Broken Sword is probably veteran developer Revolution Software’s most famous series, and it’s not hard to see why. Originally released for the PC in the mid-90s, it’s a classic point and click adventure that combines great puzzles, impressive graphics, a great sense of humour with genuine laugh out loud moments and an immersive, fascinating storyline. Happily, it’s now found a new home on iOS devices.
Throughout the game, you alternative as playing George Stobbard (an American tourist in Paris) and Nicole Collard (a French newspaper reporter) who join forces to hunt for a mysterious “Costume Killer”. Their discoveries lead them to a 700 year old conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar.
One of the (many) reasons Broken Sword works is because the plot is genuinely interesting. Right from the start it’s intriguing and sucks you in, and the more you uncover, the more involved you become. The main characters are well-fleshed out and you become very attached to both George and Nico (I confess I used to have something of a crush on the sexy-voiced Nico!). There’s a genuine (and mostly logical) sense of progression which gives you a feeling of achievement as the story slowly opens up before you.
The lovely Nico Collard
The game is also very funny; not in the absurd, surreal Monkey Island way, but in a slyer, more subtle sense. There is a genuine sense of wit and sarcasm to much of the dialogue, making it fun to listen to, so longer conversations don’t become a drag. Like an awful lot of adventures, a large part of the game involves meeting and talking to various characters, then going back and talking to them again when you discover something new. Some people hate this kind of dialogue-heavy interaction, finding it tiresome and slow-paced, but the fact the dialogue is so entertaining does make it much less of a burden and, for me, is an important part of Broken Sword’s success.
Puzzles are, for the most part, logical. That’s not to say they are easy or obvious but there are none of the ludicrous puzzles you get in some games where you have to use ridiculous combinations of items in extremely unlikely ways. The puzzles in Broken Sword can usually be solved by talking to people to get clues, looking at the items in your inventory and then using a bit of lateral thinking. Of course, I’m not going to mention the infamous goat puzzle… (just Google it if you don’t know!)
The graphics have always been excellent, and things are no different in this latest incarnation. The combination of hand-drawn 2D backgrounds and strong, well defined characters work well. The cartoon-like graphics still look great and make them stand out and the stunning and effective use of different (sort of real world) locations really sets the game apart.
Hmmm. This might just be a clue…
Although it’s perfectly possible to play the game on an iPhone, you’re probably better off using an iPad. The iPhone’s makes it a little easy to miss small, but crucial items. Early in the game, for example, there is a crucial object you need to pick up before you can progress and it’s all too easy to miss it, which can be a touch frustrating. Still, at least it teaches you early on to squint hard at every object in each location!
It would be wrong not to mention the important role that the sound plays to the game. The music is hugely atmospheric and the soaring orchestral score really adds to the game. The context sensitive music is an integral part of the game, often offering musical c(l)ues that you are on the right track: when Nico or George are in danger, the music becomes loud and discordant; when they are on the verge of an important discovery, it becomes more urgent and hopeful. The speech is also excellent and the voice artists (particularly Ralph Saxon as George) really bring the characters to life and invest the dialogue with a real sense of fun.
Revolution Software have clearly given a lot of thought to how to implement the game on a touch screen, and have come up with an intuitive and comfortable system that works very well. For the most part, the game replaces the original’s mouse with your finger. Press on the screen and any objects you can interact with pulse with a small circle. Press one and a series of icons show the actions available. If you need to use an item from your inventory, you just touch the Bag icon and select the thing you want to use. The controls are so intuitive that within just a few minutes of game time, you will have mastered everything you need to know.
I could be accused of being something of a Revolution groupie. I’ve bought every single game they have ever released and, in some cases, on multiple formats. I’ve bought Broken Sword on the PC (twice – once on release and again a few years ago), DSi and iOS and if they released it tomorrow on another format I owned, I’d probably buy that too. There’s a simple reason for this: the game is just so good To date, the game has spawned 4 sequels (of varying quality, but all worth playing in their own way) and it remains one of the best adventure franchises ever.
At £3.99 to download, it’s a little more expensive than your average app, but it offers fantastic value for money. Personally, I’d argue that Broken Sword is even better than the Monkey Island series. I know that’s heresy in the eyes of some (and I do love the Monkey Island games), but the more logical puzzles, more realistic locations and subtler sense of humour means it gets top spot in my personal list of top adventure games.