Broken Sword Director’s Cut HD Review: Polished Oldie
Broken Sword: Director’s Cut HD is a revised re-release of a classic 1990s CD-ROM game. These kind of point-and-click adventures were my thing back in the day,when they seemed to be everywhere and there were several quality titles to choose from. The genre went silent in the 2000s, but the rise of iOS and mobile gaming has allowed the genre to make a resurgence, both through new titles and through the re-release of some classics of the day. Broken Sword was one of those old classics, and though its iPad version is altered from its original form, it’s still a fun and playable romp across Europe.
In the game, you take control of two heroes, George and Nico, as they attempt to solve a series of unusual murders and uncover a conspiracy that dates back hundreds of years. I won’t spoil the plot details here, except to say that it will all feel a little bit like The DaVinci Code or National Treasure. Just remember, this game was written nearly a decade before either of those stories saw the light of day.
This is a classic point-and-click adventure, wherein you explore locales to gather objects, talk to characters, and interact with your environment to advance in the game. In classic point-and-click style, the steps you need to take to achieve a goal are sometimes convoluted and unusual. For example, when at one point you need water to pour onto some Plaster of Paris, you can’t just go get some; you have find a towel at the nearby bar, talk your way into the basement, open a window to let in light, and then soak the towel in the basement faucet so that you can then squeeze the water out onto the plaster. But that’s the kind of lateral thinking that made the old point-and-click genre so much fun back then … and, heck, still fun today!
Compared to other games of the PC-CDROM period, the game looks really good. It has an animated quality that feels straight out of a Don Bluth hand-drawn adventure. The level of graphics implementation doesn’t quite stand up to what we expect today, and the iPad HD version especially suffers from some graininess and pixellation at times. Also, the characters move frustratingly slow, and there are times when you will wish you could swipe to pan or pinch to zoom. But these flaws, borne of the age of the game, shouldn’t be held against it; instead, we should be suitably impressed by how good it does look fifteen years later.
Broken Sword Director’s Cut HD is a game that’s taken a long journey itself: originally A PC CD-ROM game back in 1995, the game was ported to the PlayStation and the GameBoy Advance before getting re-created as a Director’s Cut and making the rounds on various devices before landing on iOS. What we finally get, here on the iPad, is a bit of a pastische of old and new material … material that doesn’t always mesh 100%. The Nico storyline, for example, is frustratingly unattached from the main George storyline, a necessity of its addition long after the game’s genesis. Some of the development work is likewise discongruous, like Nico’s voicework, which may or may not be a different actress but definitely has a different quality to it when you’re playing Nico than it does in the sections where Nico is playing a part in George’s story.
On the other hand, the Nico story is the better designed of the two. Nico’s puzzles are a little more logical and a little less lateral; her personal storyline is more engaging than George’s “falling into adventure” one; and she gets some good touch-based puzzles that George’s story lacks. Her part in the story also makes her much more likable than she was as the journalist who just sat around a flat in Paris while George did all the work.
I feel like maybe I’m quibbling a bit. Because, in the end, Broken Sword: Director’s Cut HD is a great adventure game for the iPad. Anyone who enjoyed classic point-and-click games back in the day will certainly love it; anyone who played Broken Sword back in the day will certainly enjoy revisiting it, especially with the added Nico plotline; and anyone not familiar with point-and-click adventures can start building their appreciation here.