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Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (Game Boy Advance) review


"Those familiar with the point-and-click genre will have no problem understanding the jist of Broken Sword. Firstly, your job as an innocent bystander to a mysterious bombing is to find out what happened, and why. Like other games of this genre, you will encounter many friends and foes along the way, with whom you may interact to find clues, gather information about the area, and uncover further elements of the plot. "



Introduction

I am a huge fan of point-and-click adventures. Some might even say that I appreciate them more than any other genre, because I grew up with games like Sam and Max, Full throttle and the King's Quest series. Having never played the original Broken Sword or its sequel for PSX, I was very excited when I heard that it would be coming to GBA. For me, this was as if a brand new point-and-click adventure was being released right into my pocket. Of course, it's not really new, but to somene who hadn't ever played the game on PSX, and probably never would have, it looks and seems like a new game. Anyway, I had amazingly high standards for this game. Without even knowing anything about it, just from looking at screenshots, I was immediately reminded of my old favorites. I wanted this game so much to be good, that I wasn't even willing to accept the fact that maybe it wouldn't be. Thankfully, I was not let down, and this is one of GBA's most beloved games thus far.

Graphics:

Broken Sword captures the visual feel of a mature cartoon or comic book, dripping with atmosphere, style, and filled with some of the most vibrant colors ever found on GBA. Admittedly, the graphics are a port of a five year-old PSX game, yet they look somehow crisper on the small screen. Before, flaws and pixelation were much more noticeable, while on GBA, the mosaic effect is much more eye-pleasing. Everything in the game is hand-drawn, and therefore possesses an amazing amount of detail and realistic lighting. Of course, the port from PSX couldn't be perfect--What used to be full-motion animated cutscenes have now been reduced to stills. Nevertheless, they are very effective, and nothing more could have been expected from a handheld console. Some would argue that the animations are overly simplistic, however, with such rich tapestries of color and detail as the environments, you won't likely notice such trivial matters are the animation. You'll also be impressed to see that the environments are not simply drawings--they are also filled with nice little animated touches, such as birds flying overhead and cars moving by. All of this just adds a welcome, interactive feel to the game. I don't know of anyone who would be dissatisfied by the stunning visuals of the GBA rendition of Broken Sword.

Story:

What starts as a nice, relaxing cup-o'-joe in a quaint Paris cafe turns into a long, epic journey filled with interesting characters and unexepcted plot-twists. You control George Stobbart, a would-be victim of an unsuccessful bombing in downtown Paris. For some reason, George is particularly interested in the bombing, and chooses to pursue the culprit, who is identified only as a crazy man in a clown costume. Broken Sword's storyline unravels like that of a good book, in the sense that it will slowly pull you in, and never let you go until you reach the satisfying conclusion. George's travels will take you to Syria, Ireland, France, Spain and Britain. As you learn more and more about the bombing, you'll be dragged into a sinister worldwide conspiracy which you'll have to put an end to. This game's storyline can beasily compared to that of the old classic Gabriel Knight. All in all, anyone who likes a good mystery will enjoy the gripping plotline of this old-school adventure.

Gameplay:

Those familiar with the point-and-click genre will have no problem understanding the jist of Broken Sword. It is highly comparable to the old PC classic Gabriel Knight, with a very similar flow and feel. If I were to pick one game that Broken Sword is most similar to, it would definitely be Gabriel Knight. Firstly, your job as innocent bystander to a mysterious bombing is to find out what happened, and why. Like other games of this genre, you will encounter many friends and foes along the way, with whom you can interact to find clues, gather information about the area, and uncover further elements of the plot. In order to get to the bottom of the game's mystery, you will need to collect a variety of different items, and use them in your environment to trigger certain events. The idea behind this game isn't pushing a series of buttons in a specific order, testing your reflexes, testing your hand-eye coordination, asking you to memorize complex button combinations, or perform any of the other common videogame tasks. The point of this game is to use your brain a little, while uncovering a juicy and well thought-out storyline. It's not overly challenging, and the gameplay isn't terribly complicated, however, it is incredibly fun if you enjoy this kind of game.

Control:

Now, as many of you well know, a point-and-click adventure is most easily played with the versatility and convenience of a mouse. Unfortunately, a GBA is without such a tool, so the developers took on a different approach, giving the game a simple makeover for the handheld console. You can now cycle through the areas on the screen with which you can interact. This is a much more appropriate approach for GBA, rather than simply trying to substitute the d-pad for a mouse. It also makes it easier to find out what to do, because some of the details and items are hard to spot on the smaller screen. Of course, it also has it's downside, and that is lack of difficulty. It is now just a tad too easy to sort out what to do, as you will automatically know where to do it--All you'll need to figure out is exactly how to interact with that area. It seems like the developers were caught between a rock and a hard place. They could keep the usual PC-style control which gamers are used to, but lose some of the convenience along the way, or they could implement a new, easier-to-use system, but lose some of the difficulty. I think that they chose the right decision, because I would much rather have it easier to control the game, even if it was at the expense of making it slightly less challenging. All in all, Broken Sword controls as well as any good point-and-click game should.

Replay:

With only one difficulty level, a single ending, and an extremely linear game path to take, Broken Sword probably won't have you playing it more than once, unless you really enjoyed it the first time around. You'll likely beat it in a week, love every minute of it, but not play it again, at least not for a while. However, I must say that for me, the game was worth playing a second time after beating it. After a couple months, I had forgotten much of the storyline and was looking for some good fun. Playing through it a second time was nearly as rewarding as the initial journey. Even if you aren't like me and don't play it again, it should take around 12 hours to complete, which is fairly lengthy for an adventure such as this one.

Sound:

There isn't a whole lot that a composer can do when writing videogame music for Game Boy Advance. With such low sound quality, you wouldn't expect much, however, I was incredibly impressed with Broken Sword's soundtrack. The music sets a wonderful mood for the game, adding in nice elements here and there when the plot thickens. Imagine the absolute highest quality symphonic soundtrack for a PSX game, and then convert it to a GBA cartridge. Obviously, the quality is within the confines of the GBA's sound capabilities, but it's some of the best I've heard in a handheld game. This music is arguably the best you can find on GBA, both in quality and in appeal. The voice-acting from the PC and PSX versions has been exchanged for simple text, which does better than I expected. While the actual voices are nice, they tend to get a bit annoying at times, so I must say that I prefer reading. The script for the game is smart and witty, filled with little sarcastic jokes and remarks, like any good game of this genre.

Conclusion:

The last thing I would have expected on GBA is a point-and-click adventure. They're notorious for being clumsy and hard-to-control on consoles... Think of how bad they could be on a handheld! But Bam! Entertainment surprised us all by porting a great playstation point-and-click adventure to a handheld, keeping the same graphics, the same gameplay, with an appropriately tweaked control system. This is indeed a pleasant surprise, and I urge anyone who's a fan of old classic PC adventure games to go out and buy this immediately. As for the other gamers, this may not be quite your cup of tea, but it's still worth a try, as this is one of the best GBA games to date. Broken Sword is sensational. It's a wonderful experience that no one should miss. An intriguing storyline, a wonderful musical score, dazzling colors and a simple control-system add up to make this wonderful adventure title.

Breakdown:

Graphics: 9/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Sound: 9.5/10
Story: 9/10
Replay: 6/10
Control: 8/10




Rating: 8.0/10

ender's avatar
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)

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