It is a terrible mistake to call Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars a simple port seeing as it’s a game that has more added material than Nintendo have fanboys. Yet there is some basis to the claim; this game has been released on a handheld before. Originally brought to Nintendo through the GBA, Broken Sword was undeniably a classic in its time. But why would you spend your hard earned money on this DS revision when there are plenty of ‘new’ titles out there? I’ll tell you why, because this game is genuinely enjoyable; not since Grim Fandango has a point and click puzzle game been this immersive.
The DS has quite an extensive repertoire of puzzle games already; ranging from Professor Layton and the Curious Village, to Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir. Still, none of these can quite match Broken Sword’s feeling for truly being involved in the plotline. From the explosive beginning to the game, you are launched into one of the most action-packed stories about killer mimes, multiple homicides, and even a deadly accordion will make an appearance. These bizarre events find the main characters, George Stobbart and journalist Nico Collard, quickly entangled into the vast web of this continent-spanning plot. Packed with intrigue at every corner, you will meet enigmatic societies shrouded in mystery, discover ancient relics, and engage with a quirky cast of characters who wouldn’t be amiss in a theatre production. Through this successful combination of modern world scenarios and a beautifully – if somewhat quirky – imagined plot, Broken Sword manages to dispel the mundane limitations associated with point-click gameplay.
For those unaware of the point and click genre, the name is pretty explanatory for how you play the games: you control all actions through pointing and clicking. So, in contrast to modern titles, Shadow of the Templars is a more methodical game that moves at a much slower pace. This isn’t a bad thing, as you’ll be presented with an interactive, puzzle-solving bonanza that will definitely get your synapses firing. However, the combination of the slow pace and heavy amounts of dialect may put off the snap, crackle and pop players. Nonetheless, if you’re the type that has even a minute amount of interest in problem solving adventures, all you need to know is Broken Sword is the pioneer.
Revolution pulled out all the stops to recreate this masterpiece; none more noticeable than the improved interface. Unlike other point and click games (Mystery Case Files, Phoenix Wright, et al) Broken Sword has a far more fluid design that works sublimely. Rather than pointing randomly around the screen, desperately trying to find any key area of interest, Broken Sword instead highlights crucial areas of importance to you as slide your stylus about the screen. Once near a point of significance, a circle will appear notifying you of the various actions you can take: simply move over the circle and it will reveal to you the various actions that can be performed – such as examining or interacting with the specified object. This feature has two advantages: firstly it cuts down the arduous task of locating puzzles that need to be solved by cutting out random guesswork. Secondly, it’s simple – something many modern games seem to forget; enjoyability is intrinsically tied to how easy the mechanics are.
Nevertheless, there is still the consistent backtracking, and repetitive encounters involving conversations/items that seem to be prevalent in all puzzle-adventure games. Then again, Revolution has included a hints feature that you can use when stuck on particularly taxing problems – demonstrating that efforts have been made to tackle this issue. It’s also good to see that new puzzles have been added that utilise the functionally of the DS’s touch screen, and, although these additional interactive brainteasers are not mind-blowing in their conceptualisation, they do offer a refreshing element to the point and click adventure mechanics. What’s really encouraging is that these additional features flow sinuously into the original storyline – avoiding the jarring effect that including additional content sometimes causes. These features are so well included that they actually enrich the storyline – they flow in to match the pace and tone as if Broken Sword never existed without them.
Even with the additions, Broken Sword’s main storyline doesn’t change significantly, which unfortunately means it still lasts only 8-10 hours. The joy of it all though is that, despite the limited length of the game, there is still a large focus on character development. There are many conversations in this game that keeps the narrative ticking over, and this means you’ll be spending a lot of time observing people natter. Now I know what you are thinking: simply watching characters prattle on may eventually get a bit boring. Well, there is no need to fret about these trivial issues, because the DS has two screens, and as such Revolution decided to keep the original sprite based characters on the bottom screen and add new character close ups on the top screen – ensuring there are a few points of interest for the player as conversations move forever onwards. Being able to admire the unique and aesthetic character artwork and exquisite hand drawn backdrops – ranging from tranquil Parisian streets to sand swept towns of Syria – enables Broken Sword to stand out against the crowd, even thirteen years on.
Also worthwhile mentioning is the nice addition to the game of an interactive journal, which keeps regular updates of the story so far and provides a bit of help with the puzzles. There is also the hint feature that we were big fans of as it opens up the game to a wider audience – puzzle vets and newcomers alike. This is an optional feature, so, for the player that does not want any help at all, hints can simply be ignored. On the other hand, if you are desperate for help. Then it will vastly improve your appreciation of the game and get you past those more frustrating moments.
The audio was beautifully consistent throughout Broken Sword and not once were we compelled to turn down the volume. This is in part due to Revolution’s decision to remove the vocal track from the game, which may annoy original fans. Yet, it is necessary to ensure a consistent state of quality during the entire game (some things are for the greater good).
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - The Director's Cut is a masterpiece reborn. Revolution has successfully buffed this gem into a diamond. The GBA version may have been entertaining but it was simply too underdeveloped and lacked the finesse of the DS version. It would seem that the features of the DS and the original content have combined to make a truly charming experience. Broken Sword is quintessentially what a point and click puzzle solving adventure should be: a harmony of gameplay, graphics and music which creates a masterpiece for all to enjoy. Obviously, the game’s slow pace and progression will not appeal to all audiences but give way to its charm and almost anyone will enjoy this 13 year old treasure - even if it does only last 8 hours.