Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse PS4 Review
Despite being a great fan of quality puzzle games and immersive, in-depth stories, only a few Playstation era games come to mind when thinking on the genre of Point-and-Click Adventure. I wasn’t aware of the original when it was first released in 1996, but luckily stumbled upon it sometime before the second was released. I still consider Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror in many ways to be one of the best puzzle-adventure games ever made. And so I was thrilled when part one of the 5th instalment was released for iOS last year, but unfortunately it became one of the other hundreds of iOS games that I ‘will play at some point’.
In Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse you follow the familiar protagonist George Stobart and companion Nicole Collard as they get caught up in an art gallery theft that turns into a murder. Finding the gallery owners murderer and the stolen art piece ‘La Malediccio’ becomes just the beginning of their adventure when the familiar characters learn of the Gnostic secrets and clues that lay hidden within the art itself. One lead soon leads to another as new and old characters and places deepen the unraveling story.
For those who haven’t played a Broken Sword before, the aim is to guide the current playable character around the area looking for clues, useful items and progressing through the story. Classically, the analogue stick is used to move the cursor, but the PS4 touch pad can also be used to navigate around the screen, though it doesn’t seem to quite reach from one side of the screen to the other requiring you to re-place your finger. I may have used the touch pad had it represented the screen space and been a little easier to use. By moving the cursor around the screen it will change from the default pointer to various other icons depending on what you are hovering over. For example if hovering over a person, it will change to a mouth symbolizing someone you can talk to.
The inventory can be shown at any point from which items can be combined or dragged into the scene and placed on objects to interact with or people to talk about. Items can also be inspected; letters can be re-read and containers can be emptied. Part of figuring out many of the puzzles is in the items you have, how you combine them and where they are then used.
Broken Sword 5 seems to change its pace throughout. The first portion of the game involves lots of talking, looking for clues and searching houses, but the story slowly builds in more action, religious complexity and exotic locations to visit. The puzzles also stepped up a notch in the later portions of the game, leaving me scratching my head for quite some time. The series is typical for taking history, various religions and giving them a little twist by creating secret cults and creeds, and The Serpent’s Curse is no different.
The typical Broken Sword sense of humor helps break up the difficult sections and had me crying with laughter on more than one occasion. As per usual there are several amusing items that are carried around for the most part of the game and serve as simply a means to a humorous conversation, like those red lace-trimmed panties from the second game that never fail to spark an amusing conversation when shown to people. A cockroach named ‘Trevor’ is found and kept as George’s valued pet near the beginning of the game, as is a rich tea biscuit which can be fed to the ‘roach whenever you please. I kept feeding the little thing. I don’t even know why.
One thing I have always looked forward to seeing with the Broken Sword series is the detailed environments, and now on the PS4 they look more detailed than ever before. The beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds make every room and street look full of life. You get a vibe about a place when you first see it; whether it’s a peaceful summer café or a dingy backstreet office, every place you visit tells a story of its own.
The characters, unlike the 2D backgrounds, are 3D and cell-shaded to give the ‘cartoon’ illusion. This helps the characters ‘pop’ from the backgrounds but also makes them look a little bland at times, especially when seen close up. A positive way of looking at this is how those old Disney films have highly detailed backgrounds and very simple moving parts such as characters. That was done for a completely different reason, but gives a similarly classic feel to it. The animations themselves are interesting and characterful for the most part, but are let down by the often obvious pause between them.
The dialogue also suffers from this pause that breaks the flow of conversation and in effect, the immersion. Aside from the occasional lengthy wait between lines, the dialogue is interesting and well-acted. George is player by the same voice actor as the previous titles, ‘Rolf Saxon’, and all of the other voice actors sound majorly different with eccentricity and strong accents that help built the characters personalities.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse is a worthy addition to the successful and truly unique series. Sure, it has its issues, but I’m happy to still be able to sit down and play a new Point-and-Click Adventure of this quality on my PS4 as I did all those years ago with the original Broken Sword. I can only hope that Revolution Software continue to craft works of art not only in their visuals, but in their stories, characters and settings alike. Fans of the series are sure to pick this one up and those who love a good adventure should also give it some time. It’s challenging, interesting, funny and most importantly true to the brand.