Broken Age

Composed By: Peter McConnell

Distributed by: Double Fine Productions

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The point-and-click adventure video game Broken Age features two playable characters Vella Tartine (Masasa Moyo) and Shay Volta (Elijah Wood).  Vella is a female teenager chosen by her village to become a sacrifice in an effort to appease the giant creature Mog Chothra.  Vella knows the rituals of her people, but believes that if Mog Chothra were to be destroyed, there would be no need for fear and therefore no further sacrifices to be made.  Shay Volta is a male teenager living in the spaceship Bossa Nostra.  Believing he is the last known survivor of his race, he grows tired of the overly motherly ship's computer which never really relays much information of the outside world.  When he ventures into the bowels of the ship, he meets another survivor and learns that his entire existence has been fraught with lies.  As the game continues, the player soon learns that these two seemingly unrelated playable characters are tied to one another in a rather surprising way.

                The musical score of Broken Age was created by American composer Peter McConnell.  While studying music as an undergraduate at Harvard University, McConnell met Michael Land, future LucasArts composer.  When Land, working in the LucasArts Sound Department who could compose and implement music into Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, he brought McConnell in.  Since then, Peter McConnell has composed a number of gaming soundtracks, including those for the Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and Star Wars game series, Full Throttle, the Sly series, the Plants vs. Zombies series and more.

                As I listened to the Broken Age Soundtrack, without looking at any promotional materials, I immediately sensed a quirkiness about the score giving me the idea that this was a soundtrack for an animated feature.  The music gave me every indication of such, offering up light and humorous sounds like the tapping of piano keys, bells and light woodwinds.  And yet, I knew there was some action to be had, what with the more fast-paced strings and horns found on the album like Mog Chothra, Dropping In and Battle at Shellmound.

                Now that I know exactly what this score is about, I can honestly say that Peter McConnell did an excellent job using instruments like the kalimba, the electric violin and the celeste to enhance the fantasy elements and exotic locales found in the video game.  The quirkiness I detected was used to portray quieter moments in which the player learns things about the characters of the game.  These are moments in which adventure takes place in the form of travel, etc. with no clear action sequences involved.

                All in all, the musical score of Broken Age is an interesting composition, but I can't imagine folks who are not a fan of the game or the composer actually buying the soundtrack.  The musical score is enjoyable, but doesn't really serve to tell the story without the visual components of the game to give us a clearer understanding.  This is one of those musical scores best left as background music serving to enhance the visual gaming experience, not as a stand alone album.

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