(This review is of the Nintendo DS version.) For many people, Broken Sword is a knight in shining armour of adventure gaming, representing one of the conquering heroes of the genre’s golden era. The series debut, Shadow of the Templars (or Circle of Blood, as it was bizarrely renamed for North America), was hugely popular and spawned three sequels, developing a large following of loyal fans. Now, over a decade after its original launch, Revolution is returning to the beloved classic with an updated Director’s Cut for both the Nintendo Wii and DS, though this review will deal exclusively with the latter.
The developers had a big order to fill when they took on the job of moving this adventure to the DS. The challenge was being able to deliver the familiar Broken Sword experience to the tiny handheld platform, retaining its original charm but doing so without the presence of a large screen or voiceovers. The good news for existing fans is that they were up to the task, as everything carried over from before is just as it should be. A few things were left out in the process, but there’s some new material of the same quality as the original, plus puzzles which take advantage of the DS’ touch-friendly control system. And for those who haven’t yet experienced the earlier game (unimaginable as that is), this version will be a welcome introduction to a beautifully designed adventure with an engaging, exciting story and a wicked sense of humour, as Broken Sword: The Director’s Cut is a treasure for the DS, worthy of a Templar stronghold.
Unlike the original version, the DS adventure starts with Nico Collard, a photographic journalist assigned to interview Pierre Carchon, a mysterious figure who is murdered not long after their meeting. Nico feels obligated to pursue his murder, much to the disdain of her editor, and the investigation soon leads her to become involved with American tourist George Stobbart. George’s part in the story starts in the game’s former opening, sitting outside at a quiet French café until the café is bombed by a man in a clown costume. Taking a break from his European vacation to investigate, George follows the culprit’s trail to an ancient scroll with encrypted clues, and ultimately on a dangerous treasure hunt to the likes of Ireland, Scotland, Spain, and Syria against a ruthless secret society.
The core story is the same as in the original game, adding only Nico’s backstory as new content. This addition provides some depth to her character, revealing part of her past and her father’s involvement with Carchon. While it lessens the dramatic impact of the game’s opening somewhat, it’s nice to be able to play as Nico, which wasn’t possible in the original. However, the new storyline isn’t sustained throughout, as Nico’s part seems to fizzle out when the main plot gains momentum with George, which is a shame given the quality of the added material. All the other story elements, locations and characters remain unchanged, and existing fans can rest assured that this is the Broken Sword they know and love.
The writing for the game remains as sharp as ever, and the new parts live up to the clever wit of the original story. The plot, which may seem a bit clichéd now but actually predates a certain book by a man named Brown, is just as exciting and shows a sound background knowledge of the Knights Templar, which makes the game feel authentic. The characters are always engaging, with Nico’s straight persona playing well off George’s comedic role. The game’s humour comes mainly from George’s various comments on the situations and people around him, but there are a few amusing exchanges with others, and you can still offer the greasy tissue to anyone you meet to see a number of humourous responses.
Unfortunately, given the limited capacity of a DS cartridge, voiceovers are replaced with text bubbles, and even in text form there is less dialogue here overall. Nothing essential is missing, however, just amusing extra details from the original game. Helping to offset the lack of voices, still portraits shown on the top screen portray the different characteristics of the cast, and it’s not just George and Nico who are memorable characters in this story; supporting characters such as Lobineau, Rosso and the French Policeman are every bit as interesting in their own distinct way. The quality of the dialogues themselves is as high as ever, but the voice acting is definitely missed, particularly for George. It’s just not the same reading George’s various humorous remarks rather than hearing Rolf Saxon speaking them, and there’s no reason the Director’s Cut couldn’t have included at least a token vocal performance.
One of the challenges that can make or break an adventure port on the DS is adapting the point-and-click system for the small screen, but Broken Sword does it well. The playable scenes appear on the bottom screen and when you touch hotspots with the stylus, one or two icons will appear, allowing you to interact with or simply examine an object. A hotspot is represented by a tiny translucent circle on the screen. When you select one hotspot, any others nearby are similarly highlighted. This is beneficial, as it makes smaller hotspots more visible, although despite the small size of the screen, hotspots are relatively easy to find anyway, as in most cases it’s obvious what needs to be used.
To get around, the player simply taps the screen to move; larger scenes scroll as you walk across them, and exits from an area are made clear with an icon. Conversations are easy to conduct, as there are two boxes that come up on screen when talking to others. One displays icons of relevant characters and another contains an inventory item, which could spark off a necessary piece of dialogue, a quip or at least a comment that the object can’t be used there. The inventory can be accessed by pressing an icon at the bottom of the screen. Simply touching an object there will cause George or Nico to comment on it, while dragging one out of the inventory box will bring it into the playable scene, where certain objects can be combined to make new contraptions.Continued on the next page...