opening screen of Broken Age
Screenshot: Double Fine

I wrote over the weekend about how my fiancée’s renewed interest in point-and-click Nancy Drew computer games made me hopeful that we could game together again, possibly with LucasArts games and going from there once we have a home console set up again.

After I got home from work last night I woke my Vita up from sleep mode (in the middle of the Undyne battle in Undertale, no idea how to defeat her in a merciful way, shout me out in the comments!) and fired up Broken Age. I said, “Can I show you something? I’d love for you to try this” and she said she’d love to.

I didn’t tell her any of the history of the game, it’s long and winding development process or about the Kickstarter or even anything about Tim Schafer. Going into a game totally cold is such an unusual experience for me, but getting to do it through her was great too. There’s a part of me that’s also into the weird social experiment aspect of it all; what does this person think of a modern revival of a Double Fine style point-and-click, devoid of any context? Will the mechanics, characters and heart of the game ring true, or is it more confined to people who already love the Schaferisms and strangeness of previous Double Fine titles?

Video games and the enjoyment of them is kind of walled garden and it can often be very intimidating to dive right in. My fiancée is a trooper, though, and so we started a new save file and got going on Broken Age.

I suggested we start with Vella’s story. I’ve played the game before, never beaten it, but remember enjoying Vella’s puzzles a little more than Shay’s. Also, girl power! Thought she might appreciate Vella’s defiance of the norms of her town, as my fiancée is the oldest daughter of a family of eight who moved across the country by herself to go after what she wanted.

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The game begins with Vella reluctantly getting ready for the Maiden’s Feast and asking her family some tough questions about why they even go through with the feast at all. Grandpa is upset, mom and dad are proud, and sis just wants to eat all the cupcakes she can before the party’s over. The first puzzle requires Vella to find the ceremonial knife so that mom can cut the cake properly- pretty simple, just requires the player to have a couple key conversations and some item trading to find the knife (which grandpa, that wily old bastard, has hidden). The next puzzle is during the actual Maiden’s Feast and involves Vella trying to escape it- girl doesn’t want to get eaten by an ancient monster or see her town get destroyed. Again, pretty simple- the player has to trade around just a couple of items, and there’s no fail state related to time so the stakes are relatively low, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

She enjoyed it. She laughed at the dialogue, she was able to solve the puzzles relatively easily- though, as I suspected, she had some trouble with the control scheme, not being used to buttons and a control stick. She favored the Vita’s touchscreen, but that made some interactions a little more difficult (if you want to use an item, you have to press and hold it with your finger, then drag it over to the person or object you want to use it on- difficult to do when your finger is covering up half the screen and you can’t tell if you’ve clicked the right thing or not). Controls are hard, ya’ll. Don’t take for granted that you know how to use a Dualshock or what have you, not everyone was trained from birth for this glorious purpose.

So far, so good. I’m looking forward to more and hope that she’s down to play the game. Weird social experiment combined with loving relationship, commence!