Published on September 20th, 2018 | by Lee Davies
Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Switch Retail)
Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Other formats available: PS4, XBox One
Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: Revolution Software
Website: Official Website
Unravel a terrifying conspiracy in the enhanced edition of this epic, award winning adventure.
Paris in the spring. Shots ring out from a gallery.
A robbery… a murder… and the beginning of another epic Broken Sword adventure.
Playing as intrepid American George Stobbart and sassy French journalist Nico Collard, you find yourself on the trail of a stolen painting – and a murderous conspiracy. A conspiracy whose roots lie in mysteries older than the written word…
Armed only with logic, integrity and a wry sense of humor – can George and Nico save mankind from disaster? Can you solve the secret of the Serpent’s Curse? A curse some say was forged by the Devil himself…
This is a Broken Sword game.
The fifth, in fact, but what is meant, by my opening, is that if you’ve played a previous iteration of this classic Point and Click Adventure Puzzle game franchise then you’ll automatically be on safe ground. The game does nothing that you haven’t come across in earlier games. Absolutely nothing new. However, if you have played, and loved, previous installments that could be high praise indeed. As for myself a dabble on PC versions, and the most recent, a complete play through of the DS version of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut, made me understand all that George and Nico put themselves through and the type of logic needed to pass through some of the more isoteric puzzles. The difficult puzzles are not so much logic, as instead they become guess what I’m thinking.
Fortunately, Broken Sword 5, rarely enters into convoluted puzzle design and the vast majority of puzzles are discernible from the get go, even if the execution, reliant on a rigid adherence to ordered progression, do 1, then 2, then 3, any other way is unacceptable, can become rather head scratchingly frustrating.
George Stobbart, now an insurance salesman, and Nico Collard, still looking for an elusive front page headline to make her journalistic name, witness a murder, and a theft, at an art exhibition in Paris. Henceforth, the idiotic police suspect the main characters and it’s up to you to solve what’s going on, why and find a resolution to the whole affair that clears your name, and ties up all loose plot points.
Simple Broken Sword parlance is found throughout the unfolding plot. Nothing of a revelation occurs, and the story plods from one European location, Paris, to another, London, to yet another, Catalonia, and culminates in a Middle Eastern excursion. Murder of the sub-cast of characters is often enough, but not once does the game make you believe that George or Nico are ever in danger. Regardless of some very limited events of dialogue choice, the outcome will remain the same throughout. The game does, however, include some familiar faces from previous versions of the Broken Sword franchise, namely the Henderson’s, among others. Pearl and her ever devoted, hapless husband Scott have appeared in all Broken Sword endeavors, and their danger vacationing is exemplary once again.
Broken Sword is known for its 2D hand drawn locations that scroll as you move your way around the location, and this fifth iteration is no exception. This game looks fantastic, colourful and vibrant whether playing docked or undocked. Even the items that can be manipulated and used in puzzles feel part of the environment, and don’t stick out as in other games of this ilk. It can be difficult, therefore, to know what can, and what can’t, be touched, moved and used.
When playing in TV mode, you will end up playing the game by using the traditional classic controller navigation. That is, a constant on screen cursor can be moved around with the analogue stick. When the cursor is placed over an object of interest, the cursor will change shape to tell you what action can be done. For example, move the cursor over a person, and it changes into an oscillating mouth, encouraging speech to that person. However, by pressing the A button that speech will occur, but by pressing the Y button a voice-over tells you about that person. The same goes for objects, A will interact, while Y gives details about the object, or let you see a map, for example, full screen.
The analogue movement of the cursor is a little finicky and you can easily pass over a small object because of it. There was a section in a van where the bonnet needs popping and 10 minutes of searching found nothing in the cab, another 2 minutes later, luckily finding the extremely small hit box that indicated the cursor was now over the point of interest that popped the bonnet open. This problem is slightly rectified playing the game in Handheld mode, where you have the option to use the touchscreen interface also. Both touchscreen and analogue stick interface can be used at any time, switched on the fly, and a combination of both styles tends to be better than sticking rigidly to a single style. The touchscreen is handy for pressing and holding the screen, then swiping the entire play panel to see if there is anything that you missed. The downside of the touchscreen controls is its reliance on pressing another icon to choose between action and explanation. That aforementioned icon was a little too small for my rather manly sized hands. Icon manipulation is far better handled with the A and Y buttons. I found myself relying on the Analogue Stick controls most, with a hint of touchscreen to back up areas I had already scoured.
Whilst the vast majority of the backgrounds and characters look great, there is an unfortunate tendency for characters to move with a slight jerky movement as the game seems to load in their animation, and the more infuriating wait while the game loads in a full animation, can have you waiting for a few seconds at a time. George: Nico?, wait four seconds, Nico turns, Nico: Yes, George. Immersion in the environment is completely broken by these repetitive, and seemingly unnecessary, waits for characters to move, talk or interact with each other.
The whole dialogue in Broken Sword is audio and subtitled. The voice actor’s have done a mighty fine job of expressing the onscreen personas’ feelings and intents. Another of Broken Sword’s main attractions is its ironic and slightly sarcastic tone of witticisms. They are all here, good and present, but not in great abundance. This is probably due to a rather limp and predictable story, and repetition of some of George’s sarcastic reminders, that a certain object can not be used in that way, lose their appeal in a very short space of time. The soundtrack varies from the scene setting orchestral, to some vomit inducing dance scene with cheesy rock, and worse than vomit inducing lyrics. Typical Broken Sword fare. Sound effects are all great and serve the function of immersing the player in place and time.
So playing through Broken Sword 5 you’ll be faced with a lot of repeated dialogue, and repeated animations. For example, upon successfully resolving the van of its horn issue, it is subsequently used to attract someone’s attention. How to do this monumental feat, then? Well, open the van door. Then, pressing the horn let’s you see the whole dialogue with George and how he’s going to use that horn yet again. Then, you’re forced to watch as George exits the van to walk to particular spot on the screen. Next, wait as the game loads in the responding person opening a window to answer. After that, you can make your choice, you have maybe 15 items at that time in the game inventory to choose between, and upon choosing the wrong one you’ll be treated to the respondent indignantly huffing, and closing the window on you for wasting his time. Very shortly followed by you pulling out your hair, and repeating the whole scene, to see if your next choice is the correct one to resolve this ‘puzzle’. The repetition of scenarios, character animations, and audio loops, all part of the Broken Sword universe, can push even the most ardent follower of George and Nico to the threshold of breaking.
The hint system was not something I used very much, but later in the game I tried it to see what all the fuss was about. Oh OK, i was stuck in a cave and had very little chance of doing what was required of me. Clicking on the Hint Icon in the Pause Menu, brings up one or two lines of text explaining cryptically what needs to happen. The first hint rarely helps as its just gives the background information to a puzzle, which you’ll already know. It’s when you select the ‘next hint’ button a few times, you realise that approximately 4 hints appear for each puzzle, with the last hint being the complete solution, and the exact order that you need to do things in, to overcome your latest ordeal. The precision with which the solution is expedited is scary and verging on game breaking. If you want the most out of this game, stay away from the Hint system. It’s always better to put your Switch down after a difficult session, go away and think about it, and return at a later date, than fly through the whole adventure never having to struggle to overcome a single puzzle. Challenge is of the essence that Broken Sword revels in, and the biggest downside of the fifth game is that it is actually not that challenging in its puzzles anyway, bar a few.
The game also includes ‘Behind the Scenes’ movies created especially for the Nintendo Switch version. These videos unlock as you progress through the game, and reveal the story and the development process behind the game, through previously unreleased interviews with the Broken Sword team. A lovely addition that adds hidden depths to the choices of particular scenes and their thought process of puzzle solutions, character development, etc.
If you love Broken Sword games, of point and click adventure/puzzle games in general, then this really is a beautifully looking, slightly challenging game. The reappearance of infuriating sections that require the patience of a Saint may marr the atmosphere for you, especially if you’re only luke warm to these types of games in the first place. So, the only sticking point I can see is its price tag, and the length of the adventure. It took me 11 hours to see everything this game had to offer, and I’ve very little doubt, that I’ll ever be firing it up again now that I know all the puzzle solutions.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse (Switch Retail)
Summary: You'll know if you want to buy this game already. Broken Sword fans will not be disappointed with this solid entry into the franchise. Yes, all the annoyances of previous iterations are present and correct, however so are all the wonderful things. Point and Click haters need not apply.