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Broken Sword is back and updated!
“Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director's Cut” is a reworking of the original Broken Sword point-and-click adventure game of the same name (without the “Director's Cut” bit that is). Revolution Software has spruced it up and released it on the DS with all new content. And what great content it is!
The original game began with George Stobbard, a patent laywer and occasional hero and investigator, who gets involved in a mysterious serious of events when a Parisian café explodes.
This version of the game, however, starts with Nicole Collard, a reporter and occasional hero and investigator, who is about to interview a rich, philandering gentleman who has links to her father, when the man is murdered before she gets the chance. Her focus then shifts to convincing the man's widow to allow her to investigate the murder and thus find out more about her father.
Eventually Nicole meets up with George and (with the player controlling both characters) they investigate a mystery that has its roots in medieval history.
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Broken Sword's Gameplay
The first thing I noticed during the introduction to the game was that both DS screens were showing, in real time, simultaneous actions. The facial expressions of the characters on the top screen added nuances to the characterization, while the backgrounds and the full-body character animations on the bottom screen showed the main plot unfold. I was impressed and my interest was piqued from the start.
The 'point-and-click' nature of this type of game lends itself well to the DS stylus. As you touch the screen and drag the stylus, points of interest fade in as you get closer to them. If you touch a rotating circle of interest you will be presented with multiple actions such as pick-up, examine, talk to, etc. To select your desired action, just drag the stylus to the option you want and then release. It works brilliantly and prevents you having to tap the screen constantly.
Puzzles in the game are presented on the bottom screen in first person and you must use the stylus to solve them. You'll drag blocks around, turn dials, move pieces – all with the stylus. It is a tactile and satisfying way to interact with the game.
Other puzzles require the use of items from your inventory to solve them. The inventory is also easy to use; you drag and drop items onto each other to combine within your inventory, or drag them out of the inventory to use them with objects in the game world. Using objects from your inventory is the key to advancing in an adventure game like this, and the system used here is the cleanest and easiest to use I have seen in a while.
There are multiple solutions to some puzzles which allow the player a certain degree of freedom and makes it less likely that the player will get 'stuck'. You will be able to combine objects in different ways, and use entirely different objects in novel ways to solve the same puzzle.
However, if you do get stuck on a puzzle Broken Sword incorporates a hint system that is similar to the one found in Professor Layton - the more hints you use, the less score you receive. This also alleviates the need to revert to the try-every-object-with-every-other-object trial and error form of puzzle solving that some of the more esoteric puzzles in this game genre sometimes require. This is a good thing.
As you play, Broken Sword keeps a Game Journal for you. It is a textual summary of what you have done so far. It contains hints, notes and observations which will also be useful if you are stuck, or haven't played in a while and need to get up to speed with what is going on or what you need to do next.
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The backgrounds and characters have been beautifully and expertly illustrated. The hand-drawn graphics look great on the DS and it is a pleasure to play with this style of graphics as opposed to textured 3D visuals.
Dave Gibbons (co-creator of “Watchmen” among many other excellent works) has been drafted in to provide close-up character facial expressions when we see the characters interacting, reacting, or thinking to themselves. There is no voice over during conversations, but the whole top screen is used with the animated facial expressions as you read the text of what is being said. These look fantastic and add fine character detail to moments when characters are speaking to each other for extended periods of time. Gibbons had worked with Revolution in the past on Beneath a Steel Sky, and I hope they get a chance to collaborate again.
The animations in the game are fairly simple, but there are enough of them to add neat, unique interest and they are effective enough to do the job. With the characters' faces and text in the top screen and the story moving forward on the bottom screen, you feel you have to flick your eyes over both screens just in case you miss something important.
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The musical score, which has also been extended and expanded by Barrington Pheloung, is terrific and adds a great deal of atmosphere without becoming too overbearing.
The few spot sound effects here and there are functional and do the job as you open doors, slide blocks, walk and so on.
There is no voice acting on the DS version of Broken Sword – all the conversations in the game take place on the upper screen using text. The closeups of the protagonists and their facial expressions add character and are interesting to watch so I didn't miss the voice over at all.
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Sophisticated and intelligent story telling is what makes adventure games work and Broken Sword has always had an interesting and well written plot. The new storylines and additional content are seamlessly integrated into the original and if you didn't know it was different (or if I hadn't told you) you wouldn't have realized and would have thought the game had always been this way.
The new puzzles (with multiple solutions), new storylines, new graphics, new interface, new help/hint system and the game journal all make the Director's Cut of “Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars” the definitive version. Revolution have done a terrific job updating their old game to meet modern expectations. Here's hoping that Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars: The Director's Cut sells a shed-load so that Revolution gets the opportunity to release more games like this.
Somehow, it all just works on the DS and the attention to detail and the use of the two screens is inspired. If you haven't played a Broken Sword game or you don't know what story-based, puzzle-oriented gameplay is, then you are missing out on a treat and I envy your first foray into adventure! Buy it and enjoy the story, the mystery and the sense of satisfaction of solving a tricky investigation.