reviews\ Mar 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars - GBA - Review

Mystical secrets from medieval times, assassins dressed as clowns and beautiful photographers are only the first pieces in a jigsaw puzzle which will transport you and your on-screen partner from the streets of Paris to the furthest corners of Europe and beyond, into the legend of the ancient knights templar.

This is the prologue to Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, a Game Boy Advance from BAM! Entertainment. This is an adventure game in which you, as protagonist George Stobbart, seeks out clues to a bombing at a café in Paris, one in which he was involved in by virtue of being a sidewalk customer. As the game progresses, the mystery takes on new depth.

All this is set against a visual tableau as rich as any comic book, and as full of surprises as any thriller. Of course, you will run into quirky characters, and you will have conversations in which you must work for additional clues. Just like most games in this genre, you may have to use one item from your inventory to draw another needed item from one of the people you meet.

The game begins when a clown walks into a quiet French café, plants a bomb that kills an old man and leaves. George shakes himself off and begins to look over the rubble left behind. There is a newspaper with a handwritten place and time, a body, and a badly shaken waitress. She won’t talk to you until you have visited another area, which will reveal a manhole cover firmly in place – necessitating a lever of some sort, which must be found.

In the initial moments of the game, George will meet a journalist, a workman, and a French police detective who believes he can use his psychic abilities to draw information from witnesses. And the detective’s sidekick, a sergeant, is good to verify some info.

So why is George getting involved in this mystery? There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it, other than his curiosity has been piqued after being involved in the explosion.

The controls of the game have been kept simple. The D-pad moves George through the scenes, while the A button allows him to interact with objects, and the B button allows him to examine an object before interacting with it. The L button brings up the inventory. R highlights items within a scene that can be interacted with. That B button for examining items before using them doesn’t always avoid some of the surprises in this game.

The most compelling aspect of this game has to be the graphics. It has the look of a comic book come to life, and it is almost a shame that such rich, vibrant elements are reduced to such a small screen. Though the game is basically two-dimensional (objects appear to have width and height, but lack rounded effects which would make them appear three-dimensional), it does create a sense of three dimensions with perspective art elements. If George walks to the back of the scene, he does appear to be walking away, and gets smaller until he reaches the exit point.

The animation is good, and the environments are amazing in their detail

The sound of this game is very well done. The conversations are type chat, but instead of just straight talk, you will be treated to the flavor of the country. The French police with throw in a few French phrases, and characters actually seem to have personalities.

In order to ask questions of someone, there is a scroll menu with characters representing the topics you have uncovered to date.

If there is any drawback to this program, it is the manual. The fonts used are small and, in places, hard to distinguish from the artwork that underscores ever page.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is an absolutely wonderful game and a real joy to play. It does have challenge, a nice options package and exceptional graphics, along with an intriguing plot. Any fan of the adventure/mystery genre should certainly have this game in their library.

Broken Sword is rated Teen for mild violence and suggestive themes.

Gameplay: 7.8
Load times for the different scenes take seconds, and the overall game board seems quite large.

Graphics: 9
This game is truly a treat for the eyes. The animations are very good, and the artwork is superb.

Sound: 9
From an explosion to a cat’s startled meow, the audio portion of this program is very strong and does an excellent job in supporting the graphics.

Difficulty: 7.5
The game does have some quirks, making players jump through hoops A and B before progressing to C, and there is only one difficulty level. The player interface is easy to navigate through.

Concept: 8.5
This is a solid adventure/mystery game with a good storyline. The artwork really sets this apart from other games published to date in this genre. It is fresh and wonderful to look at.

Overall: 8.9
There were few drawbacks to this game. It is enjoyable, superbly rendered and intriguing. This is a game that will have players engrossed for hours on end.


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