Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror
|a game by||Revolution Software, and Revolution Software Ltd.|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 1 review, 2 reviews are shown|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 2 votes|
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|See also:||Broken Sword Games|
It's Been Two Years Since Revolution dished up Beneath A Steel Sky to a surprised public. Combining the artistic talents of Dave Gibbons (who produced the artwork for Watchmen, Give Me Liberty and countless other graphic novels including loads of Batman stuff) and the 'Virtual Theatre' adventure gameplay engine developed by Revolution head-honcho Charles Cecil, the game proved that it wasn't just the yanks who could produce a half-decent point-and-click adventure.
Broken Sword is the team's latest effort, and it has to be said that it's one of the most gorgeous-looking offerings we've seen for some time. This style of game has been out of fashion for a while, with the likes of Gabriel Knight 2 and Phantasmagoria taking precedence, but Broken Sword is certain to re-establish its importance within the genre.
Set in Paris, the game centres around a quest for the great secret guarded by the Knights Templar (quite a popular choice at the moment with a number of games recently, including Time Gate and AzraeVs Tear). It seems that despite having disappeared hundreds of years ago, a sect of the Templars is alive and well and behaving in a seriously right-wing fashion in underground France. When the game opens you are drawn into a feud between the Templars and some ancient adversary, as a man with a briefcase (containing a manuscript pointing to the location of the Templar treasure) walks into a small cafe where you are nonchalantly sipping espresso. Unfortunately, he never walks out again as the whole place is blown up by a clown (?!?) who then nicks the briefcase and sods off. As everyone comes to, you are greeted by both the police and a particularly foxy journalist who you end up helping out. The ensuing quest takes you round Paris and eventually out to Syria in an attempt to track down the treasure.
Okay, so the story deals with lots of historical stuff, but one of the cool things about Broken Sword is that the subject matter is handled in an 'Indiana Jones' kind of way. The game contains an awful lot of history, but from what we've seen so far, it never actually rams the stuff down your throat. You pick up loads of titbits, but in the way that you would do while watching, say. Raiders Of the Lost Ark. If you're anything like me, it'll certainly pique your interest in the Knights Templar for starters (see Some Interesting Stuff... box).
Ooh... the graphics
As well as having what will certainly pan out to be a rich storyline, the game also boasts something that will turn heads when it arrives for review... and that's superb graphics. They're all in hi-res svga, they've all been beautifully animated by chaps from Disney (see Quality Teamwork box) and to cap it all, they've been produced to give a tremendous sense of depth. Multi-layer parallax scrolling in svga anyone? Sounds rather smart, doesn't it? As you can see from the screen shots, all of the backdrops have been beautifully produced (by professional layout artists) and the characters are particularly lovely in a stylised kind of a way. What really puts the icing on the cake, though, is the animation. In a lot of games of this style the characters tend to act as nothing more than an extension of your cursor, but here your character - and all the others for that matter - carry out their moves in a beautifully animated way that wouldn't look out of place in a proper cartoon. Anyway, in a few months you'll be able to see for yourself when we get our hands on a finished copy of the game, and a fab playable demo. Watch this space.
Up The Revolution!
Revolution are a team that have been around for a while, but haven't really produced that many games. Way back in 1992 they developed a game called Lure Of The Temptress, which you may remember, and in 1994 they teamed up with the esteemed graphic novel artist Dave Gibbons to produce Beneath A Steel Sky. Both of these were particularly fantastic point-and-click adventures (and they're available on budget now... Beneath A Steel Sky was released on White Label only last month), which demonstrated that the team had the potential to take on the likes of LucasArts and Sierra.
In 1994 Virgin Interactive took a minority stake in Revolution with the specific aim of providing the team with the resources to produce games that realised this potential. Broken Sword is the first game to arise from this deal and is reputed to have had more than Cimillion worth of investment... something we've never witnessed in a title that doesn't have fmv or 'name' actors. And what's more, all of this investment has been in quality programmers, artists and animators.
Some interesting stuff about the wj Knights Templar
They started out in 1099 at the crusades and they were, it's pretty safe to say, rock hard.
They had a weird rule that if they weren't outnumbered by at least three to one they couldn't run away. Hard and completely bloody bonkers.
When they'd scared everybody they possibly could and eventually became bankers to the kings and queens of Europe, they lent so much money to the king of England that they demanded (and got) the crown jewels as collateral. Cool.
All this fuss about Friday the 13th comes from the Knights Templar. Back in 1307, it was on Friday 13th that Philip Le Bel stormed the Templar headquarters to try to track down their treasure. When he got there and tried to kill/burn/eat or whatever he did to everybody, he found that the treasure had gone and the Templars had buggered off. Bad luck mate.
Download Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror
Generally speaking, I have to be in the right mood to enjoy point-and-click adventures. They're about as linear as a game can get, and they don't give you much in the action and replay departments. Thankfully, I was in the right mood. And besides. Broken Sword II has a funny and thoroughly entertaining story line. I wanted to keep going to see what would happen next--that is, if I could figure out the next puzzle. In addition, there's a huge cast of interesting characters to run into, tons of talented voicework, and rich, colorful graphics throughout the game. Of course, the game isn't without a few problems. First, even though the background graphics and character animation is topnotch, some graphics get a bit washed-out, making it difficult to see what's what (and in some cases, making it difficult to solve a puzzle). Most puzzles are easy to sort through, but others are ridiculously obscure (nice in a way, since it exercises your brain, but also very frustrating). Sure, this is the nature of point-and-dick adventures to a certain degree, but this doesn't excuse those extra-toughies. You'll probably have to resort to a walkthrough at one point or another. And finally, the saving interface is klunky--probably due to the port from the PC to the PlayStation. But as far as PC ports go, Broken Sword II is quite enjoyable.
This is a dying breed of games, which is a crying shame. Some of you remember this from the PC a couple of years ago, and the translation to PS is more than admirable--if a little slow in the ol' disc access dept. The story line is involving, and more importantly it's actually interesting. The characters' development is topnotch (you actually care what happens to them) and the presentation is very good. It plays even better if you have a mouse.
Nearly everything about Broken Sword II can be described in one word: "lush." Scenery is lavishly detailed and full of stuff to play with. The voice acting (of which you'll hear plenty) is topnotch. And the game's story is packed with clever twists and loads of funny moments. I only wish some of the puzzles weren't so obscure. There's nothing worse in these point-and-dick games than getting stuck just 'cause you've hit a puzzle that makes no sense.
This game brought back memories of playing King's Quest 4 on my old Apple IIGS. If you've got the patience and have played and enjoyed games like Myst or The 7th Guest, you might enjoy it. But I just couldn't get into it. Like Shawn said, some of the puzzles are very frustrating or obscure, sometimes leading to peeking at a walk-through to get by. Animation and storywise, it's fine, but pointing-and-clicking isn't enough anymore.
Snapshots and Media
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