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Gaming Review

'Broken Sword: Director's Cut' (iPhone)

By
Released on Monday, Jan 25 2010



Also available for: DS / Wii
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: N/A

As any keen adventurer will tell you, few games have stood the test of time like Revolution Software's Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars. There are many reasons why Charles Cecil's point-and-click masterpiece has aged so well - an epic storyline, compelling characters, challenging puzzles and an engaging narrative. Given that the title has been ported almost as many times as Street Fighter II, it comes as no surprise that the recent Director's Cut has now found its way to iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

Originally released for Nintendo DS last year, this revamp was a purist's dream. Bolstered graphics, the option to play as an entirely different character, and some expertly rendered illustrations from acclaimed comic artist Dave Gibbons certainly sweetened the deal... and with iPhone's track record in the point-and-click genre there's no reason why this sharpened sword shouldn't be cutting edge.

The original Broken Sword introduced us to an American in Paris named George Stobbart, who embarks on a globe-spanning adventure after becoming entangled in the kind of international conspiracy that Dan Brown wishes he had dreamed up. While our protagonist tackles the mystery head on, his companion Nico Collard spends much of the game sitting comfortably behind her desk. The most significant addition to the Director's Cut is that Nico gets her hands dirty too.

Bringing an additional playable character into the fold could have potentially upset the balance, but the new scenarios and extra puzzles fit like a glove. Exploring Nico's plot thread really adds depth to the storyline, as well as providing players with the opportunity to become better acquainted with her persona. Needless to say, the new cut is unlikely to convert anyone who was unconvinced by the original, with the added gameplay and the story's extra complexity likely to deter them further. First and foremost, this is one for the fans.

Controls were never going to be an issue, given that Revolution played to the system's strengths so well with its Beneath A Steel Sky conversion. If anything, it works even better here. Holding a finger down on the screen highlights what can be manipulated and a single tap allows you to to use or examine. Inventory items can be employed by dragging them over the object you wish to combine them with. It's a tight system that eliminates the need to scour each screen repeatedly. Building on what was achieved with Steel Sky, the need to repeat actions is now minimal and the responsiveness is much cleaner. Furthermore, a touch of streamlining sees the characters carry out menial tasks, like entering a door you have unlocked, automatically.

One of the most appealing aspects of the game was always its puzzles. This is as true today as it was back in the series' heyday. Not only will the new scenarios sate the diehards' hunger for more Broken Sword, anyone who hasn't played it through for a while might be surprised at how much logic you need to apply to when revisiting the title. Even if you do remember the solution to every solitary puzzle off by heart, the game's epic storyline and fleshed out characters lend it more replay value than your average adventure fare.

Some effort has gone in to accommodating newcomers. A diary feature allows you to keep track of events more easily, while those who wish to cheat entirely can access a hint system. Given that activating this tells you exactly what to do to progress, it saps some of the challenge out of the game. Taking time out and readdressing a problem with a clear head has always been part and parcel of adventure games, and solving them in this manner can be much more rewarding. It's hard to resist cheating when the solution is a mere tap away, so perhaps a preferable system would have been to offer subtle clues rather than serve the answer on a platter.

With its enhanced presentation, the game certainly doesn't look a decade and a half old. The graphics are polished to a mirror shine and the character artwork by Gibbons elevates it above and beyond other point-and-click offerings. The digital voices and sound effects are as sharp as they ever were, so there can be no doubt that this is a superior offering to the DS iteration.

Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars has always been a stellar example of video games' potential as a storytelling medium; now it also serves as a masterclass in porting to a handheld platform. With its glistening presentation, adroit controls and additional content, this is arguably one of the finest titles to appear on the App Store to date. Reforging the Sword on the iPhone was a stroke of genius.

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