Publisher: Double Fine
Year Made: 2014 (Act 2 released in 2015)
Platforms: PC, iOS, PS4, PS Vita, Mac OS, Android
Content Areas: English Language Arts
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 8 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Double Fine and Tim Schafer are known for creating games that are hilarious and try something new in storytelling. In Broken Age, they aim to do the same and bring back old school point-and-click adventure games. Broken Age tells two stories that are seemingly separate but both focus on teenagers trying to break from the traditions in their lives. Shay is a teenage boy who lives alone in a spaceship, closely guarded by his overprotective computer Mom. Shay seeks a life of adventure and danger while a life of adventure and danger finds Vella, who has been chosen as a sacrifice to the great monster Mog Chothra to save her village. When both of them choose to buck tradition, the real game and story starts.
Unfortunately, there are a number of issues in Broken Age that can come between the player and a full immersion into this adventure. Some of the puzzles aren’t as engaging as they could be or their solutions are so obscure that players either have to guess or look it up online (which I had to do). The puzzles and their solutions are also thrown all across the map, pulling players out of the story as they trek back and forth across the screen. It became so frustrating to walk back and forth so many times that I actually cheered for a puzzle that let me skip the walking between two sections. Had the game included a map that allowed players to fast travel between locations, the game itself would have been a far more immersive experience.
The biggest letdown to the game was what felt like a rather abrupt end to Act 2, especially compared to the excitement of Act 1’s ending. Shortly after introducing the motives that propel the entire plot and a few final puzzles, the game ends. When it ended, I honestly thought it was a joke at first, because I still had so many questions and about the characters. It probably won’t be such an odd ending to players that haven’t waited a year for the conclusion, but it does leave the game feeling like nothing has really been tied up.
Given Broken Age’s creative storyline, it fits well into an English Language Arts class. The multiple perspectives with Vella and Shay could be used as its own text or part of a larger lesson on narratives, point of view, and character arcs. Shay and Vella’s own dreams of having more in their lives and being heroes can also tie into any hero’s story. Teachers could even turn the game’s ending into a positive by asking students how they would want it to end or encouraging them to create their own back story to the newly introduced characters, allowing them to become creators and designers after playing through and discussing the game.
Despite its flaws, Broken Age is a sweet, humorous game that can inspire plenty of conversation about creating narrative and characters that an audience will remember. It is certainly worth a playthrough, especially with Act 2’s release, and could even become a cozy addition to an English Language Arts class.
Educational Rating: 5/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 5/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)