Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror
I Sometimes Wonder If, In My Neverending quest for the perfect adventure game, I am in fact chasing a lost cause. I was shown a vision many years ago of something beautiful called Monkey Island and, like King Arthur and his Holy G rail, I've been searching in vain for the fabled treasure ever since. I've often come close only to have my hopes dashed at the last. Games that have promised true enlightenment prove to be naught but shiny trinkets.
However, it would seem that this is a solitary quest. The public at large seem happy to spend their time with the less than perfect, the shinier the better usually. Witness Myst. Or indeed Broken Sword. Both good games I hasten to add, just not the ultimate pieces of perfection that I one day long to find. But they sell, and sell well. And subsequently spawn sequels. Myst begat Riven and Broken Sword begat Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror.
It's no secret that we had our problems with the first game, but all credit to Revolution, they've apparently listened not only to our misgivings but also the feedback (both positive and negative - although mainly the former) of the public. How well have they interpreted all this in the game though? Let's find out, shall we?
"It was a time of war..."
In a nutshell then, Broken Sword II takes American do-gooder George Stobbard back to Paris to meet his old flame, Nico, puts him in mortal danger before you can say, "Ou est la plus belle plage?", embroils him in a chase around the world for ancient artefacts and at one point sees him chatting to two hunky men in their underwear (don't ask). I would elaborate further, but not only would that spoil your enjoyment of the game should you buy it, but I'm also relatively short on space and have a lot to say. Starting with the fact that, while on the whole it's a better game than the first Broken Sword, generally tighter all round, better presented and, yes, more enjoyable to play, I would question the game's level of difficulty. Aside from one or two moments, I never really felt too challenged throughout. Part of the problem is one that afflicts an awful lot of games in this mould - there's no real thought needed to complete a puzzle. Often it's just a case of trying different combinations of objects until something works. For the most part I didn't feel as though I was really working something out, more just trying to guess the correct route from A to B. It's still a problem of over-relying on object-related puzzles that appear to have been inserted just to give a challenge. Revolution still need to find a way to make the well-plotted storyline flow smoothly into the gameplay.
Icon see clearly now
Another area I still have a few problems with is the character interaction. Conversations are still a case of starting a conversation, then selecting one of a number of icons that appear along the bottom of the screen. These icons are somewhat confusing not only because it isn't always readily apparent what they represent or what line of questioning you are going to take. It's limiting on behalf of the player and reinforces the route-following atmosphere I mentioned earlier.
On the plus side, the writing is much better this time round and some of the dialogue is indeed pretty funny. It's not Roll-On-The-Floor-Laughing-Till-You-Vomit funny, but it gets the story across well. There are still places where the conversations seem to take an eternity to finish, but overall this section is much tighter and much more polished than the first game.
Move over Disney
Polish is the key word in fact, when describing Broken Sword II. The one area that Revolution shine brighter than any other software star is in the look and style of the game. Graphically, this title is very impressive. The transitions between gameplay and FMV are seamless, and the feeling of playing an interactive animated movie is total.
I would like to see more attention paid to George's characterisation. A single line about visiting his father doesn't really do enough to let the player 'get into' the role and care enough about getting him through the tale in one piece. Plus I'd love to know how he can afford to travel all around the world at the drop of a hat. I reckon he smuggles drugs and all this 'global adventuring' stuff is just a front.
Backs to the future
The whole adventure game genre is in something of a creative nadir at the moment and so to find something with such high presentation values and a well-structured storyline is refreshing to say the least. Revolution are still struggling to totally capture that early LucasArts 'magic', so to speak, and there are times when you feel they're pushing a little too hard on the presentation button at the expense of the gameplay. But, on the whole, they're pretty much single-handedly keeping the British adventure market alive, a worrying enough statement in itself. I do fear that with games such as Starship Titanic, Blade Runner and Grim Fandango about to appear with all their new innovations and envelope-pushing gameplay ideas. Revolution might be shooting themselves in
the foot slightly by not experimenting more with ideas such as the metacharacters and the Virtual Theatre concept. I get the impression that the whole genre is about to be reborn. Let's just hope Revolution don't get too complacent or they could get left behind.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode