A broken sword is ineffective at impaling enemies, but it does make for a fine point and click adventure. Yes, the folks at Revolution Software (whose previous work include the excellent Beneath a Steel Sky) are back for the fifth instalment of their best-known franchise. Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse sees the series awaken from a seven-year hibernation, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and strong sales of the older titles on iOS devices. Split up into two episodes, this latest caper has Yankee lawyer George Stobbart reuniting with French reporter Nicole Collard in a case that shall push their puzzle solving wits to the limit.
Broken Sword 5 begins its tale at a Parisian gallery, which is presently displaying a piece of priceless artwork dubbed La Malediccio. When a pizza delivery guy arrives at the establishment it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. Did the staff at Dominoes forget to add anchovies? Nope. It actually turns out that the cheesy snack is a Trojan Horse, which has allowed the chap carrying it to get through the front door. Once inside the bogus deliveryman pilfers La Malediccio right in front of George’s eyes. Given that the insurance company responsible for the painting employs George, our blonde protagonist now has the unenviable task of retrieving the stolen watercolour. Nico, sensing a scoop, decides to tag along for the ride. The pair’s journey will ultimately see them travel to London, Spain and even the Middle East.
Players expecting Day of the Tentacle‘s zaniness should brace themselves for a slow start, as Broken Sword 5 kicks things off with a slow paced whodunit grounded in reality. Much of the early game has you sifting for clues, making Serpent’s Curse feel like a handheld version of Hercule Poirot (the famous Belgian detective who balances a slug on his lip.) After a while the plot does liven up however, with the narrative transitioning from a crime investigation to an Indiana Jones like supernatural escapade. By the time episode two rolls along George and Nicole find themselves embroiled in a Gnostic conspiracy that could potentially culminate in Lucifer being crowned ruler of Earth. In case they fail let me hedge my bets by saying Hail Satan!
My rating for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is three stars. Revolution Software has succeeded in reviving the franchise with a solid point and click adventure, which is sure to impress connoisseurs of the genre. The brainteasers on offer start simple enough, but get progressively harder. Early on simply using an item in the right place or interacting with an eccentric NPC is all you need to solve a conundrum. Later on you’ll be expected to decode ciphers, manipulate switches and have knowledge of musical notes. At times it got too challenging for my feeble brain, so thank goodness for the in-built hint system. Sussing things out is a lot of fun, although my enjoyment was somewhat hampered by the clunky touch screen controls. Rubbing your finger across the Vita display gets tiresome after a while… especially if you loathe smudging your hardware.
I imagine that veteran Broken Sword players will love this latest game far more than I did, as the levels contain a number of cool call backs. Characters from earlier titles drop by, to make cameo appearances, including a certain horned nemesis (who some may recognize from The Infamous Goat Puzzle.) Long time fans are also sure to approve of the game’s aesthetics, which mark the return of traditional 2D visuals. The cell-shaded graphics superimposed over beautiful hand drawn backgrounds look gorgeous and on the presentation front I also have to praise the strong voice acting. It really enhances the witty dialogue; so much so that I would often offer my entire inventory to complete strangers, just to see how they would react. In case you are wondering… no, people are not generally fond of strong cologne or icky pet roaches.