Broken Age [$9.99 (HD)] is an appropriate name for this point-and-click adventure from Tim Schafer's Double Fine, veterans of the genre. The game is about two separate stories that eventually come together, hence the 'broken' part of the name, but it's also about how this game itself is broken into two separate parts: this is part one of two. Reviewing early access games from a critical perspective is hard enough as it is because a game can change so much from even a public release to its completion. But for this game, there's a special challenge because instead of charging for the full game up front like on PC, with clear "early access" distinguishers, this is just being sold as part one, with part two available as an in-app purchase. So, while I feel like part one of Broken Age shows some promise for the eventual whole, as a consumer product in and of itself, where people can buy just part one of the game, it's hard to recommend on its own.

Broken Age 1

There are two characters to play as: Vella and Shay, who each have their own stories that are seemingly independent, but intertwine by the end. It's possible to switch between the two stories at will, or to just play one straight through and then the other. I played through Shay's story and then Vella's, and I'm not quite sure that I would recommend doing it in that way. Shay's story is the shorter and weaker of the two, just kind of reaching a point where the game decides it's over. Vella's story is the longer and more satisfying one, with an actual story arc and a more satisfying conclusion, along with doing a better job at setting up this world of darkness filtered through whimsy. I'd suggest either switching between the two periodically, or playing through Vella's, first and then Shay's story. Shay's story is interesting moe for how it connects to Vella's, and it is perhaps more effective if serving as an epilogue to her story.

Broken Age 2

The ending to Part 1 does a lot to redeem the entire experience, though. I don't want to spoil it, but at least in the way I experienced it, it's a perfectly-executed cliffhanger. It dramatically elevates the Shay side of the story and caused me to re-evaluate what was happening, and suddenly things that were odd or confusing started to come together in a real eureka moment, or at least in a head-slapping way of "Why didn't I make that connection sooner?!" Perhaps jumping between stories would create a different experience, one that would perhaps make the connections between the two much clearer along the way. But in a way, that's actually the clever part of the game: it really changes a lot based on how the player plays it.

Broken Age 3

But even so, this is just the first half of a larger whole, and the two stories have obvious hanging threads that have gone unexplored, and even the ending is satisfying in a "I want to see where they're going with this" kind of way. Shay and his story has a long way to go to being actually interesting, and hopefully part two makes the setup work. Perhaps this whole first part of the game will be more satisfying not as a conclusion, but as the mid-way point. Perhaps the puzzles will become bigger and more challenging, as they were never too difficult, but have some clever moments.

Broken Age 2

This game may be halfway done to being a full and finished product, but the production values are not lacking. The game looks gorgeous in motion, like a vibrant storybook come to life. This is why retina iPads exist. The interface on the mini could be a little better: some text selections are small, though the interface, with a cursor that can be activated by dragging around, helps a lot. Otherwise, just tapping on the screen works well, and there's no real conversation option that will, say, ruin the game by accidentally selecting it. There's eight save slots, and the ability to sync up saves to Dropbox, which is great for if the app has to be deleted before part two comes out to clear up space.

Now, while the game is gorgeous and ends on a high note, Broken Age Part 1 on its own is hard to recommend. I'm not disregarding the entire game – with Part 2, it could wind up being something great. But just Part 1? I'd wait for the whole thing to release.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarNoneNone
  • Kosikutioner

    Weird this is criticized for episodic content when games by Telltale are beloved here.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      If you read our reviews of Telltale games, they're largely the same. It's hard to fully recommend anything based off the first episode, which first episode reviews almost always reflect.

      • Solarclipse

        As of now, this game has 5 stars from the TA community. I understand that the critics perspective is slightly different, but it seems that our expectations are different here, and I think you should reflect on why that is. Episodic games are a thing, and I think they should be considered in terms of the experience they give you, not the one they don't yet.

      • Kosikutioner

        This seemed much more hesitant. But whatever, just seemed odd.

    • Guitario666

      I was just going to write that.
      I prefer to go to the forum for the communities point of view or *gasp* Appspy for reviews

  • C. Stubb

    According to the App Store description, this game was designed specifically for a younger audience (years 9-11). I think that's important to keep in mind when trying to enjoy this game as an adult.

    • sbnewsom

      It is by no means developed for a younger audience.

  • Dora Breckinridge

    I want to talk more about the gameplay than the story or visuals for a moment. For my part, I found Broken Age to be VERY easy... largely progression is linear enough that you never get stuck since you're shuffled from area to area, so you never have to do much to exhaust your options to figure out what to do next. It was sort of a disappointment given how much this was hyped as a "classic" difficult point-and-click adventure, and most characters make it pretty obvious what they need and how to go about getting it. It makes a short-ish game feel even shorter because you're just flying right through it, though the difficulty does ramp up some towards the latter half of each story. Having played the game myself on PC a while back, I can actually say that the story does not change if you jump back and forth between the two main characters, so that function does little more than offer you a chance of scenery if you're stuck on someone else's plot.

    I also find it sort of odd that this is so heavily criticized as being an "early access" game instead of what it is... part one of a two part story. As another commenter pointed out, it's an episodic game, not something broken or unfinished pending updates as the review almost implies. It makes me feel like you wanted or expected something different from the game instead of what it actually is, which is the first half of a cinematic point-and-click fantasy adventure, and not, say, the consequence and action-heavy narratives of The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. I'm not saying your story criticisms aren't valid, I'm just offering a different view on what I think the game is, and what it's actually trying to be. :)

  • blindmuggy

    I do have to say im quite surprised by the three star rating, i mean just the graphics and voice acting are amazing enough to grant it a four, the puzzles themselves are quite simple but like it says on the tin, years 9 - 11, i did not realise however when i got the game it was episodic i think this is something that should be made abundantly clear to even people like me who don't take much notice of things, i prefer one off games and am not a fan of episodic by the time the next episode is out I'm bored of it already.

    I do believe however that pricing of an app should effect its ratings as then the developers will consider pricing in their development if we let them get away with any kind of pricing then they just will push it up more and more, your kidding yourself if you don't think they do it for the money. But I'm happy with the 9.99 i paid for this game as the quality and the content are more than value for money

    Overall if you like looking at beautiful scenery and great voice acting then get this game,

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      You... are aware that game development is a business, yeah? Of course they're doing it for money.

  • demi

    I think this review is a little unfair. The game should get 4 stars in my opinion. To knock it down because it's only the first part is unfair and hypocritical for Touch Arcade. As a perfect example, Broken Sword 5 was released with only part one of two and pocket tactics gave it four stars.

  • Mattman

    "But just Part 1? I'd wait for the whole thing to release."

    Maybe you should have taken your own advice and waited for both episodes before reviewing Part 1. I love this site, but this review harped on one issue, even though it's become commonplace to split adventure games into episodes. And if the cliffhanger is well executed, what's the problem?

  • shadow9d9

    People...this is NOT episodic. They mismanaged their ridiculous budget and only released half of the game.

  • heresandypandy

    Far review, I thought. People are way too concerned with those little gold stars, amazed TA haven't got rid of them yet.

    • Kosikutioner

      I just find it odd how much of the text in this review talks about a thing they clearly advertise constantly, no one should be caught unaware that this is the first of a two part game. Why the review seems to be intent on driving that point home is what confused me. Whatever about the stars.

      I backed both this and Republique. I prefer this game so far (both remain not complete yet). It's not that Republique got 5 and this 3. It's that one barely mentions it's divided into 5 chapters and gives it a fair shake. It felt like every paragraph in this review had to mention it's only Act 1 of 2.

      • Kosikutioner

        Clicked reply too soon. Part of my disappointment in the review is not feeling informed as to whether I want to buy the game again on iOS. It really just seems to warn people it's half a game.

  • err404

    I played this on my Mac, and not the iOS version, but they sound essentially the same. I loved the game. It is not difficult or long, but it tells an clever story at a casual pace. Still, I understand that it is not everyone's favorite genre.
    As for the price, I'm all for the premium cost. Games are too cheap these days anyway.

  • r3d5

    You still get the second half of the game you know....

    • BevWadevob

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      • Gameplaya

        Really? We're going there you BOT?

  • falco

    Just to let you know IGN reviewed this game on iPad and gave it a (9.5 Amazing)

  • pinta_vodki

    The reviewer is plain wrong. Broken Age is not an "early access" game on Mac/PC. It is Act 1, and it is noted so on Steam as well as in iTunes Store. Please don't blame your failure to check facts for your mismatched expectations.

    The game was split with style with a perfectly matching cliffhanger. It is Act 1 of 2 in its own right. It is "halfway done" no more than Walking Dead was "1/5th done".

  • Doxxic

    It's becoming almost fascinating how bad TA's expertise seems when reviewing Point & Click Adventures, compared to other genres.

    Lost Echo got no review at all, even though it is one of the best P&CAs of the past year.

    Journey Down, which could be the best of 2013 and is about to have pt 2 released, was treated like Broken Age: one minor and misjudged aspect got all the reviewers attention. (although it still got four stars)

    Missed gem: Fester Mudd.

    But!

    A series that came in as many as three parts, and which is not particularly better than Broken Age or Journey Down in terms of story, art, size, or puzzle design, got a deserved 4.5 stars for part 1 and 4 stars for the other two.

    Machinarium was another P&CA that got the treatment it deserved. Like Hector's this review was written by Joseph Leray.

    TA should try and get some grip on the genre, especially since touch devices lend themselves so well for it.

    Could it be that they don't get the attention they deserve because they rise to fame so slowly, and are played with such a different energy curve compared to other games?

    Or should TA just appoint Joseph Leray as their P&C Adventure expert?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      We don't have any active writers that particularly love the genre, and review we do post of point and click adventure games get incredibly small amounts of traffic... Indicating our audience isn't really that in to them either. If you're interested in covering them for us, jobs@toucharcade.com

Broken Age ™ Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 3