A good seven years before Dan Brown stunk up the bestseller lists with his tale of how Tom Hanks found the Holy Grail using just anagrams, Charles Cecil and his team at Revolution were taking the point ’n’ click world by storm with their own religion-flavored conspiracy thriller. Templar Knights, shady assassins, French people… as a who’s who of shifty ne’er-do-wells, Broken Sword packed them in.
Worse than any of these fiends is the game’s cocky American hero, George Stobbart. Conceived as knowing and snarky, he too often comes across as a jerk. As a café explodes in his face he enters to find bits of the manager all over the walls and a waitress in shock. “Ha, I guess I’ll have to get my own cappuccino,” says Mr Tact. Seriously, if he had to dropkick a kitten in front of a train to progress, we’d bet he’d do it.
It has its hardcore fans, but we’ve always struggled with Broken Sword (both on PC and the GBA port). On one hand, political intrigue and religious nutjobs give this mystery hotpot a tasty grown-up flavor. On the other, the writers seem determined to garnish it with goofiness. Every character has a loveable quirk (an easily flummoxed gangster or a Syrian urchin raised on Jeeves And Wooster) or ludicrous ‘oo ees eet?’ accent, undermining the melodrama of an otherwise dark tale.
Puzzle-wise, Sword veers away from the lunacy of Monkey Island’s ‘COMBINE flea deodorant WITH inflatable pelican’, opting for saner choices reflecting the real-world tone elsewhere. Item combining is never needed, the inventory rarely grows beyond ten items, and one object – the manhole cover lifter – is used so many times as to take the record for the most versatile item in gaming history. Forget health packs and shotguns – nothing can’t be done with a large metal prong.
We always felt the puzzling was more of an aside to the character-based bits – the game is 95% chatting to 5% doing – and a new hint system only serves to reinforce this interactive movie feel. Long gone are the days when hitting a brick wall meant sheepishly typing ‘how do you get the wire?’ into Ask Jeeves. Now you just click an onscreen question mark – it glows when it senses you’re stuck (i.e., you’re clicking on every last pixel on screen) – and off you go. A nice, if often too tempting, addition.
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