This isn’t the first time I’ve played Broken Sword, but it’s the first time I’ve finished it. I first played the game just before I went to university, as we had it for our family PC. However, I didn’t manage to finish it before I moved into halls, and while I was away the PC broke and the game went missing, so that was the end of that.
Playing through it again on the iPhone, I realised I’d actually completed about 70% of the game on that first aborted attempt, but I have to admit I didn’t remember most of the puzzles, and even some of the locations, so for most of the game it was like playing it for the first time. Except now it looks a bit prettier, of course.
Another improvement is the control system: the designers have obviously thought long and hard about how to get the most out of the iPhone touch screen, and the result is a really intuitive system. It just goes to show that point and click games are perfectly suited to iThings, and it’s great to see them getting a bit of a revival on the latest generation of technology. It certainly makes much more sense to port games like this to the iPhone rather than frenetic arcade games like the MegaDrive classic Gunstar Heroes, which I purchased recently and quickly abandoned. It’s official: ‘virtual’ touch-screen thumb sticks are THE DEVIL’S WORK and all games that use them should burn in hell for all eternity.
Anyway, back to Broken Sword: The Director’s Cut. You may remember I played the iPhone version of Monkey Island a few months ago (see ‘Monkey Island: Not As Good As I Remember‘), and I was disappointed by the childish humour and frustrating puzzles. I’m pleased to say that Broken Sword stands head and shoulders above the Lucasarts game in both of these respects, and there are some pretty funny one-liners scattered throughout. I’m not saying it’ll have you rolling in the aisles, but there’s some excellent wry humour in there (as well as a reference to Hemel Hempstead, which made me chuckle).
Puzzle-wise, there’s thankfully none of the frustrating jungle wandering of Monkey Island, although at some points I did find myself traipsing back and forth between locations, unsure of what to do next. Also, the game is somewhat afflicted by the curse of the point and click genre: the illogical puzzle. At several points I got so stuck I resorted to the ‘hint’ function (which is a very welcome and needed addition to the iPhone version), and I found myself rolling my eyes at the almost random combination of items I was supposed to have come up with. Generally though, the game flows along quite nicely and the story is intriguing enough to keep you interested. The Templar theme may seem a bit tired now, but as the game’s director points out in the afterword, the designers came up with the idea for Broken Sword several years before the ‘explosion’ of Templar-based entertainment in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
However, despite my delight at being able to play through this classic game again, I still have a few doubts about the point and click genre as a whole. I’ve recently been playing through Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, and I can’t help but feel that this game, along with the Phoenix Wright games and perhaps to a lesser extent the Professor Layton games, have taken the basic ideas behind point and clickers (story-driven gameplay, item-based puzzles) and taken them to the next level. I have to say I’m enjoying Ghost Trick a lot more than Broken Sword, mostly because of the amusingly bizarre characters and addictive puzzles. The key thing about these puzzles is that all of the elements are there in one place, it’s just up to you to work them in the right order. With traditional point and click games, however, you might find that the item you need to get through that door is something you missed 20 screens back, resulting in a lot of tedious plodding back and forth.
Having said that, Broken Sword was released about 16 years ago, so I’m sure that in the meantime designers of point and click adventure have learned some lessons: I’m intrigued to play some more recent point and click games to see how the genre has evolved since the days of the Amiga. Have the problems of random puzzles and tedious traipsing been solved? Or are these problems inherent to the genre?