As someone who’s enjoyed pretty much every offering in the Broken Sword franchise, I was particularly excited to get my hands on what would appear to be a promising return to the classic point and click adventure genre. Backed via Kickstarter, Revolution Studios quickly garnered more than enough funding to self-publish the title themselves, fortunately letting them create an experience primarily tailored to their fans.
Any great adventure often begins with a perilous scenario; in fact I can still clearly remember the décor of the room involving our protagonist George, a wooden chair, and an inordinately large spider from many moons ago. This time in Broken Sword’s fifth outing, The Serpent’s Curse, it’s much the same affair; only the initial focus is instead on a piece of mysterious art. It’s not long after an art gallery robbery, with of course an extra helping of murder, that our favourite furtive adventurers, Mr Stobbart and Miss Nicolette Collard are reunited in an effort to piece together the mystery. With both characters becoming embroiled for differing reasons, Nico the ever ambitious journalist wanting a front page story, and poor old George being forced back into investigative action by his employer’s insurance company, the plot quickly gains its stride.
Not before (re)introducing some characters from the past however. Frequent players of the series will recognise many of the outlandish personalities; of which much of the games’ humour relies upon. That’s not to say you must have played the previous games to find a few laughs however, it’s mainly fan service and ‘in-jokes’ you’ll miss out on. In fact, some of the more hilarious instances occur during normal, innocuous conversations that the player can influence. For example, not too long into the game, you acquire a certain ‘pet’ that you keep in a matchbox, needless to say that it’s not exactly cuddly. But nauseating or not, you can present it to people in such a dead pan fashion that it’s bound to elicit a laugh more often than you’d care to admit.
The game follows the usual tropes of the point and click genre, yet fortunately, with a few frustrations cut out. The difficulty curve is exceptional for an adventure game, yes there are still a few puzzles that you might turn your nose up at after stumbling upon the answer, but they’re few and far between. The early hours get you used to the controls and explorative mechanics of the game before adding in extra variables to toughen things up. The love it or hate it hint system mostly fulfils its role as a crutch to fall upon in times of need and, save for a few select occasions, I can’t see it letting many people down.
Aside from the excellent gameplay and enveloping story, the general presentation unfortunately has its ups and downs. The art styling is generally great, with particular praise going to the backgrounds and settings, they look utterly fantastic. The characters themselves have a caricature feel to them; despite looking interesting and bold, don’t altogether fit with the tone of the story at times. The animations themselves are disappointingly stiff and wooden, and it doesn’t always feel immediately responsive either. It’s not the most fluid to control with a pad, but seeing as it’s a bold foray for this genre onto consoles; it’s difficult to imagine a better way of doing things.
The voice acting and scripting is often fantastic; reprising Rolf Saxon for George’s voice is great to hear and brings back many memories. The dialogue between characters is always engaging; in particular the earlier sections involving coffee and another regarding topiary bushes are truly comical.
It’s been nearly twenty years since the original Broken Sword graced our presence and it’s nice to see that things don’t have to change to still feel fresh. The excellent puzzle design, lashings of fan service, witty dialogue, eye catching artwork and reasonable length ensure that it’ll be well received by its fans. For those who’ve never had the pleasure of a point and click style game, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start. The well-structured difficulty curve welcomes any and all ages whilst the narrative and gameplay provides a good reason to stay.