Top Critic Average
In the end, it's the surface details - the dry and gentle wit, the winsome voice acting, and the gorgeous design - that lash it all together. The deeper elements, the bones that might give it structural strength, feel thin. Broken Age doesn't quite suffer the fate implied by its title, but there are clearly fractures that time has failed to heal.
Let us try to imagine a world where crowdfunding somehow still exists 20 years from now. Perhaps then, we will all be invited to pay for a return to the halcyon days of Broken Age. We would probably do it. There would certainly be precedent.
I had hoped that Act 2 would be the addressing of Act 1's shortcomings, and deliver on its strengths, what had seemed so heartfelt and novel. Instead it's an incredibly pretty, superbly voice acted, crap adventure game.
Ultimately, there's more meat on the second act's puzzle bones, especially due to a memorable final-blast puzzle, and while the game's ending was more of a whimper than a bang—and it included some cockamamie ways to tie up the plot's loose ends—I appreciated the restraint on the writers' part to not force melodrama or melancholy on what eventually transpired. This game is the story of two young people who face the ups and downs of throwing off the shackles of youth—and it's also about their family and loved ones being there the whole way through.
Act 1 was just an appetizer. Act 2 is the meaty main course that defines Broken Age — and not just because it finishes the story. It's where Double Fine let loose and went crazy with the puzzles (and the complex train of thought you need to solve them). It's where characters I previously thought were only there for a joke or two became much more important. It's where Shay's and Vella's rebellion against their preordained fates turned into a cause that is much bigger than themselves.
Broken Age: Act 1 was so perfect that perhaps my expectations were inflated when playing through the second half. However, despite the challenges Broken Age is still very much a beautiful game with a heartwarming story. The puzzles, as frustrating as they are, come from a place of creative invention that defines the point-and-click genre. I choose to treasure its high points-- the charming characters, ingenious dialogue, and silly childlike whimsy.
Overall Broken Age is hugely fun game, but hardly the second coming of LucasArts as many backers probably hoped. Animation, sound, voice acting, dialogue, character, all of this is absolutely top-of-the-range, no game better in the industry, and it all makes the experience worthwhile.
Broken Age sadly suffers from a case of too much. The watercolor art style, humorous dialogue, and clever writing are unfortunately buried under too much backtracking, too much obscurity, and therefore, too much frustration. On the one hand, you can't help but get that Portal-esque "A-ha!" feeling when you solve a puzzle. But when you stumble upon a solution after frantically combining objects at random and presenting them to every NPC under the sun that makes you tap into your inner John McEnroe and say, "You cannot be serious," you can literally feel the joy sucking out of the room. I want to see a return of the point-and-click genre, but not at the expense of my sanity.
Despite these complaints, the character and tone of Broken Age are hard to resist. Act two may not capitalize on the potential of act one, but there are still plenty of moments that can bring a smile to your face or cause you to laugh-out-loud. Even at its worst, the world is a pleasure to be a part of, putting Broken Age in one of the most frustrating positions. There's already a lot of goodness within it, but it's almost impossible not to think of what it could have been.
Ultimately, this second act makes Broken Age whole, and it's more than worth your time to play and enjoy Tim Schafer's return to the genre in full. Yet, after such a long wait, it's a shame to see that Broken Age's second act, while continually beautiful and charming and with much more challenging puzzles, doesn't quite manage to live up to the promise from the end of the first.
Broken Age's second act is kind of a slog, but it's possible I should take a lesson from its crying character: When I hope for something extremely strange and specific, I shouldn't complain if I actually get it.
Broken Age: Act 2 may stumble a bit trying to be something it isn't, but what it is, is still gorgeous and enthralling, and I'll put up with some frustrating puzzles and backtracking for that.
The second act of Broken Age addresses the difficulty concerns of the first, but revisits too many familiar locations, and fails to up the ante or tie things up in a satisfying way.
Together, Broken Age Acts 1 and 2 make a solid game that players will look back on fondly. Unfortunately, the second act doesn't live up to the promise of the first. Themes are dropped, puzzles seem a bit more obtuse, and the environments feel like a retread of the first act.
Beautiful in its aesthetics, smart in its user-interface, yet ultimately lacking in almost every other key area, Broken Age: Act 2 is mightily disappointing on its own. Since it comes as a free update to those that already laid money down for Act 1, thankfully no money will feel like it has been wasted. Anyone picking up the full package on a non-PC format, though, might feel a touch more down and bitter, since the second half is not a patch on the first part and the cost outlay will be fresher in their minds.