I've been playing video games for the better part of 30 years and it's safe to say that I have a broad range of experiences in the medium. When I heard about a game that a bit of The Stanley Parable with a dash of Thomas Was Alone and just a sprinkling of a Metroidvania, my curiosity was more than piqued. Break The Game promises to be exactly that, although it wasn't entirely what I had expected.
The premise of Break The Game is this: you are the player. Kevin is a character in the game. Kevin desperately wants to get out of the game, but he can't do it on his own. You will instead take control of Kevin and help him break the game so that he can escape. That is where your adventure begins... along with a whole lot of talking.
Your first few moments in the game are pretty straightforward platformer fare. You get a bit of story, you learn the basic motions, and then you're tossed out into the gaming world.
Unlike some titles in the Metroidvania genre, this is a largely linear, level-to-level experience, although it does offer some side routes for players to explore. You will eventually gain some movement abilities like a double-jump and dash that can be used to reach some pretty difficult places, especially when used in tandem with movement boosters like jump pads in the environment.
In the roughly two hours that I've played so far, I've learned that your ultimate goal is to break three portions of the game's core code. It seemed like it was setting up an intriguing meta-narrative, although Break The Game doesn't quite execute it as well as I would have hoped.
This is a Preview.
The general idea behind Break The Game is that you are a player controlling a character in a game. I mean, that's how every game goes, but this is one of the rare titles where the character themselves is actually aware of it.
The developer (or some other entity) keeps trying to get you to stop breaking the game, and the fourth wall breaking can be pretty amusing at times. For example, I executed a specific action pretty early on, Kevin said "achievement, please," and the achievement popped up with perfect comic timing. It was wonderful.
However, there are other parts where it fails to take advantage of fourth-wall breaking. At one point, you're told that you should just quit the game. I replayed that section three times, trying to:
- Quit to menu
- Quit the game
- Force quit the game using Task Manager
And none of that was acknowledged by the game, despite the story force-quitting the game on its own just a short while later in another level. It feels like a real missed opportunity. It isn't the strongest execution of fourth-wall breaking, but it isn't the worst, either.
Break The Game, More Like Break The Silence
There was one thing I didn't like in my two hours with Break The Game: there is too much conversation happening on screen that you can't skip. Unskippable cutscenes of any stripe are a mortal sin in video games, and it's something that Break The Game does repeatedly.
I understand that exposition has to happen. If it's a cutscene with voice acting, you can't exactly speed it up. Break The Game, however, uses nothing other than on-screen text to represent dialogue.
Most of the time, characters will talk while you're on the move. This isn't a huge problem because it usually happens during some of the chill sections of the game, so it makes for nice filler as you move between the more intense parts. The pain in the butt is when the game just stops in order for a conversation to happen.
I happen to read rather quickly, so much so that I'd happily take a transcript of something over the video if it's available. It is a major peeve of mine to have to sit there and read... text... very... slowly... with absolutely no way to skip it. This bit was absolutely the worst part of Break The Game, and it's an awful shame that it hasn't been fixed.
This is the End
So, is Break The Game worth your time? Yes and no.
As a Metroidvania, it's a good enough title. You learn new abilities in the first couple of hours and explore new mechanics at a reasonable pace. You have a nice variety of weapons opened up to you and the free choice to use any of them (with all of their upsides and downsides). The story is pretty intriguing, too.
I just can't get over the unskippable cutscenes. Everything about this title is really good including the pacing, but it's absolutely ruined by unskippable cutscenes. I sincerely hope this gets fixed in a future update.
Techraptor conducted our Break The Game Coverage Club on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.