A new director’s cut brings the classic back to life on the DS. But how does it fare when compared to its brother on the Wii?
In just a few years the DS has become the home of a long dormant game genre, the point-and-click adventure. The touch screen intuitively simulates the clicks of a computer mouse and allows for puzzles and challenges that are difficult to conceive on a personal computer platform. Trace Memory, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, the Ace Attorney series, and even the Professor Layton series have brought modern ideas while keeping the tradition alive. Ubisoft has decided to put their hat in the ring by bringing back a true classic among adventure games. This director's cut of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars includes new story segments, puzzles, and challenges while still remaining the classic gamers know and love.
Broken Sword follows the journey of two characters in Paris, France. Female reporter Nicole Collard is sent to interview one of France’s most powerful men, but before she can start asking questions she witnesses the murder of that man by, strangely enough, a mime. Meanwhile, in another part of Paris an American tourist named George Stobbart is quietly enjoying his coffee when a clown causes an explosion and murders another man. Nicole and George eventually link up and set off on an investigation that will take them all over the world and into the mysteries of the past.
Story is something vital in point-and-click adventures, and thankfully Broken Sword delivers. The story starts with a simple murder case. But like any good mystery, it evolves—in this case into a conspiracy that dates back centuries. Despite an engaging storyline with references to murder, betrayal, and religious beliefs, Broken Sword and its characters have a great sense of humor. This leaves you with a well written game that is neither pretentious nor trying to dumb things down. It’s a little clichéd, but when you discover the game's secrets you won’t care.
Gameplay is as simple as it comes. You’ll spend most of your time talking to people, investigating your surroundings, and solving puzzles when needed. As you investigate you’ll find many items, some related to the case, others seemingly without a purpose. When the time comes you’ll apply your critical thinking skills to use the items you collect to your advantage, such as to open doors and get the right people to talk to you.
If you ever become stuck, Broken Sword offers a hint system similar to Professor Layton’s. During important investigation scenes a blue question mark will appear on screen. When you select it a sequence of hints will be shown. The first hint will always be vague, but if you try and try without any results, additional hints will be revealed to you, each more direct than the last. This creates a nice balance in difficulty. Experienced players can attempt the game on their own, while players new to the genre can solve the puzzles without feeling too frustrated. This can even be turned off in the preferences menu so that you won't feel tempted to ask for the solution to a hard puzzle.
The entire game is controlled using the touch screen and the stylus. When you place the stylus on the screen a cursor appears. The cursor can then be used to highlight people, check out items, and interact with objects. It’s very simple and doesn’t require any skill or experience. The only issue with this control scheme is the character movement. You tap the screen in the direction you want your character to go. This results in very slow-moving characters that sometimes will walk around in circles till they find the correct path. It’s not a game-breaker, but when you really want to go somewhere it can be annoying to wait till your character gets back on track.
The biggest flaw in Broken Sword is that once you finish the game there is very little incentive to go back and experience it again. The main adventure will last you around 10 hours, more if you decide to rough it and complete the puzzles without any help. But once you uncovered the mystery and the characters receive their happy ending players might not want to read through everything again, even if it’s well written and filled with humor. Broken Sword might also feel outdated in gameplay and presentation, especially when compared to other adventure titles on the DS.
Even with these flaws, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is a solid re-release of a true classic. The story is quite engaging while never being pretentious thanks to its great sense of humor, and difficulty has been balanced so that both experienced and novice players can jump in without feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t break any new ground in the genre. Rather, this update solidifies what worked the first time without trivializing the original experience.