Broken Sword, a long-running series of adventure games, has found a home in a seemingly unlikely place: the Game Boy Advance. This game, in fact, first appeared on the PC in 1996 under the name Broken Sword: Circle of Blood and was renamed The Shadow of the Templars for a PlayStation appearance in 1998. Surprisingly, little has changed in the transition. Granted, the graphics have had to be changed considerably to fit on the GBA's small screen, but the heart of the game has remained intact.
The game follows the adventures and exploits of George Stobbart, an American tourist on vacation in Europe. When he witnesses the murder of a man in a Paris café, he takes it upon himself to bring justice to the killer. Early in the game, George finds some help by way of a young photojournalist by the name of Nico, who agrees to help him solve the case. Soon after, the two are thrown deep into a twisted tale of murder, conspiracy, and a heavy dose of European history.
Broken Sword is a graphical adventure through and through, featuring the trademark slow-paced gameplay of a genre that lets gamers play the game at their own pace, fastidiously drawn backgrounds, and a heavy dose of text to move the story along. In this day and age of 3D games that command full attention of gamers at all times, adventure games are considered by many to be a dying genre or a lost art to those who love this style of game. Amazingly enough, this game feels right at home on Nintendo's portable system.
The control scheme in this game is easy enough for just about anyone to pick up and play--the D pad moves George around on the screen, the A and B buttons bring up the next page of text or select actions, like talking or using or combining items, and lastly, the left and right shoulder buttons bring up the item menu and scroll through the selectable actions onscreen. In the end, the controls are virtually invisible to the player, ultimately making the game very easy to play.
Visually, Broken Sword looks amazing for a handheld game. For a game that spans the locales of several European countries, Revolution Software has gone to great lengths to shrink the look and feel of a game originally intended for a much larger screen to the size of the Game Boy Advance. Backgrounds are wonderfully alive with detail and color, and the cast of the game has also been animated very carefully. While the amount of detail put into the game combined with the confines of such a small screen can sometimes make small objects hard to recognize, thankfully, the slow pace of the game gives you all the time you need to soak up every detail of your environment. The audio in the game, on the other hand, is sparse, sometimes even nonexistent. It doesn't really detract from the game at all, but it adds to the suspense factor by piping up with a tense piece of music right when the story takes a quick turn.
Broken Sword requires that you spend a lot of time with it, so gamers who want to get to the bottom of the mystery will find themselves in for the long haul. Proceeding carefully through the game will probably clock in somewhere around 20 or 30 hours, but you'll find it gripping and interesting all the way through. Thankfully, the game lets you save anywhere, so even if you have only a couple of minutes at a time to play, you can still make progress.
Gamers who like their games action-oriented may find Broken Sword to be too slow, but patient folks who like a good story that continually unravels will be delighted by this game. While the genre may be all but dead and gone and the game close to seven years old, it is an amazing sight to see, as well as a rewarding experience for those who will take to time to delve deep into the mystery contained within.