my dog flapjack

Broken Age Analysis

Next up is a game I owned and started right when it was release, but never finished until recently. Instead of getting philosophical like last time, I'm going to talk about a specific puzzle that is simultaneously my favorite, and least favorite. That is the the hexagon robot puzzle in Double Fines "the Broken Age"

Broken age screenshot

The central mechanic around this puzzle is that you need to wire (and eventually rewire) this little hexagon robot. It starts in act 2 where you need to find the dead robot, find some wire, and wire him up correctly to fix him.

Broken age screenshot 2

The Broken Age uses the completely original idea of "multiple worlds". You swap between 2 characters (Shay and Vella) in 2 different locations (a "space ship", and "a seaside"). For the most part, this game keeps its puzzles separated between characters. However, Shay in the seaside finds the robot but the correct schematic is found in the space ship with Vella. The 2 characters cant talk to each other, so its up to you (the player) to piece together that

  • the robot came from the ship
  • the ship has the correct wiring (Shay actually mentions that at one point, but doesn't say specifically where)

This would all be pretty neat by itself, but this puzzle gains another layer in the final act…

Broken age screenshot 3

In the final act we get multiple little robot friends, with multiple wirings that "program" them to do different actions. Without explaining the whole puzzle, you need to get one of the robots to hit a drum. I spent a good bit of time wandering around not being able to find the "hit the drum" wiring. Staring at another one of the robots swinging a flashlight, it "clicked". I realized that that swinging motion looked a lot like swinging a mallet to hit a drum. I copied the schematic from robot 1 to the robot 2 and got him pounding on that drum.

I had not felt such a strong "A HA" moment from a puzzle in very long time. I think this is because I had to take something old (this little robot had been swingin his little flashlight since Act 1), and apply it in a new context. It forced me to make the type of logical deduction only humans are good at: This thing is sorta like this other thing. It made me use my intuition, and that made me feel smart.


Now there is 1 little problem with this puzzle…

Broken age screenshot 3

This problem is that you need to do multiple rewires (a very slow process) in a very specific sequence, with specific timing, and ANY TIME YOU GET IT A TINY BIT WRONG THE WHOLE THING STARTS OVER. Nothing dampens the feeling of solving a good puzzle like having to redo it 10 times. Don't test my response time in your slow story driven adventure game that definitely did not focus on making movement fun. If you really need to do that dont punishment me by making me redo the past 10 minutes.

Maybe this is a personal problem. I do have a pretty low tolerance for redoing things in games (that's probably why I can never get into Dark Souls like games). But I don't care. It makes me feel like your wasting my time and I don't appreciate that Mr Tim Schafer.


To me there are 2 things to take away:

  • It feels good to make logical connections and apply something in a new situation. It feels good when your intuition is right. Ya I know intuition is subjective, but I think the reward is worth the challenge!
  • If your going to test skill/response time, the input itself better be fun and "responsive". Ya I know responsiveness is also completely subjective, but to quote Justice Potter Stewart "you know it when you see it". To expand on that, "you known't it when you seen't it".