Reviewed: April 19, 2009
Released: March 24, 2009
Iím a huge fan of adventure games. The very first game I ever played was Zork on the TRS-80 and the first graphical adventure I played was Leisure Suit Larry on an IBM Model 50. Four years later I was working for Sierra Online making those very same games like Police Quest, Space Quest, etc. I was there for the huge shift from text input to graphical point and click interfaces, and Iím still a huge fan today.
Most of the current adventure games come from overseas developers and get imported and published by The Adventure Company and a few other publishers who still have the marketing savvy to realize there is a U.S. market for such games. The Broken Sword series has always been one of my favorites and The Sleeping Dragon released back in 2003 still brings back fond memories. When I heard that Ubisoft was releasing the 13-year-old original I was interested, and when I learned it was coming to the NDS I was very interested.
Honestly, the concept seems so obvious that Iím surprised nobody has thought of this before. Point and click adventures are rampant on the PC and Nancy Drew recently took a stab at the Wii but the DS and its touchscreen interface is perfect for this type of game, both in control and in keeping with the gamer on the go mentality. More interactive fiction, a digital novel if you will, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - The Director's Cut could pave the way for a whole new genre of DS games.
Fans of The Sleeping Dragon will recognize the lead characters, Nico Collard, French photo journalist, and George Stobbart, American tourist on vacation in Paris. The story deals with the Knights of Templar, a legendary sword of power and a secret society that will stop at nothing to restore this ancient order.
The game plays out with a unique blend of treasure hunting and solving numerous murder mysteries as you switch back and forth between Nico and George and travel to Spain, England, and other exotic locations. The script is expertly written and totally engaging, even if we are forced to read extended pages of text. Sadly, there is no voice acting anywhere in the game, even in the cutscenes.
When you arenít reading descriptive text or interacting with any of numerous characters you are free to walk around scrolling scenery and interact with various hotspots as noticed by a transparent ring. Touching the circle will reveal one or two sub-actions like look, talk, or activate. Example: You can click the eyeball to look at a person for a visual description or click on the mouth to talk to them. Much of the game is conversation-based as you ask questions about people you have met and objects in your inventory. Their responses usually lead to more clues and progress the story.
There are also a handful of puzzles in the game. These range from using inventory items on other items in the environment to combining objects to create new ones. There are also a few old-school puzzles like sliders and even some translation puzzles where you must do some letter substitution. All of these are quite engaging and make great use of the touch and dual screens.
While most of the puzzles are fairly obvious, at least for seasoned adventure gamers, there is a built-in hint system that offers multiple levels of clues. You can get a generic hint and if thatís not enough you can request more hints or the final solution. There is no scoring system so I saw no downside to asking for help other than the smiley face turning into a frown.
Visually, Broken Sword is quite charming and colorful with lush colors, great backgrounds, and detailed characters that pop from the environments and are animated extremely well. Itís like a graphic novel has sprung to life. The animation is accented with realistic sound effects for the environment and a great cinematic score.
The Directorís Cut offers a few more chapters to flesh out the original story, so veterans of the original have a good reason to revisit this grand adventure. Finishing the game is at least a 10-12 hour experience, which is extremely long for a handheld game. It took me nearly two weeks of casual and lunch hour gameplay to finish.
$30 might be a bit steep for a 13-year-old game, even if it does have a new look and style of gameplay. I could easily recommend at $20 and I truly hope this paves the way for a lot of other PC adventures to make their way to the DS. Aside from some graphical sacrifices and the obvious lack of speech, the DS is the perfect delivery system for this type of interactive entertainment. I would much rather play an interactive novel than read one, and Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is a huge step in making that happen.