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Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse

Point and click games sound like something from ages ago when mobile phones still had protruding antennas and when MTV was still broadcasting actual music. Still this fifth instalment of Broken Sword was edged enough to prove us wrong and boy did we cut ourselves with prejudice. The franchise still stands strong in an age of 3D and online-centered gaming. But how does it manage to do so?

Bringing you adventures since 1990
Revolution has been around for more than 25 years now and it is not a new player in the world of adventure games as proven with their newest game Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. Now before I continue I will be completely honest with you and tell you that this was my first encounter with the series. And while it wouldn’t be fitting to start with the last instalment I can happily tell you that you really don’t have to play them in chronological order to be able to enjoy this series. The game does a great job of setting the characters’ backstories through clever dialogue and inner thoughts. And what a story it is!

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Art is for dreamers… and murderers… and conspiracy-knobs
After a short flashback in Catalonia the story starts off with a stolen painting and a murder in a Parisian art gallery. You start playing as George Stobbart, the man who was in charge of insuring the exposition that went terribly wrong. Quickly you discover that the stolen painting was, well… a stolen painting with a curse that kills whoever comes in contact with said painting. George Stobbart and reporter Nico Collard are in for an adventure chasing the elusive painting called ‘ La Maledicció’ (the curse). The story takes you to different places and does a good job of maintaining the “mystique” around the painting and near the end it delivers some deep layering that makes you wonder if Dan Brown was hired somewhere in the process. It has this ‘Da Vinci Code’ feeling wrapped around it while still being quite original.

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Point and click games are not dead; they’ve never been so alive!

The last point and click game I played was ‘Disc World’ on the Sega Saturn so it has been a while since I got back to the genre. Broken Sword 5 does a great job of hiding what is important so as not to make it too easy and to rush through the game. It does that by providing you with rich scenery that feels like a real place. At one moment you are looking for clues in a mobster’s mansion filled with artefacts or you can question the ‘garcon’ of a cultural café with a splendid view on the Sacré Coeur in Paris’ hipster neighbourhood. All the places you visit are well occupied and filled with things to investigate. Something you will be doing a lot so it is nice to have something pretty and interesting to look at (besides Nico).

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Finding the exact right thing to do to advance can be tricky sometimes
While offering great characters, rich environments and an interesting story the game does suffer from some very specific bugs/developer choices and mild input lag. I found myself in a situation where I had to reload my last checkpoint because for some reason a certain item couldn’t be investigated. Something I didn’t realize until I quickly looked at a walkthrough on the net. Luckily you are able to save at any time out of dialogue so it’s certainly not a game breaker! Furthermore it is sometimes tricky to find the right combination of items to solve a mystery/puzzle. Some of them are quite easy and logical but others force you to explore the limits of randomness. While these are brain straining at times they do offer some hilarious situations ranging from obtaining your pet cockroach ‘Trevor’ to the appearance of the most valuable item to counter a police chase: Manneken Pis… The characters’ reaction to these puzzles make up for the brain teasing and add to the overall very present humorous tone of the game despite its dark story. A nice balance between the two if you ask me.

 

Point and click games are not dead; they’ve never been so alive!

 

Something that did bug me on some occasions is the lag that follows before some characters get out of a ‘scripted animation’ and start talking to you when you activate them. It decreases the pace of the game a little and that’s too bad because it does deliver some of the better voice acting! Every bit of dialogue is voiced and the characters’ inner voices are as well! Maybe the lag is due to the extensive amount of voice acting loading at set moments in the game.

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Broken Sword is very subtle but is breaking the fourth wall if you pay close attention.
I won’t go too much into detail but if you play the game as it’s meant to be you will be rewarded for trying to combine the most crazy elements together and since the game is portraying George and Nico’s inner voice in the past tense it sets up a nice and witty tone; “While it did seem like a good idea at the time, I decided not to do it anyway”. The game is kind of laughing away your poor choices. Something reminiscent of Prof. Oak’s “Now is not the time to use that!” when trying to ride a bike inside a building. (Pokémon Game Series, red.) It does a terrific job at referencing other pop culture while staying very subtle when doing so. It’s these tiny details that make you want to investigate every person and leave no stone unturned.

Conclusion:

As a great fan of mystery books I had a blast discovering the point and click universe through this great game! It’s a great genre that can offer the depth and character complexity while still keeping you on the edge of your chair. Instead of wanting to turn the next page you can’t wait to uncover the next secret and cliff-hanger. I even found out that one of my friends had been playing this series when he was younger. He asked me if it’s still with George and Nico as main cast. I reassured him they still were and he said, “Thank God for George and Nico, they can never ever change that!”.
I must say that while the game isn’t perfect, it has proven to me that P&C games are still standing proud in this day and age… And I sure hope they are here to stay!

8/10

Indie Lover Car Guy Pokémon and Zelda Expert