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Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (PlayStation) artwork

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (PlayStation) review

"The first few scenes of the game will see George, armed with a surprisingly competent voice actor, subtly mock the French authorities before hitting on Nico, a freelance newspaper photographer. This will all, of course, lead to the rather obvious conclusion of following the killer clown’s trail throughout Paris."

I’ve been to France, and I wouldn’t recommend it. The architecture may be stunning, and the history of the various locations is super if you’re into that kind of thing, but the people that live there can be as arrogant and whiney a race as you’ll ever meet. They refuse to talk in anything but their heathen tongue, let their dogs crap anywhere and eat anything that once had a pulse. When I wasn’t playing dodge the poop in Paris, I was having my more cynical expectations realized with the sheer lameness of Euro-Disney. All in all, I had a pretty terrible time.

George Stobbart, on the other hand, stopped for a cup of coffee, and was promptly caught in the back-draft of an explosion as the café he had chosen was incinerated by a bomb-planting killer clown. I suppose he had a slightly worse time than me. So, bad experiences both, but whereas the consequences of my trip amounted to little more than a ruined pair of shoes and a large amount of wasted currency, Mr Stobbart’s ended in an around-the-world crime investigation filled with romance, intrigue and clever one-liners. I rather think he got the best of the exchange.

We join Broken Sword’s colourfully-presented protagonist picking himself up after the aforementioned explosion threw him from his scenic porch outside the café, spilling his freshly purchased beverage. Like all busy-body American tourists, he quickly engages in telling the authorities and media how to do their jobs. Before he knows it, he has mixed himself up in an international conspiracy that spans the entire globe.

The first few scenes of the game will see George, armed with a surprisingly competent voice actor, subtly mock the French authorities before hitting on Nico, a freelance newspaper photographer. This will all, of course, lead to the rather obvious conclusion of following the killer clown’s trail throughout Paris. Off goes George, chatting up burly workmen, suffering through the rantings of retired war veterans and scourging through sewers for scraps of evidence and clues.

Something that sounds so ridiculous shouldn’t be half as enticing as it is.

Broken Sword makes no claims to be anything but an interactive crime novel that employs the point ‘n’ click interface for the ease of its players, but it still refuses to take itself seriously. No mistakes should be made; hidden beneath a gritty strings of murders and assassinations, and burrowed snugly within the deep philosophical and historical references that forces its players to undertake the experience intellectually is a sharp edge of humour. Many are the times when George is out of his depth, and his floundering efforts are worth a knowing smirk or out-loud laugh. Just as common are the times when he only manages to succeed due to the baffling and amusing incompetence of those that he is up against. Things aren’t straightforward in the world of Broken Sword but they are entirely believable and charming.

And if a light-hearted and alluring setting weren't enough, then things should be made all the more interesting with the inclusion of some real brain-testing puzzles. A good example would be near the beginning of the game when you need to track your would-be killer through the Paris sewers. Inconsiderately, the dastardly funny-man has seen fit to replace the sewer cap that he’d escaped down firmly back in place -- your first clue that you are indeed dealing with a wily foe. Handily, there is a workman nearby complete with a fully equiped toolbox at his disposal. The question is, how will you trick him into lending it to you given only the temporally-limited environment and gifted with nothing but the usable items that it bears? Best get those cogs in your head a-whirlin’, because the game will turn up the difficulty of its trickery as it progresses. This isn’t a Dutch massage parlour; there is no cheap and easy ride.

And as clever as the puzzles are, they are also housed within a pleasingly built game with more to boast about than its premises. George happily shares in his excellent voice acting knack with the rest of the cast, who, through some stellar vocabulary works, exhume a strong sense of personality. Sure, the game ruthlessly bullies every known stereotype into adamant submission, but it’s all done with tongue firmly placed in cheek. The boys and girls over at Revolution can hardly be levelled with claims of singling out creeds or nationalities to pick on, because they gleefully mock as many people as they can. No one is safe from the sarcastic quips fired off by George, and that’s ok, because he himself is often left to dwell on a stinging retort or two.

He’ll get shot down by the quick wit of the locales of a sleepy little town in Ireland, he’ll be openly mocked by the house-staff of a beautifully expansive mansion in the heart of Spain and will endure barely-hidden contempt from the occupants of the many French landmarks he’ll have to traverse. And through it all, George will stumble bullheadishly onwards until he is in so far over his head that backing out is no longer an option. He’ll find himself right in the middle of a conspiracy of monstrous scope that has been spanning back centuries. And he’ll need to tap in to your quick-thinking to get out of it in one piece. Because, effervescent approach or not, Broken Sword’s body-count is always on the grow, and this is one point ‘n’ click that isn’t afraid to kill off its protagonist.

But more importantly, it’s one that isn’t afraid to cover every base it needs to. Broken Sword is exactly what it tells you it is and more. It’s an entrancing Game Noir, if you will, with liberal helpings of charisma and chemistry. It’s a joy! It’s an education! It’s exactly what point ‘n’ click games should be!

It’s also the only way you ever spend so much time in France without treading in dog crap at least once.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 22, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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