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Gameboy Advance Reviews: Broken Sword:  Shadow of the Templars


Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Screenshots


The Final Say!

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - reviewed by Chris Barnett
Review Date: 3 April 2002
Review Score: 7/10
Distributed by: (UK release)

When this game was announced for the GBA a while back, it caused quite a stir concerning how the transfer of a full pledged adventure game would make it onto the console intact.  This was questioned even further when the GB color version of Resident Evil (which follows the same game mechanics essentially) was cancelled due to the difficulty of the conversion. 

So when the developers, Bam! Entertainment claimed that the game would be an exact port of the PC and Playstation version of the same game; many people became suspicious about the quality of the final product (if the project ever made it to the finished stage!).  It is rather pleasing to see that after such speculation and anticipation, that the game has made it to the finished stage.  Not only that, it has done so with little compromise.

For those who are not familiar with the Broken Sword series of games (of which there have been two to date, a third is in production), it is an adventure series which takes the form of a (pre-rendered) three-dimensional environment where the characters can interact and explore.  The controls on the PC and Playstation were such that the main interface was a cursor which would be pointed and clicked on items and positions in order to interact with them, you did not have direct control of the character at any time (not in real-time, anyway).  

For the GBA version of the first game in the series, Bam! have altered the mechanics of the game so that the player now has direct control over the main character.  This means that the directional pad moves the player character, George, directly and interactions take place by the use of icons that appear when George nears an interaction opportunity.  The icons that appear can also be cycled by pressing a button (so that any hard to find or unapparent interactions can be found).  

Whilst this method takes a while to get used to, it is certainly good for this type of game on this format, and probably superior to the old cursor method, considering that the user base of the GBA will be more familiar with direct character control.

The game follows a very linear structure in the fact that there is a set story and there are very few opportunities to change the outcome (apart from the way in which talking to certain people can trigger different conversations later on, some irrelevant to the story, there is no other way to alter the outcome of the game), but this is really a feature of the game type, rather than a fault with the game. 

If it were not so linear, it would be pretty impossible to complete as you would get so far off track (the one pub location has five characters in it, without restrictions it would be like a real night in a pub, no set time period or structure!) that you would forget your tasks.  The basic story is that you (George) are on holiday in Paris when you see a clown burst into a Cafť and steal a suitcase from an old man.  The clown then flees and an explosion destroys the Cafť and kills the old man, leaving you and a woman (who you later become rather familiar with) as the only witnesses.  Taking matters into your own hands, the two of you set about solving the mystery of this murder (which is rather understandable as you and the woman are reporters, although from different countries).  To unravel the situation you must question people and solve puzzles by collecting and combining items that are found or given.

            This may sound boring, and it probably would be if the game were not so professional in its intricacies.  The characterisation is very impressive, with most characters establishing their personality in a few lines.  This really adds to the atmosphere and helps the game develop at a suitable pace, as does the rather skilful musical score (which is in real time in most situations, so a certain action will change the soundtrack immediately, with no delays for disc access ala Playstation).  The characters are also very different in appearance too, from fat American Tourists to Irish larger louts.  All of them are well animated and the variation in the actions is remarkable (they are not simply repeated), making the game look like a cartoon (except for certain cut sequences where there are still shots of artwork detailing the actions).  There is a minor gripe that certain objects are difficult to spot due to their size, and to find them you have to cycle through all the interactive elements on screen.  This is annoying when you are really stuck and know what you need, but cannot find it.  Although this is a problem, it is resolved and does not hinder the flow of the game too much, and it is difficult to see an alternate way in which the problem could have been tackled on the GBA.

            The game is rather short though, as you can probably gather from the objective (solve mystery of stolen case), but if it were longer, it would probably be spoilt because of the fact (you donít complain about the length of a movie when you enjoy the movie, itís only when something feels distinctively too short that complaints arise, or too long for those Lord of the Rings purists!).  Without getting too stuck, I would estimate that the game would last about 8 hours, which is not really very long when you look at your wallet and consider that it is £30 lighter.  This is the only really bad point about the game, as there is also no incentive to return once you have finished (no extra difficulties of situations), so the game will not get played once you have conquered it (which is a pretty alien concept to most GBA owners as they are used to the everlasting appeal of games like Mario Kart and Sonic, which have tons of replay value).  The advice would be to buy the game from a shop that offers a 10-day return policy, that way if you complete it within the 10 days, it could be returned.  If not, you can keep the game and complete it in your own time.

The bottom line is this, it is great whilst it lasts, but it will gather dust faster than your VHS collection (I know you have a DVD player, so donít question me!).

- Chris "Talkshow" Barnett

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