A nostalgic point and click adventure that prizes logic and reasoning
Game review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4
ANYONE who grew up in the era of the Atari ST and Amiga will have fond memories of Revolution, the York based developers responsible for seminal point and click adventures such as Beneath a Steel Sky, the atmospheric cyberpunk adventure. Since the turn of the millennium, the firm has been diligently releasing sequels for its best known series, Broken Sword, but nearly a decade has passed since the last original iteration, The Angel’s Death.
Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign which underscored the affection that still exists for Charles Cecil’s celebrated adventure franchise, the long wait is over. After it warmly received debut, The Serpent’s Curse - the fifth Broken Sword game - has made its way to the new generation of home consoles, providing a satisfyingly old school mystery amidst an early autumn glut of big budget releases.
The game world is idiosyncratic and eclectic
Part detective story, part Dan Brown-style conspiracy caper, The Serpent’s Curse’s plot is an involving and entertaining affair based around the theft of a mysterious painting, with the player assuming the role of twin protagonists, George Stobbart and Nico Collard. Flitting between various countries with an eclectic roster of characters, it is an idiosyncratic and unashamedly nostalgic creation entirely in keeping with Revolution’ early Broken Sword entries.
This rose-tinted vision is nicely executed thanks to elegant painted backdrops which give the game a rarified atmosphere. The settings pop with colour and detail, in particular the quaint Parisian thoroughfares that mark the game’s introduction. The animated 3D character models are less impressive, with occasional jitters and an unbecoming rigidity to their movements, but overall, the aesthetic is pleasing.
It demands that you consider evidence and answers
Beyond the window dressing, of course, is a robust adventure. Unlike modern adventure games, which routinely allow players to stumble across a solution by interacting with everything in a scenario, The Serpent’s Curse demands a degree of logic and reasoning that at times poses a considerable mental challenge. It demands that you consider the evidence and answers you have amassed rather than blindly exhausting every branch of a dialogue tree or clicking on items left, right and centre.
On occasions, this trust in players can stretch a little too far, with oblique puzzles that will have you scratching your head in frustration, such as an early encounter with a cockroach that must be disposed of. But the game never feels unfair, especially once you get used to the offbeat wit of its script and realise that sometimes, the abstract solution is the most obvious one.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Avoid the hints system unless you are well and truly stuck. Whereas the puzzles are well-judged and subtle, the game too easily gives out answers when it should simply nudge you in the right direction.
Pay attention to your on-screen cursor, as it will change depending on how George and Nico can interact with an object, giving you a useful steer as to what to do next.
Experiment with your inventory by combining items when you are stuck. Sometimes a solution can be forged from your existing goods.