As a fan of point-and-click adventure games, I thoroughly enjoyed the intriguing narrative and logic puzzles in the first Broken Sword titled The Shadow of the Templars. Although the last couple entries took the series in different artistic directions, I was excited for the franchise’s return to form with its fifth title, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse.
The game stars series mainstays George Stobbart, an American with a penchant for trouble, and Nico, a cool and sassy journalist. Following a robbery and murder at an art gallery, the two embark on a trip across Europe to investigate the crimes and unravel deeper secrets lurking behind them. In a genre where story is crucial, Broken Sword 5 delivers a compelling adventure with suspenseful twists and a healthy serving of “whodunit.” Religion, history, and art shape the tale’s mysteries, which resemble what you might find in The Da Vinci Code or National Treasure. The pacing starts out slow, and it’s only in the second half that the plot and puzzles ramp up. Nevertheless, the writing is consistently informative and witty. George, in particular, is the series’ Han Solo, throwing sarcastic wisecracks and making light of any situation.
George’s voice actor conveys the character’s wry charm, though that’s not to undersell the solid cast. It’s a treat that all dialogue is voiced, including every one-liner quip that spouts out of George’s mouth after clicking on an object. It also lends much-needed personality to contrast the bland animation. Characters’ facial expressions are fairly static, and body movements are stiff. The exception lies with the few cutscenes in the game. Though, the most thrilling sequences are still not quite like the fluid animation from the past entries. In comparison, the gorgeously detailed European backdrops and cel-shaded characters are wonderful modern updates to the classic.
The word “classic” epitomizes Broken Sword 5. The game takes all of its cues from the original Broken Sword, which itself didn’t deviate from the traditional point-and-click adventure. As such, this latest entry has the same pros and cons as most of the genre. You don’t directly control George, but rather click on where you wish to go, what you want to interact with, or whom you desire to talk to. You can ask other characters about specific topics or show them items in your inventory to gather clues and advance the story. Although there are a few dialogue choices, none affect the story or change the ending. Additionally, despite multiple life and death sequences, I never experienced a Game Over from an untimely mistake. Some may be turned off by the lack of tension and action, but the game is purposefully slower-paced to prioritize the more cerebral aspects.
Puzzles comprise the bulk of the game. Most are narrative-based sequences where you are tasked with solving a problem; for instance, waking an unconscious man up or trapping a cockroach. I’m a fan of these types of logical conundrums: pressing buttons in the right sequence, interacting with objects to uncover secrets, combining items in the inventory; you name it. The clever cause-and-effect riddles engaged me, and I felt proud whenever a theory worked.
That being said, what is par for the course may not be to everyone’s tastes. Broken Sword 5 uses the same faulty logic that adventure games are notorious for. In other words, there is only one solution that the developer specifically wants you to find. There are often clues leading to that answer, and sometimes characters give feedback on why something won’t work. However, if I have a dozen other ideas or think one step ahead, the game will come to a standstill until I do every correct step in the right order. Making matters worse, some solutions require you to locate an object that is hard to see. I can’t simply wake a man up with water or by activating established security alarms. Instead, I must use a special partially obscured object. And for some reason, I can’t catch a cockroach without an object in another area.
The saving grace is the incremental hint system. At any time, you can ask the game for tips on the current problem. The game first offers vague clues to nudge you in the right direction, then slowly provides more information as you unveil hints, before outright revealing the answer with the final clue. It’s an effective way to handle the “game logic” issue, although I admit it’s easy to give into temptation with this system.
The other types of puzzles are more standard brain-teasers, be it putting a jigsaw together or deciphering codes. These are more prevalent in the second half of the game, in which I appreciated how I was tested both on my cranial skills and my understanding the extensive in-game lore. There are also a few sequences where you can control Nico, although they only happen when either George is out of commission or you’re trying to help him achieve something. There’s a missed opportunity for in-depth riddles involving both characters at once.
Broken Sword 5 sports roughly 10-12 hours of good old-fashioned adventure. I thought the Nintendo Switch was a great home for the game. Not only does the story lend itself to playing in chunks via portable mode, but you can also take advantage of the tablet’s touch screen. I didn’t mind using the analog stick and buttons for pointing-and-clicking, but effective touch functionality simplifies the process. As a bonus, the Switch version includes special behind-the-scenes videos that were fun to watch and revealed the passion behind this project.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse doesn’t revolutionize adventure games, nor will it particularly appeal to players who aren’t used to slower point-and-click gameplay. However, it succeeds in following the developer’s vision for the series: a modern update in the style of the original. The puzzles may have logic jumps, and the story’s action ebbs and flows. But the witty characters, perplexing mysteries, and traditional problem-solving are enough to win over fans of the genre.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!