Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse Review
The product of successful Kickstarter campaign, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse, from developer Revolution, has finally been released on the App Store after a development period of about half a year. It puts the series’ longtime protagonists, American lawyer George Stobbart and French freelance reporter Nicole “Nico” Collard, back together on a puzzling case that involves a murder and a stolen painting. The circumstances of the theft are highly suspect for the pair of would-be sleuths, but no one else seems to notice, which means it’s up to them to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of the painting called La Malediccio.
Chances are that if you’re playing this game, you might have been a fan of the other titles in the Broken Sword series, which date back to 1996. Either that or you’re just a hardcore fan of adventure games. If you’re neither, then welcome to your first taste of the adventure game genre, where you’ll explore different locales, pick up seemingly-innocuous items and talk to colorful non-player characters.
In Broken Sword 5, you’ll control either George or Nico, depending on which sequence of the story you’re playing. The two old friends have just witnessed both a murder and a theft in a gallery located in Paris. If that doesn’t sound like the beginning of an action-packed Nicolas Cage vehicle, then we don’t know what does. It seems that a man disguised as a pizza delivery guy has shot Henri, the owner of the gallery and stolen a painting called La Malediccio. A priest on the scene says that the entire crime is the work of the devil. To recap, we’ve got Paris, murder, mysterious paintings, the devil and pizza. Oh man, we’re so in.
Since Broken Sword 5 is an adventure game, you’ll have to explore many different locations, both indoors and out, and interact with several objects and people. Broken Sword 5 uses the hotspot system, which allows you to pass your finger through the scene. If you’re near something that can be investigated, a blue symbol will start flashing. You need only to tap that circle to bring up a smaller menu that allows you to speak to, interact with or otherwise view the object in question. If you’re playing on a phone, you might find that the hotspots and their corresponding menus are pretty small and could take a few tries to activate. Playing on an iPad should pose no problem though, since you’ll have plenty of screen real estate.
Once you’re used to the swiping and tapping, the first thing you’ll notice is that the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The series has gone back to its 2D roots and looks like something from a beautifully-animated Don Bluth feature. It almost seems a shame to pockmark the scenes with the many hotspots, but at least you can turn them off. In fact, you can turn on the Classic user interface if you want a blast of nostalgia and keep all of your inventory items and dialogue choices on a bar at the bottom of the screen.
As you might expect, the going can get pretty slow in Broken Sword 5 because it’s an adventure game. To complete certain sequences, you’ll have to meet a variety of conditions or even solve some puzzles in the environment. For example, one part of Episode 1 has you trying to gather intel on a shady insurance agency in a rundown mall. In order to even talk to the receptionist, you must first get rid of a cockroach running around on the floor. I won’t spoil the solution, but involves gathering several items, talking to another NPC and solving his problem, returning to the agency, combining those aforementioned several items and then using them on the cockroach. Whew.
We hope you’re in it for the long haul, because Episode 1 can take a very long time to complete, depending on how adept you are at solving puzzles in adventure games. Suffice it to say that you’ll be getting every dollar’s worth and more with this installment of The Serpent’s Curse. It may feel like a bit of a slog to get through, especially after playing modern, adrenaline-pumping adventure titles like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, but Broken Sword 5 is a slow burn, meant to be enjoyed over the course of a lazy weekend.
If you’re really invested, you can try to get through everything within a day, which just might happen because of how gripping and interesting the story is. The only thing you’ll have to get past is the modern, yet still somehow archaic control scheme. So if you’re looking to head to Paris for a while, take a ride with Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode 1.