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Review: Broken Sword: SotT
By Julie
2009-05-14

Want to guess where I heard about Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars?  I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t from Chris or the internet.  What’s left, you ask?  Okay, I’ll tell you.  I heard about this game from my mom.  Seriously.

My mom has become quite the DS addict, and she called me recently from a Future Shop, wanting to know what game she should buy next, as she’d just finished Puzzle Quest Galactrix.  I couldn’t come up with anything off the top of my head, as she’d already burned through both Puzzle Quest games, Professor Layton, and Hotel Dusk.  Since I failed at my sacred duty of daughter/game adviser, my mom picked out her own game the old fashioned way.  By looking at the back of the boxes.

When I next talked to her, I asked which game she had chosen, and how it was going.  She told me that she’d picked Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, and that it was like King’s Quest crossed with Hotel Dusk and Professor Layton.  Ummmm…. sold!  I picked up my own copy the next day on the way home from work, and dove right in.

While it’s true that I was reminded of King’s Quest, it was unfortunately King’s Quest VII.  The art was weird, and Torin’s Passage-y, and anytime you dragged the stylus over an actionable part of the screen, a glowing circle would appear, letting you know that you had to do something.  While that was disappointing, the puzzles in the first 30% of the game more than made up for it.  I got to solve cryptograms!  Not watered down, half the letters already there, here’s twelve hints cryptograms, but honest to goodness, logical cryptograms.

Needless to say, I was psyched.  Add to those some Rush Hour type sliding tile puzzles, a chess piece checkmate puzzle, and a few others, and I was more than willing to forgive the occasionally janky navigation system and the terrible character art.

However, it sort of went downhill after that.  Apparently they blew their puzzle load pretty early, because after the first few really cool ones, the rest of the game became about solving problems with inventory items.  Don’t get me wrong, that was still fun.  It just would have been more fun with better puzzles similar to the first half of the game. They should have either left them out entirely, or created more of them for the the second half of the game, instead of showing me what was possible, and then taking it away.

Occasionally you had to combine inventory items together to gain a hybrid item needed to complete a particular task, but that was rare.  Usually gameplay was moved forward by either showing an item to someone in the game, or applying that item to some object in the environment.  A few times when I was stuck I found myself just dragging every item I had onto everything in sight, trying to figure out what they wanted, which was boring, but to be expected.  Most of the time though I was able to puzzle out what I was supposed to do through conversations with various other characters, or just examining my surroundings thoroughly.  Sometimes I was only stuck because I hadn’t talked to someone enough, or looked at something hard enough.  Back in the old King’s Quest days it was standard practice to keep talking to someone until the conversation started to repeat itself.  I’d forgotten that, but got back in the habit quickly enough once I realized that was how SotT operates.  I got stuck for almost half an hour once because I didn’t realize I had to look at the same object four times in a row to advance the game.

Despite the fact that SotT came as a director’s cut re-release, I thought it could have used some more polish.  You move your character around by tapping the screen, but sometimes the response was poor, or you would tap to action an item, but your guy would walk across the room, circle around and come back to it before performing whatever task you were looking for.  Additionally, tapping is also the way to advance dialogue, and there was one area in particular where I kept walking off the screen while just trying to get through a conversation.

All complaints aside, I would recommend this game to anyone who’s looking for an adventure game that requires some semblance of brain power, which is a rarity these days.  The game does offer hints, but you can turn them off, which is a blessing.  Too many games now are just integrating hints into their games directly, which ruins any satisfaction you may have gotten from figuring something out on your own.  There were a few times in SotT that I felt genuinely clever at having puzzled something out, and that’s always a good feeling.

Thanks, mom.

I’ll start by apologizing.  This post is going up a day late because I wasn’t able to have a look at it yesterday so it sat on the server…written to completion (plug)…just waiting to be posted.  Sorry we missed our regular Wednesday posting day.  We’re working on tweaking that schedule a little bit but more on that another time.  I’m also sorry that I haven’t written a proper post in over a month.  Trust me, good stuff is coming down the pipe.  No, not that pipe, that’s gross.

I don’t know why Julie sounds surprised in her post about the little tricks in the games…it sounds exactly like a King’s Quest game.  Like, exactly.  I guess it’s because those haven’t been common game mechanics for about ten years now.  Welcome back, wandering aimlessly through a level, not knowing what to do!  We missed you!  Honestly, though, it’s nice to see a platform – the DS – that supports this kind of retro-gaming that was loved by so many and has since been almost forgotten.

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