There's Antiquities In Them Thar Stalls
Several years after it debuted on the PC, Revolution's point-and-click adventure Broken Sword has made its way onto the GameBoy Advance. And despite the limitations of the format, the result is a surprisingly faithful translation.
Once again you step into the shoes of hapless American tourist George Stobbart, who turns detective when he narrowly escapes an explosion at a Paris cafe. Determined to track down those responsible for the blast, he teams up with local photographer Nicole Collard to follow a trail of clues that vary from a dirty handkerchief to an ancient manuscript, all leading inexorably back to the shadowy Knights Templar and an ancient conspiracy.
Thankfully the game doesn't take itself too seriously though, a fact which should be abundantly clear by the time you've made it to the end of the bizarre opening cinematic. The humour is a bit hit and miss, but the dialogue can be very funny at times, with plenty of parody, sarcasm and satire thrown in, and characters ranging from an unsanitary Syrian kebab stall owner to a pub full of Irishmen. Stop to chat to someone and little icons illustrating your conversation options will appear in the top left of the screen, allowing you to choose your responses and questions with the D-pad. Often you'll have to work your way through all of these options to get the information you need, and the dialogue doesn't always make a lot of sense if you ask the questions out of order, but generally it works quite well.
The puzzles are also very good for the most part - not too easy, but perfectly logical if you stop to think about them, even if you have to switch off your GameBoy for a few minutes while you ponder what to do next.
Things are made simpler by the new streamlined interface, which suits the GameBoy Advance perfectly. The right shoulder trigger cycles through any "hot spots", and although adventure game veterans might consider this cheating, it does save you squinting at the screen in search of items to interact with. Meanwhile the left shoulder button lets you explore your inventory and use or combine the items therein. As in any good adventure game you'll find yourself amassing a variety of unusual objects in your voluminous trouser pockets, but managing them is straightforward, and you should never have much more than a dozen items to deal with at any one time.
Visually the translation to hand-held gaming has been excellent as well, from the gorgeous snapshots that make up the introduction to the detailed locations and smooth character animations. It's been quite an effort to cram that much data on to a GameBoy cartridge, and there are some noticeable compression artifacts in a couple of areas, but overall the graphics are impressive, and highlights of Barrington Pheloung's soundtrack have also been included to build up the atmosphere. Sadly there isn't much sound in the game apart from the music, but what little is included is used to great effect, such as the sound of a cardiograph flatlining.
Broken Sword isn't without its flaws - the romance angle is pretty tacky and unconvincing, certain parts of the storyline seem to get glossed over, and the game comes to a rather abrupt (if explosive) end. There's also at least one point where you can get completely stuck by visiting locations in the wrong order, and given that there are a few places where you can get killed if you're careless, it does pay to save frequently and keep more than one copy of your progress in case you need to backtrack.
Aside from these slight niggles though, Broken Sword is a gripping little adventure that should keep you busy for at least six to eight hours. Replay value is obviously fairly limited, and you can still pick up the original PC version of the game for under a fiver from Sold Out, but if you absolutely must have an adventure game on the go, this is the best there is at the moment.
8 / 10