Note: Broken Age was originally released as two games, a year apart. If you haven't played any of it, we recommend checking out our Act 1 review to avoid any spoilers
In our review of Broken Age's first act, we hoped that the conclusion would include "some tougher puzzles". If Double Fine used that as feedback (it's not impossible!), then we apologise.
In this second half, Broken Age is filled with obtuse puzzles that stretch far beyond the realm of logic and reason, with brain-melting solutions that will challenge even the most veteran pointers and clickers.
Difficult puzzles are good, of course, because they're more satisfying to solve. But they require careful design with subtle hints, consistent logic, and good feedback to let the player know if they're on the wrong track.Vella difficult
So here's a typical puzzle from Broken Age. You need to attract the attention of a grabby robot hand and when you look at it, Vella notes the hand's really interested in trying to snatch a pair of nearby space boots.
Unfortunately, the solution has nothing to do with the other boots on the screen, or the slippers in your inventory. The solution is to give it your space helmet. Sorry logic, this is a '90s style point and click. Your kind isn't wanted here.
While many of the puzzles are fairly well designed, obtuseness like this slips in far too often. Especially the puzzles that rely on knowledge of events in the first half - if you're playing on iOS, it could be a full year since you finished Act 1.Shay that to my face
If that's the case, Act 2 will feel like déjà vu. Almost all the characters and locations from the first half are reused in this conclusion, only with Vella now in the spaceship and Shay in the cloud colony. It's a good opportunity for jokes and fresh perspectives, but it's still disappointing.
Like before, you can switch between Vella and Shay at any time if you're getting frustrated with one side of the story.
But, and this is where things turn from frustrating to "oh screw this game", while you could play through all of Vella's story and then all of Shay's story in Act 1, you can't do that in Act 2. You'll need information from one story to solve puzzles in the other.A tale of two halves
Putting aside the fact that this makes no god damn sense (Shay and Vella are separated, so can't relay information), you are never told that you should do this. No clues, no hints, no feedback.
I stumbled around Vella's story for hours trying to solve a puzzle, eventually gave up and looked at a walkthrough, and found that the solution was in Shay's story. Oh screw this game.
Look, Broken Age is lovely. It's charming and funny, and has a sharp storyline about growing up, and defying paternal expectations. Though, it kind of flatlines (if not completely falls apart) in Act 2.
And it's utterly gorgeous, with painterly backgrounds and wacky, animated characters. But those puzzles, man - too many of them are annoying obstacles to the story, rather than fun to solve.Disclosure: The author of this review contributed to the game's Kickstarter.