Broken Age - Review

Author: Andrea Maderna
Date: 2020-03-03 20:11:32
Three years after officially starting the Kickstarter era, Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions have come to the end of the journey called Broken Age. In 2012 they collected a huge amount of money from a huge amount of people, much more than initially requested and expected, to create a graphic adventure "as it once was". About two years later, having come to terms with the impossibility of satisfying the consequent surge of ambition in the announced times, the boys decided to give us the first half of their game, promising a conclusion in 2015. And in fact here I am chatting about accomplished work, strengthened by a new awareness that I am now going to exhibit.

In case there were doubts before, it is difficult to have today: Broken Age is not, does not want to be and has never been a game designed for publication in two parts. It is not a Telltale adventure, clearly conceived for a development in installments, it is a unique work, yes divided into two segments, but which makes real sense only as a single object, in which the evident imbalances between the first and second half, however, have decidedly more reason to exist. Moreover, Schafer himself wrote it in his open letter, inviting to replay the first part (which, by the way, is the "faster" one) in order to enjoy the whole adventure in a single solution. Good for those who play on consoles and receive the complete package in a single hit, or even for those who wanted to wait. Not that everyone else has to tear their hair out of anger, but in short.

A year later, the arcane is solved: they did not forget to put the puzzles in Broken Age, they only crammed them all into the second part. From mid-onwards, basically, the story pauses and the game begins. And yes, for heaven's sake, mine is a somewhat brutal simplification, but it doesn't go far from the reality of a bizarre, unbalanced game, in which the half-adventure turn turns a narrative and playful turnaround and suddenly changes the balance between the elements. And perhaps above all for this reason Broken Age should be played as a "unique" game, regardless of what one loves to do with episodic productions: it is not an episodic production, it is a unique journey that rests part of its charm also on this slightly bizarre and unbalanced, almost mirror-like structure.


Mind you, it's not that the second half of Broken Age is an enigmatic jubilation to blow your brains out, but there are complex, complex puzzles that require intuition, a desire to adapt to the slightly out of mussel spirit with which they were designed and above all, a lot of observation. Among other things, always in support of the thesis according to which playing the two acts many months later is not a great idea, a couple of apparently very tough puzzles of the second part are actually rather trivial, but linked to clues that are provided in the before. And go and remember them. But in short, those looking for an adventure that is at least a little complex can feel comfortable: at the beginning it doesn't seem, but on the distance Broken Age warms up the engine and the final part offers a satisfactory network of small actions to be chained between the two protagonists. If you ask me, it is well thought out and very funny, but I see that many have found it forced and frustrating, so it seems fair to report it.

Of course, the downside is that in the second part of the game the story really pauses for large stretches, perhaps leans a little too much on showing what has already been seen in a different light and goes to pull the strings in a fairly way under tone. If the first part of the story is a real delight, capable of dealing with interesting subjects in a delicate way and suggesting a rare depth in the world of video games, in the second act it all boils down to a banal battle against the bad guys on duty. Do you know Pixar films that give their best in the first half and then resolve in three or four pursuits with a happy ending? Here, in a sense, we are in those parts, but without having the same ability to follow up and just close the issues launched at the start. And for heaven's sake, comparing Broken Age to a Pixar film is a great compliment, but despite a finale that expresses a beautiful message of tolerance and acceptance, I still have a bitter aftertaste of a lost opportunity, perhaps due to the inability to collect all that had been sown.

Do you keep all the promises? Maybe not, but we must also say that "Tim Schafer's new graphic adventure as in the old days" is an impossible promise, unless you jump into the Day of the Tentacle time machine. Broken Age is a great game, fun, rich, stylistically adorable, well-kept, interesting in the themes it faces and with, yes, some aspects that have not been completely successful. It is a classic graphic adventure, filtered through a modern gaze but which does not deny the cornerstones of the genre like other interpretations of the new millennium. Maybe it doesn't find the best possible balance, but it doesn't go too far and offers production values that are out of reach for practically anyone else who still works in a lively, flourishing, but indisputably niche genre. In short, it is a victory. In points, very painful and certainly not by knockout, but still victory.

MODUS OPERANDI
At the time of the original release, I received a Steam code directly from Double Fine and completed the first act within three hours. The second act asked me about five, with a thousand thanks to my ability to remember idiotic and apparently insignificant details of stuff played a year ago while I forget what I ate today for breakfast. I unlocked 17 out of 45 achievements.