The Broken Sword tale has been faithfully retold on iPhone.
Broken Sword, “one of the all-time classic adventure games” has earned this accolade from originally being released over thirteen years ago on PC and Playstation to a more than welcoming reception. With my experience in point and click adventure games being limited to some text adventure game on the Amstrad where you at some point may or may not find a boat on a beach, I was somewhat wary of reviewing the revisiting of this cult favourite.
Sequels and remakes have since passed, and this retelling of the original game has quite effortlessly made apparent to me what it is that warrants this release on iPhone. What made the original so compelling is still wholly applicable, in addition to which there is a revised interface, new cut-scenes and animations by Dave Gibbons (Watchmen artist), some additional story and a hint system for those times where you just want to skip working out one of its ingenious puzzles in favour of the much celebrated narrative.
This time, the story starts with Nico Collard in the awkward spot of being at the scene of the murder of a statesman in Paris – this version offers more of an insight into Nico’s relevance to the story, and has been woven seamlessly into the original. She is a photo journalist, and soon enlists the help of the main character, George Stobbart, as they investigate the murder and inevitably find out that it’s more complicated than they could have expected. I found that the story was very well paced and progressed nice and quickly, especially at the start, but don’t expect to progress quickly if you’re not paying attention. If, as I was at one point, you happen to be watching Watchmen (honestly, this was a complete coincidence) at the same time, you will just end up clicking on the various NPC’s sitting around in the pub until you exhaust all the conversation options and miss out on a lot of story detail. This is contradictory, depending on who you ask, to what iPhone games are ‘supposed’ to be; pick up and play entertainment that grabs you instantly and lets you go just as quickly. Understandably the value of Broken Sword decreases considerably when it doesn’t have your full attention, and it will be harder, too, when you end up standing outside the pub wondering where to go next. It might be a lot to ask, to retain your attention for the full fifteen hours that this game will most likely take to complete, but otherwise you’re just not going to experience the entertaining and surprisingly well voiced narrative that it has to offer.
Figuring out puzzles and finding clues is the name of the game here, and for the most part they are not only intuitive and realistic for the character to have figured out, but they harbour that sense of realisation when you solve the problem. Occasionally it digresses to just dragging inventory items onto the object in the hope that it’ll work, but I found that solutions were usually intelligible and well justified. A memorable scenario involved having to get some sensitive material out of a hotel. Entering the hotel you are acutely aware of the suspicious duo standing outside, but their ignorance encourages you to shrug them off as extras. To progress you are forced to acknowledge a very obvious part of the scenery, about which there is nothing extraordinary, so again you disregard it as being a visual device. Later you are presented with a problem that, depending on how you think about puzzles, will either be solved by remembering what you saw a few minutes earlier, wandering around aimlessly until it once again becomes obvious to you, or by using the hint system and afterwards thinking, “Okay, that was pretty clever. Why didn’t I think of it sooner”.
As is part and parcel of putting games on iPhone, the interface can suffer, even with adventure games such as this that seem like a perfect fit. Aside from the obvious advantages of a touch screen in point and click adventures, it can occasionally be awkward to touch the small circles that represent interactions, but this was a minor concern. Also taking advantage of the interface is the puzzles, which are different on the iPhone to the other platforms for which Broken Sword has been released, including a Blocked mini game, piecing together a torn photograph, and breaking a ciphered code – my personal favourite, and more intelligently designed than you might expect. Another of the iPhone’s properties working towards making this game truly excellent is its high resolution screen, which emphasises the art’s detail, and deservedly so; static backgrounds keep the visuals consistently impressive.
I have very few complaints about Broken Sword the Director’s Cut, though perhaps this could be accredited to my lack of experience with the genre, in which case I’d still be recommending this as a brilliant entry point for others who have yet to embark on such adventures.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 9
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