Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Game Review: Broken Sword 2.5

Although I consider myself a gamer-grrrl (yeah, I went there), there are very many game genres I love in theory, but suck at and hence very rarely play in practice. Genres such as shmupps (Gradius), beat-em-ups (Turtles in Time), run & gun shmupp (Contra), shooters (Half-life, System Shock) and horror games (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Amnesia and so on). Each of these genres hold a ton of games I would love to play, in some cases I've tried and failed miserably, in others I've just haven't had the nerve to try yet and so I've left them for now. Hey, at the moment I'm just proud with myself for finally getting into strategy and adventure gaming somewhat.

And then there is point-and-click adventure games, which I also totally love but by the sweet mother of all Red Herrings am I bad at puzzle solving. I'm not even very fond of puzzle solving, outside of games that is, and I suppose that reflects on my skills (or rather lack thereof) in puzzle solving games. I still love them, but the problem is that if they're either not involving enough, story-wise, or just plain too hard, I usually leave it at loving them from afar. Because of this I haven't played overly many point-and-click adventure games, but got around to finishing a couple from the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle, The Dig and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. All from LucasArts, I know. They know how to do point-and-click adventures, what can I say?

Then I've played Broken Sword 2
, which I actually really liked. Unlike the LucasArts games, well especially the Monkey Island series, the Broken Sword games are less crazy in their puzzles and could maybe therefor be seen as easier. I don't think they're easy at all, but at least they rarely ask you to combine the rat hair with the pen and the paper sheet to create a fake lollipop to give to the blind kid to get the key to the door to... well you get the idea. The Broken Sword series has given me an opportunity to play a different kind of point-and-click adventure and I loved it.

I was therefore very happy to read that a couple of fans had taken it into their hands to release a "proper" sequel to Broken Sword 2, lovingly called Broken Sword 2.5 or Baphomets Fluch (that's german for Curse of Baphomet, I guess they were germans who did it). I say "proper" in quotation marks because there already is a Broken Sword 3, it's just not as popular as the second game, and I've never played it either. Apparently these fans, along with most other people, didn't like the turn the game had taken from pretty hand-drawn 2d graphics to 3d graphics, and wanted to see if they could make it better themselves. Since I haven't played the third game, I can't say if they succeeded, but I can tell you whether I think it's a worthy sequel to Broken Sword 2.

Recognize this we do
I really liked the art-style of Broken Sword 2, so I too was quite bummed to see the switch to 3d graphics. I am glad to say that BS2.5 looks pretty much exactly like it. In fact, the title makes it justice since this feels more like a DLC or a little extra play on the original BS2 than it's own game. Although it takes place several years after the story in BS2, this one borrows heavily both in characters and locations. If this game wanted players to get a nostalgic feel of the good old days of BS2 with the possibility to play a new adventure at the same time, they've definitely succeeded as you'll recognize a lot if you've played BS2.

Overall this game follows the recipe of BS2 by the book. The puzzles are similar, everything looks the same. I am amazed that they managed to get voice actors for all the characters, not only in one but in two languages - German and English. I only listened to the German voice actors shortly, but thought they sounded good. The English voice actors also do an ok job.

Since I am completely daft at puzzle-solving I struggled a lot with this game. Like I said, I've always loved Broken Sword for it's, relatively, logical puzzles and that goes for this game too. That's not to say that some of the puzzles are quite difficult. In the end you resort to simply combining everything you have with everything you see in a routine pattern, but there are less things to click on here on each screen than in many point-and-click adventures which makes this a little less time-consuming. And once you figure it out you'll obviously think "ah yeah, of course".

Since George (the main character) travels all around the place, it must be difficult to design areas where you make sure the player gets everything he needs to continue elsewhere, without making it too obvious or simple. This is something BS2 did at some points, if I rememeber correctly you for instance find a "heap of garbage" towards the end that conveniently contains everything you need to continue. BS2.5 only suffers from this mildly, and only a few of the puzzles feel like they should've been better (the dog in the train for instance). There are a couple of instances where you die (ie Game Over) if you don't act quickly, which I find is a fun break to the usually slow pace that is common in point-and-click adventures, as long as it's not done too often.

Yup, still familiar
The story is, in all honesty, not very interesting compared to BS2, mostly probably because it hinges so much on you having played that to have any interest in the plot in this one. So much that it doesn't offer much on its own. George finds out his girlfriend Nicole has gone missing, The Knights Templar from BS2 seem to have something to do with it and he sets off to find out what. If you haven't played BS2 the story of BS2.5 falls completely because of its shallowness. This is forgivable since it's probably pretty much assumed that you will only play this game because you liked BS2 so much, and then mostly as an excuse to relive that game rather than offer anything new.

This leads to me often getting the feeling that characters and situations are put in there just to be a nod to BS2, but again this is forgivable because that is really what this game is all about. It just means that if you have no interest in the Broken Sword games you probably won't understand much of what is going on (or read this review in the first place, so there is that). There is no characters development or any real explanation to some characters existence, it's a long series of cameo appearances mostly.

And this is BS2, not much of a difference right?

Now, I make it sound like this game isn't worth you time at all, but that's not it. If you liked BS2, all I'm talking about above are exactly reasons why you should give this game the roughly two hours it takes to complete it. All through the game you will smile to yourself and think about where you met that character or what you did in that location in BS2, and that is all this game wants to do. Reminisce, while also offering a little puzzle-solving fun. And if you finish it, you get a little bonus at the end, I won't tell you what though! But it's little things like that, that make me extra happy and like a game all the more.

It took these guys 8 years to complete this game and it is completely free of charge. If that's not dedication I don't know what is. It's fun to know that the creator of Broken Sword, Charles Cecil was contacted about this game before the creation began and gave his consent and thumbs up. In fact I am amazed at what they have managed to accomplish and think it's blasphemy that it hasn't got more attention. The only problem I have with it is that it is a bit too short and I only wish they would've had the money to go even further with this story. Maybe because I too really wish for a "proper" BS2 sequel. It's extremely true to BS2, as a game trying to honor its legacy should be, and if you had any fun playing BS2 you should definitely check this out. It is worth a couple of hours of your game time.

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