Point and Click games had their hay-day in the 90’s with masterpieces like LucasArt’s Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango. Broken Sword 1 and 2 were more of a thinking man’s Point and Click adventure, it had all the traits of rub object A against object B, but with subtler humour and more impressive art and depth to characters it’s not surprising the games are held so highly in people’s nostalgia. These days we are having a resurgence of Point and Click games, Ben There and Dan That becoming a cult hit on Steam and The Walking Dead game bring the basic concept back to the masses. But with a couple of major falling downs in 3 and 4 we’re now treated to a revitalised and fresh Broken Sword in the form of The Serpent’s Curse.
Broken Sword 1 will always stay in my mind mainly for the dramatic and exciting opening scene, sat in a cafe George Stobbart, the unlucky American traveller, is just out of range of a devastating explosion caused by a terrorist clown. It sounds insane but the Broken Sword series generally stays on the straight and narrow when it comes to story. George’s adventure is based around discovering who blew up the cafe and why. On his journey he meets Nico, a French journalist, who is just as inquisitive as George, but has the sense to be paid for it. The first couple of Broken Sword games saw you globe-trotting around the world to try to solve puzzles and sweet talk peasants with the goal of solving a crime.
For those who are for some reason un-initiated in the finer art of a Point and Click game the premise is relatively simple. You, as George Stobbart, now an art insurer, attending the opening of a new art exhibit in Paris, France. shortly into the party a man enters the gallery, steals a painting and guns down the owner. You must find out the who’s and why’s before the police enter the scene. To do this you must examine your surroundings and interrogate the array of unlikable and obstructive members of the public. With a drag of your finger across the screen you get presented with pulsating blue circles indicating something can be interacted with, this may be something passive and pointless like George just commenting on a painting, or it could be an item you can pick up.
The way the Point and Click interface has been put together is nearly perfect, it manages to be intelligent without being obvious. Certain circles may not be obvious to look for, and when mixed with the red herrings, you still manage to feel smart for discovering a clue as to what happened. The conversations in the game are incredibly user-friendly, you can tap on a person and when the moving mouth animation appears you can start a chat with them. They range in usefulness and some are clearly filler for the game, you can choose the topic of conversation by selecting an icon that represents the thrust of your chat.
The original Broken Sword 1 and 2 featured hand drawn backgrounds and animations that produce a real European art house style to the series. With locations all around the world the games were genuine in their representations without hitting too many clichés and the art felt real. In this latest iteration the backgrounds are all superb, seeing the sprawling city out the window of the art gallery or the background of a Parisian street is wonderfully done. The cast however are done in a cell shaded 3D model format, which whilst at first is jarring to the player they quickly can accept it. Unfortunately some animations are painfully plastic and over acted drawing you back out of the experience and reminding you that this is a game.
The writing in this game seems a little forced at times, there’s some genuine wit buried underneath some odd directions. George’s descriptions of non-essential pieces of scenery after often dry and sarcastic and his comebacks to people will at the least raise a smile. The rest of the cast however seem to be amazingly two-dimensional considering they’re made with 3D models. The police detective and the officer are bumbling and aggressive in equal measure, the art critic Laine is so far up his own arse he’s become inverted and finally the dear priest attending an art exhibit. As someone who was raised in an Irish Catholic family I can safely say the Priest in this is more annoying and preacher than anyone I have ever met in the faith. His permanent use of the world devil actually put me on the verge of starting a drinking game whenever he accused the dark lord of some mischievous act.
Episode 1 of Broken Sword 5 is a treat, and anyone who had the pleasure of playing the originals will be excited to get back into the world of George and Nico as they stumble into another series of mysteries bigger than either realise. The game isn’t perfect, it has some odd animation choices and in this first episode you are stuck with interacting with characters you’d punch in real life, but there is real potential here for something special. Stick with the game and push through some of the more obtuse puzzle solutions and you’ll be treated to a game on iOS that isn’t trying to shill you for money but instead present you with a fascinating mystery adventure with a couple of old friends from the 90’s.