"This wasn't my first time through Broken Sword, but I enjoyed it as much as if it had been. I regretted every time I had to put it down."
Since Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars has been released on nine platforms, most fans of graphic adventures have had a chance to play it by now. I played it on the GBA several years ago, and really enjoyed it. Revisiting a game you liked can be a risky proposition because you never know if it will hold up to your fond memories. However, as a repeat player of Broken Sword, I can now tell you that unless you've played one of its most recent releases, you haven't seen the Director's Cut, and you've been missing out.
Broken Sword begins with a murder, the latest in a series of unusual killings in which the murderer killed in costume, and which the authorities have been unwilling to investigate. Who is committing the murders? Why? And who could be powerful enough to stop such investigations? That's what players must uncover before the end of the game. It's a good story, and thanks to the well-written script, the dialogue never gets in the way of your enjoyment. In fact, a few plot holes at inopportune times are all that really hold this story back from greatness.
As a Director's Cut, it is to be expected that new content has been added to the game. This comes mainly at the beginning of the game, and in it, players guide one of the classic game's main NPCs, Nicole Collard, on her own investigation into one of the murders. Those who have played earlier incarnations will probably enjoy the extra story content, but those who are playing for the first time may wonder why that part of the story ends with a clichéd: "I must never speak of this to anyone."
For the most part, Broken Sword's gameplay is classic point and click adventure. Find objects, solve puzzles, move on. The puzzles are nicely varied in both difficulty and in their solutions, and it's comforting to know that they are fairly self-contained. That is, players generally only have a few screens within one location available for exploration at any given time. The solution to any puzzle found in that location is either already in the player's inventory or on those few screens. The game occasionally falls prey to some of the genre's classic problems, like "I know what I need to do, but the game won't let me do it yet," but they're rare enough.
In addition to classic puzzles, the Director's Cut adds a small number of touch-screen based puzzles. I liked them all, and they came up just frequently enough to be an entertaining change of pace without taking over what was already a worthy adventure game. I did have a control issue with one puzzle, but I didn't give up, because the game's hint system let me know that I was on the right track without giving away the answer. Although if I had asked for the answer, it would have obliged – there are three increasingly obvious hints for each puzzle, after which the game simply gives the detailed solution.
And after all the things Broken Sword has done right so far, it looks great too. Backgrounds are detailed, but not to the point of clutter. Characters are drawn and animated well – the animators who hand-painted
them worked on Don Bluth movies, and it's extremely obvious. Sadly, the game's graphical low point is in a few of the animated cutscenes, which are shown at key story moments. These cutscenes are not terrible, but only one or two are really up to the standards the rest of the game sets.
Broken Sword's sound is inconsistent, but the highs far outnumber the lows. For example, the music is quite good. Good enough that the soundtrack can be purchased separately and good enough that it's worth that purchase. Every line of dialogue is voiced, and this is where the audio lows are found. The actors for the main characters do a really good job, but the quality of the secondary characters' voices varies greatly, as does the quality of the recordings for all characters. Some of the lines sound as though the actors recorded their voices by speaking into a tin can in a bathroom. In addition, as a Spanish speaker, I was a little offended by the fact that all of the Spanish characters had Italian accents (one of them has the last name "de Vasconcellos," which makes the difference very clear). However, despite my complaints, the overall audio experience was so positive that I was sad whenever I had to play with the sound off.
Relatively speaking, Broken Sword's controls are its weakest point. They're not bad – they're just not as good as the rest of the game. The concept is great: swiping a finger over an area reveals flashing blue circles on every item in the vicinity that can be "used." This works well for informing players about the interactions available to them, but the game seems to get attached to the items in a swipe for too long. Players can't swipe another area until the first area times out, so this sometimes adds unnecessary delays to puzzle-solving. Fortunately, only a very few puzzles have a time element, and this control issue never stopped me from getting the job done.
This wasn't my first time through Broken Sword, but I enjoyed it as much as if it had been. I regretted every time I had to put it down. It's not flawless, but it's mighty good. Given its great graphics and gameplay, it's the kind of game that is easy to recommend regardless of its imperfect controls and inconsistent voice acting.
Note: for this review, I played version 1.3 of Broken Sword: Director's Cut on a 3rd generation iPod Touch with OS 4.2.