"Broken Sword - The Shadow of the Templars" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance console in 2002 by Bam Entertainment. It is a story based adventure game in part of the long standing "Broken Sword" series. In the United States, the game received a rating of "T" by the ESRB panel which deemed the title suitable for teenage years and above due to its violent content.
The characters control the character of George Stobbart who is taking a vacation in France. Stobbart witnesses a murder in a local cafe and feels it necessary to bring justice to the murderer. He seeks out an acquaintance for the mission and finds a young photojournalist and together they tackle the mystery. Text is a heavy feature in the game so basic literacy skills are a must. With today's modern age of cycling through any available text, the player will likely find himself lost and must slow down to take in the information being presented by other non playable characters. It is an extended play with independent sources claiming an available 20 hours of in-game time from start to finish. Much of this time will be spent interacting in the game's menu system with the player first selecting a character or object to interact with and then selecting the appropriate action.
The graphics of this title are excellent and make great use of colour and detailing. The background scenes are very well composed and show no obvious graphical fault. I also enjoy the detailing to the character although I found the faceless images to be somewhat repelling from a visual perspective. There is little audio to review in this title. Sporadic sound effects accompany this game and only feature very short musical scores in areas where the story is to develop further.
Overall, I would recommend Broken Sword to an adult player who could likely appreciate the in-depth requirements of a game such as this. It would not likely be a hit with younger players due to the requirement of extensive reading.
For those that have visited Paris, they will know that enjoying a lukewarm coffee and soggy croissant outside a Parisian street side café can be an expensive breakfast. For the hero of Broken Sword, American tourist George Stobbard, it nearly cost him his life. Not because the food was awful though, but because he narrowly avoided a bomb blast intended for a fellow patron... So begins Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. The game was originally released on the PC in 1996 and ported to the Playstation a couple of years later. It was a "point and click" graphic adventure, so-called because you move the mouse around the screen, point at items and click to pick them up, combine them or solve puzzles. The Gameboy Advance version is largely the same, though changes have been made to the control interface because of the obvious lack of a mouse. The opening scene of the café bomb attack is shown in slide show format - the graphics there are colourful but not animated. Compared to the cartoon-like intro of the PC version this is a little disappointing, but is due to hardware limitations of the Gameboy Advance. After the dust settles, you take control of Stobbard as he tries to figure out who planted the bomb and why they killed "the man in the grey suit". Following clues left at the scene of the crime will lead George on adventures around Paris, and eventually to other European countries, in a bid to unravel the mysteries of "the Templars". The game controls are straightforward, the d-pad moves our man around the screen, the A button interacts with the world and you can access your inventory with L. Interesting items are highlighted on screen by a large icon, which changes depending on the purpose of the object. If George can only look at the item, a magnifying glass appears over it; if the item can be manipulated in some way a cog icon is shown; if the item can be taken, a "pick-up"
; hand appears. When stood next to another character, a mouth icon is shown indicating that you can talk to them. By talking to people and picking up items, the story unfolds and George is led deeper into a mystery that spans centuries. It is a gripping tale, well told, with some humourous moments, interesting locations and lively characters. There is a lot of text to read though, with the Gameboy not capable of large amounts of speech. It wasn't a problem for me, but if you have a short attention span the game may drag. You can save anywhere though, in one of 3 save slots, which is handy for when the battery light turns red. As far as graphics go, each location is well depicted - the backgrounds have a hand drawn look to them and the characters are all well animated. Occasionally the main character can look a little blocky, though this only happens when you move very close to the "camera". My only real graphical criticism is due to the tiny size of the screen - items that may have been visible in a higher resolution PC monitor become indistinguishable from the background when everything is squeezed into 240 by 160 pixels. The icon system makes up for this, but you still need to actually "examine" most items rather than knowing what they are by looking at the screen. This can make some of the more illogical puzzles even harder to solve. Sound effects and music are nicely done, from the traditional lively accordion music of the Paris streets, to the menacing tones used later in the adventure when things start to get hairy. Without the atmospheric sounds, the adventure would be a more hollow experience, I think. As for how the game is played, the basic mechanic goes as follows: Enter an area. Find a dead end. Search for items in the area. Manipulate the items found and talk to any people until a new area opens up or a new item is available. Repeat. Some of the puzzles are fairly logical, while others
will have you tearing your hair out. On more than one occasion I had to resort to "try every item with every other" until I found the solution. A more serious gameplay problem is that the game has been released with several critical "bugs". The adventure, while mostly linear, allows you to tackle some puzzles in a different order. Unfortunately it is entirely possible to get stuck if you solve the puzzles out of the order the designer intended. The game doesn't tell you that you have done anything wrong, but items disappear from your inventory and people stop talking to you! The only option is to restart your adventure and solve the game in a different order. Another bug I experienced was caused by revisiting an area (I was desperately trying "everything with everything" at this point) and the game wasn't expecting me to go there - so it locked up and I had to switch the Gameboy off to restart. For a game that has been converted from a stable PC version, these sorts of bugs are almost unforgivable. I say "almost", because despite the faults, BS: TSOTT remains as good a game as it was on the PC. If you have played and finished the PC version, I wouldn't recommend this, as there is nothing new apart from the control scheme - the puzzles are identical. For GBA owners... well, the £30 asking price is cheeky - the game is 6 years old and can be bought for peanuts on the PC - but if you see it cheap or second hand then it is worth playing through. It certainly suits the handheld format. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the bugs.