George and Nico are back, and boy are they back with style. 2013’s The Serpent’s Curse has finally made it’s way to Nintendo Switch. I must confess to only having played two of the previous Broken Sword titles, not because I wasn’t completely drawn in to them but purely because, in much the same way as the Professor Layton titles, I found that they consumed so much of my time inside and outside of the game (the puzzles you can’t solve will haunt your waking moments) that it became something I only really did when I was on holiday. You know, when you don’t have any ‘real life’ pressures to think of!
It has been 12 years since the duo last blasted their way into our living rooms in the fourth instalment. Given that length of time I was somewhat concerned that they would no longer feel as fresh as they once did, that maybe the games industry had moved on too much and that this instalment would feel dated and out of place in the current marketplace. I could not have been more wrong.
In the time between Broken Sword 4 and 5 the characters have not remained stationary; in their own little worlds they have moved on and changed. This time George has become an insurance broker though Nico still remains as free and transient as ever. The premise is simple; a murdered man in an art gallery and a missing painting. The painting is seemingly of little value which makes the case all the more intriguing. It is up to the player to solve this crime through a series of point and click puzzles and options. Broken Sword has always been a series laced with intrigue and conspiracy but this instalment takes things to a whole new level; we’ve gone from Indiana Jones to Dan Brown. There are monks, affairs, mobsters all taking place in both France and England.
Watch the Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse launch trailer below:
Without wanting to give away any spoilers I will say that the plot takes so many twists and turns that in only a matter of minutes you are completely drawn in to the story. The characters as ever are engaging and I was happy to see the return of some former favourites including Sergeant Moue whom I was genuinely delighted to see return to the game (he was one of my favourites from the previous instalments!)
The game looks incredible. I love the animation style and the depth given to each scene. This is vitally important to the smooth gameplay of titles such as this where the impetus is on the player to locate clues and piece together pieces of evidence but I have to admit that Revolution have really outdone themselves. The level of detail in each screen is stunning and I am pleased to say that on this Switch port the graphics have lost none of their quality either on the big or the small screen. Each frame of the game looks as though it has been hand painted by the most loving of artists, each scene would sit well in the halls of an art gallery; they all look better than the painting our victim was murdered for! The control using the joystick is fluid and the character development and pace of the game really do draw you in. It is a perfect example of a ‘just 10 more minutes’ kind of game; before too long you’ve said that 10 times, the daylight is filtering through the blinds and you realise you never actually went to sleep.
For anyone who has never played a Broken Sword title there is a key difference between this kind of point and click adventure and the aforementioned Professor Layton titles; in these games you pick up evidence and items that may be useful throughout the journey and these items can be used to help solve puzzles later on. This means that you really have to study each scene, consider each and every area and item carefully and determine, using your best sleuthing skills, whether this may be important come a later development. Throughout the whole experience you are challenged to be every bit as creative, observant and perceptive as a real life Sherlock Holmes.
Now, onto the puzzles themselves. In the main these are not overly challenging, though of course they do get progressively more difficult as the game moves toward its conclusion. Those items you have been collecting will often come in useful in solving each and, though you may find that you have missed a key item, you are able to back track and find what you need. This again adds to the depth of the experience, not only do you have to consider what might be useful later in the game but you will often be retaining the concept of an unsolved puzzle in your mind as you inspect the previous areas for something that may be of assistance. I personally loved the times when I’d missed something, it was a genuine thrill to be searching a room for something almost and imperceptibly meaningless and then find that that insignificant item was the key to the entire puzzle.
As you can probably tell, I loved this game. It is one which is well worth whatever it costs to play. The wait has been entirely worth it and what we as consumers are left with is a visually stunning game, with intriguing plot and character development that brings to life some of the most inventive and despicable conspiracy style plot lines I have ever seen in gaming.
And yet, there was one major disappointment for me and that was the quality of the animation on the characters. For all of the effort and quality that went into designing the scenes the character animation is stiff, shuddering and completely out of step with the rest of the visuals. In a game that doesn’t require the characters to do all that much, there is no Nathan Drake style character control required, I would have hoped that Revolution would have put the same amount of effort into the characters as they did the scenery. This means that at times it can look as though you are watching a marionette show; beautiful backgrounds out of place central figures.
Overall, Broken Sword 5 on the Switch is a game well worth playing. It brings together some of the best aspects of point and click adventures with conspiracy literature and puzzle solving. From the gorgeous scenery to the solid voice acting through to the gripping storyline it delivers on what a good adventure game should be. It’s just a shame that it has been hampered by inconsistencies in the character animation.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Ravenscourt Developer: Revolution Release Date: September 21st, 2018 Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch Also Available On: PC/Steam, PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita, Android, iOS