any real romance. Broken Age‘s puzzles are clever enough to add some intellectual challenge to the storytelling, which I believe underpins any point and click. Each of the strange characters you meet on your two journeys needs something, whether they know it or not, and it’s up to you to help them.

Broken Age’s Music soundtrack is original and orchestral, the music accompanies the game play and almost jokes with its self at certain points. Its fantasia of sounds immerses you in this amazingly hand crafted 2D adventure. I’m glad they went original with it, as it wouldn’t have had the same effect if it wasn’t married to each move and puzzle met.

Graphically, this game is amazing on many levels, a lot of it was hand painted and digitally inputted, its colourful, vibrant and extremely easy on the eye. It plays like a cartoon, seamlessly. All the levels have their own personal character and charm to them, from the sugar coated cupcakey first levels to the dark, dingy and eerie woodlands in the latter (I’m trying not to give too much away).

Overall I will, hand on heart say that this is one of the best Indie games I have ever had the pleasure of playing, yes, I know that It had a lot of high profile people working on it, such as Tim Schafer and has a class actor Elijah Wood playing the main role, and , yes I agree its not your standard ‘flappy bird’ or ‘candy crush’ style game, but it’s better than all that, its on another level. Two years of development, beautiful hand-painted artwork and design, original orchestral soundtrack just shows, with the right Idea, the right people and help from a kickstarter, what can be achieved within the Indie sector is darn right amazing!

Check it out here!

Thanks for reading guys, if you have played this title and want to share your experiences with us, or if you have played a better point and click, please share it!

Gary Mee

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