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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Broken Age: Act 2.

Transcript Edit

Blimey, I've been making a bad habit of reviewing games for the second time these last couple of weeks. But I'd argue that it makes sense for Broken Age. We might as well make an amount of fuss roughly equivalent to the amount of Kickstarter money that was sunk into it, and to that end, I hired a team of royal bugle to play a suitable fanfare as I pressed the download button with a rhinestone-encrusted glove at the end of a stick made out of all the money in the world. You'd think $3.5 million would create enough motivation to get the game done swiftly in one go, wouldn't ya, rather than released in two bits a year and a half apart, but what the hell would I know about adventure game development? And if you think that was sarcasm, let me know, cause I haven't decided yet.

Maybe the money was the problem, cause I know if I'd humbly asked for a few grands to make a funny little adventure game and ended up with four million, my first thought would not have been "Wow, I'd better make this game fast." It would have been "I'm just going to keep inhaling cocaine until you could put me in a paper packet and call me a Sherbet Dip Dab."

In the first installment, we had our two characters: Shay, the boy trapped in space with a hairdo that looks like a KitKat doing a Mexican wave, and Vella, a girl on quest to kill the giant scrotum monster she was supposed to be sacrificing herself to. I'll drop a spoiler warning here in case you were too busy being the president of the United States to play first half of Broken Face in the last year and a bit, but it turned out at the end that Shay's spaceship and Vella's scrotum friend were in fact one and the same, and the two protagonists then switch places for the second act, Shay running free in Vella's world and Vella nestled comfortably in Shay's scrotum. I'm going to keep saying "scrotum" until it gets a laugh, you bastards. Consequently, most of the characters and situations in the second act we encountered before as the other protagonist and a lot of the dialogue depends on us remembering them, which is a lot to ask after a year and a bit, and illustrates how splitting Broken Plot in half did it no favors. Still, now we know why the second part took so long: it takes a lot of effort to make no new rooms or characters whatsoever. That was sarcasm, I decided that time. 

The thing everyone knows about adventure games is that they're story-driven, they don't hold up so well on gameplay because the gameplay is the equivalent of hanging out with the four fussiest eaters on the planet as you try to decide where to have dinner. But the story of Broken Nose I find lacking, largely because I struggle to describe what exactly the plot is about. I thought from the first part that it was a game about culture clash: the boy from the science fiction spaceship and the girl from the unspecific pseudo-fantasy world style arrangement type thing, connected by a mutual desire to escape and eventually getting trapped in the world of the other. But there is no clash. Neither hero has any difficulty adjusting to their new world, probably because there is only about three distinct personalities in the entire game and all the NPCs have to share. Eventually the plot becomes about a sinister scheme by an elitist cult to kidnap girls, a scheme that hinges on using elaborate stagecraft to convince a young boy that he's on a spaceship and then encouraging him not to do the thing that makes the ship kidnap girls, thus ensuring that he will do through reverse psychology. Who came up with this plan, Heath Ledger's Joker?

The trouble with an intriguing mystery is that eventually you have to explain it and the mystery can easily become dysentery. Maybe it would have helped if we'd actually seen any of this evil cult society type thing that orchestrated this extremely contrived arrangement. But I guess that would have meant more background art than the budget would stand, 'cause when we do arrive in the headquarters, we don't even get out of the ship, we just drop a big bomb and fuck off again. "Hey, wanna come out and do some world building?" asks the plot. "Nah," replies the game, "we'll just wait in the fucking car." 

Actually I think that finally determined what the plot is about: it's about how all the problems and diversity in the world can be conquered by bumming around on a ship. Vella uncovers the sinister global conspiracy while bumming around on the ship and then foils it by bumming around the ship some more. Meanwhile, Shay's arc involves acquiring a list of tools and resources to repair another ship so that he too can unlock the power of bumming around on it, just in time for a climatic finale in which Shay and Vella realize their true potential as they engage in synchronized bumming. Wait, that came out wrong. 

As for the puzzles, it's more of the great adventure game chain of "Get the thing to give to the dude in return for another thing", the dude standing stock-still in the designated spot who will steer all attempts in conversation to the thing that he needs. This reminds me of children's television.

"Hello Mr. Fisherman, my name's Shay."

"Hello Shay, I'm a little bit sad."

"Why is that, Mr. Fisherman?"

"Cause I don't know how to fish. If only I could learn, I'd be less of an inherent failure with a very ironic surname."

"Well then, let me give you this book about how to learn fishing."

"Thank you Shay, I'm glad we're friends."

And then they sing the song about how much they like sharing. It's like all the NPCs exist purely mechanically, passive observers of the story rather than participants in it, each one assigned a role that begins and ends with temporarily obstructing the protagonist for no adequate reason. In fact, the final puzzle involves both Shay and Vella being obstructed by an ally and needing to construct elaborate distractions to avoid having to resort to speaking to the bastards. It's like me at a convention. 

I also want to get some special hate-on for a puzzle I was stuck on for a while whose solution was to do nothing and wait. That shit's bollocks and furthermore, that bollocks is shit! A point-and-click game drills into you from the word go that clicking on stuff is how things move forward. I have no reason to think I'm supposed to stand with a thumb up my butt, waiting for the solution to materialize, if only because all the NPCs are fulfilling that niche quite adequately. Credit where it's due though, the knot untying puzzle was alright. And you remember how in the first act it didn't make sense to let us go back and forth between the protagonists cause they never affected each other? Well, now there's one or two crossover puzzles, where Shay needs information from Vella's environment, and vice versa. It does, however, raise the question of how the characters discover this information in the context of the plot, unless all along this was the story of the founding of a new race of telepathic superspergs. 

Without being able to read the developers minds, I'd hate to make unsubstantiated claims that Broken Kneecaps was made up as it went along or thrown together to fulfill an obligation. So let's just say that it bears an uncanny resemblance to something that was!

Addenda Edit

  • The point, and furthermore the click: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Bumming around a ship is also the best way to swab the decks if you attach a duster to each buttock 
  • Please give me all your money   

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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