Tag Archives: Broken Sword

^_^ will shout at you until you are a smiling fool

I can understand that this blog post’s title might be a little confusing to read, but that’s how it is. Like Prince’s unpronounceable Love Symbol #2, ^_^ is a name that’s easier to type than say outloud. In my mind, I refer to it as Smiley Face or The Wererabbit, but your mileage may vary. However you want to say it can be argued this way and that, but one thing is clear: y’all need to play this.

I discovered ^_^–and subsequently further work by Ben Chandler–from the Gnome’s Lair blog, which focuses its coverage heavily on point-and-click adventure games, a genre that I’ve been enjoying more and more thanks to my recent times with Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge and Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Initially, I was attracted to ^_^ by a single screenshot, which, almost immediately, made me want to click on everything, from the cart to the crow to the coatrack. Turns out that single screenshot makes up the entire space of the game, so it’s a relief that it is simply gorgeous. The lighting on the grass from the lamp is worth noting.

So, Julian is a wererabbit–the first of his kind, too–but wasn’t always that way. He’s trying to get a witch to help change him back, but first, he must retrieve her hair, which keeps running away from her. Also, there’s a verbally-challenged vampire and enough jazzy records to keep one from selling their ol’ gramophone for one of them newfangled cee-dee players. Yeah, it’s kind of weird and random, but cohesively sound, with a clear goal to achieve. Puzzles involve a lot of clicking and dialogue options and using the right item from your inventory at the right time and place. Standard adventure game stuff, but it’s all very charming here. My favorite running gag within ^_^ is all the shouting, which also nicely plays a pivotal part in getting that magical hair back to its master. The small addition of a screen shake each time is quite effective.

I played for about an hour last night, getting stuck a couple of times. ^_^ is no walk in the park, or a walk outside a witch’s house at that. Trial and error will get you there, as well as paying attention to how the game operates early on. Generally, if Julian uses a certain trick to advance the plot, he’ll do it at least once more before credits roll. Oh, and speaking of credits, Chandler handles them as nothing more than in-game dialogue, which I found pretty amusing and appropriate. After that, the game ends. It literally shuts itself down, leaving you left to stare at whatever image is gracing your desktop, heartstrings tugging for just one more thing to click on.

^_^ is a charming short story, with many moments worth remembering. The graphics and animations are surreal and surpass many quote-unquote professional games of the same ilk, and the funny moments are genuinely funny. Play it for the vampire tongue-twisters and all the shouting and the revelation from where the game gets name. Play it because it’s freeware, but made with skill and style. Play it.

Games Completed in 2011, #35 – Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

Initially, my mother bought Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars for her Nintendo DS. I thought it might be something she’d like, a mix of puzzles and story, with a laid-back pace and friendly presentation to it, and so I suggested it. Alas, my suggestion was wrong, as I discovered during one trip home that she never got further than the first few screens before giving up. I asked to borrow it, always curious about the point-and-clicker. After playing some, I could see why she struggled–the puzzles were a little tricky, and a lot of figuring out where to go next was based, at least for me, on stumbling rather than solving. But I continued on, in sparse chunks, because I’d get stuck a lot and move on to something shinier. Eventually I wrapped up the plot, earning George a silly smooch and me another game for my Games Completed in 2011 list.

The plot can be summed up like this: American tourist George Stobbart is chasing down a clown after he sets off an explosion outside a Paris café. As simple as that sounds, things eventually get out of control, and George finds himself, along with journalist Nico Collard, deep in a conspiracy involving the Knights Templar.

Gameplay involves using the stylus to tap around the bottom DS touchscreen for things/people to investigate, pick up, or  tinker with. When it comes to chatting, there’s chatting. Plenty of it. George is a confident and socializing sorta chap, and has something to say for everything. The same can be said about the NPCs in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, as every single character George spoke to reacted differently to the used tissue he was carrying, and at that point, the item was mostly meaningless, just a thing in his pocket. In that way, the writing is fantastic, with an attention to detail and actual facts of history and making characters really feel unique, even if George himself got creepy now and then.

This version is actually the Director’s Cut, which features new puzzles and then some new animations by artist Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen legend). Considering I’ve never played any previous version of Broken Sword, I couldn’t tell new from old, but it all looked great. The character portraits when speaking with someone offer up a wide amount of expression and detail, and pixel-hunting isn’t made all the much harder by low-res and dark screens; locations, which range from France to Ireland to Syria to Scotland, are colorful and designed to be navigated through with the touch of a style. You can press down on a selectable item or place to get more options, such as observe, talk, pick up, and so forth.

At one point in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, George comes to own a hand buzzer. It’s a prank item, intended to give someone a little shock after shaking his hand. You can select it as a topic of discussion with everyone, but nobody ever falls for it–that is until a certain someone does. Saying any more would be spoilery, but man, it was pretty great to finally see the buzzer in action. The game is peppered with these wonderful moments, where an item you’ve been carrying around for days finally shows its quality.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is intelligent and brimming with charm, telling a story that is, many years later, fresh and gripping. Take that, The Da Vinci Code! There are moments of frustration in terms of cryptic puzzles or lack of a clear destination, but those are easily rewarded with new, fantastic characters to converse and unexplored content. I think it works well on the Nintendo DS as a portable game, thanks to a “save any time” feature, and George’s notepad is great for catching up on all things plot after disappearing for too long of a time. I definitely recommend it for fans of Monkey Island or Sam & Max, or if you’re a history buff; I now know more about the Knights Templar than ever before.

Achievements of the Week – The Highly Trained Old School Gamer Edition

Honestly, I didn’t expect much in terms of Achievements this week considering I was without my Xbox 360 for three-fourths of it thanks to that crazy October snowstorm. In case you didn’t know, power outages and console gaming don’t get along. I only just got to sit down and game a bit last night, giving Mass Effect 2 some solid minutes, and that game is starting to sink its narrative hooks into me, even if it is severely less of an RPG than before. I don’t even bother looking at stats or skills after enough experience has been earned, simply hitting “auto level up” and then going about my day.

That topic’s probably for another post. Today, however, is all about the Achievements! See ’em below.

From The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion…

I moved up the Fighters Guild’s rank ladder pretty fast, going from Journeyman to Defender after a handful of mediocre quests. You can read all about that here, and I’m still planning to hit the top rank of Master in at least one guild before Skyrim takes over my life. That’s in seven days, people. Seven freakin’ days.

From Mass Effect 2…

Exploring more of the Normandy, I stumbled across several Achievements just sitting there, waiting to be unlocked. I hadn’t played Mass Effect 2 since the first main mission of rescuing the salarian scientist Mordin Solus, but had an itch for some dialogue trees and Paragon actions. This spurt of playing included running around the ship like a kid on Christmas morning, getting drunk with the onboard doctor, and rescuing an old friend by the code-name of Archangel. A nice mix of things to do really.

Scientist (10G): Complete any research project in the Normandy’s laboratory

Highly Trained (15G): View all advanced combat training videos at Shepard’s private terminal.

Scholar (15G): Unlock 15 new Mass Effect 2 codex entries

Prospector (5G): Retrieve mineral resources by scanning and probing a planet in the galaxy map

Not exactly sure what to do next or who to go after so I headed for the Citadel to see what’s new with that place since Shepard last saw it. I’ve only just gotten inside thanks to Michael Hogan. Hope fast travel is readily available and that I can remember what is where. Shepard’s planning to do the old “pop in” on the Council, something I’m sure they won’t like, especially considering many still believe him to be dead. Can’t wait to see their faces.

From Deus Ex: Human Revolution…

Old School Gamer (10G): You found all the hidden story items in Megan’s office. Point and Click much?

Not enough, to be honest. Need more point-and-click games now that I’ve wrapped up Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Anyways, I started a new game just to get this Achievement, but don’t know if I’ll play again. I’d love to see more of the side missions, but I’ve turned bitter towards the game, and even going into it all guns blazing seems unappealing. There’s fun in sneaking through a room successfully, little fun in hiding behind a crate and firing a gun until all is motionless. I dunno. There are parts of this game that I love, and parts I loathe. A full review is coming soon to The First Hour.

Proud of a certain Achievement this week? Tell us about it below in the comments, even if it’s from a Kinect game.

35 videogames completed so far in 2011, but aiming for 50

The last time I wrote a little bit about the actual number of games I’ve completed within a year, the post got featured on the front page of WordPress.com. The attention the post got was very nice if a little scary. Thankfully, there were only a handful of trollish comments to deal with, and the rest were just as excited as I was to be making progress with games and not just starting them and then tossing them aside for something shinier. We’ll see what happens this time…

So, it’s the beginning of November 2011, and I just beat my 35th game last night while Tara and I watched a badly taped version of The Goonies, which featured some amazingly amazing commercials from 1988. Remember camera film? They used to have commercials for camera film. Anyways, yeah, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars gets all the glory here, but there’s plenty more to come. Two months left in the gaming year, and I’m wondering if I could cross the “50 videogames beat” mark, let alone reach it.

Looking at my backlog, as well as what’s still to come, I think it’s doable, but probably requires much more dedication from me than I’m capable of. See, I have gaming ADD, and whether or not it is actually a disease confirmed and diagnosed by a doctor, I have it; I absolutely love starting a new game, getting to see all of its mechanics and how it opens; very rarely do I push further past this bit magic and fireworks. Take, for instance, Radiant Historia, a stunningly original RPG for the DS that I gobbled up, but only until something else came out. Haven’t gone back yet sadly. Even my Chrono Trigger progress comes in spurts of activity, as I just can’t seem to stick with it for too long, always drifting away to something else with hopes of returning soon. And one game I do want to play of more is Professor Layton and the Last Specter, but Tara’s currently enjoying it, and I like when she finds a game enjoyable, so it’s all hers until she beats it herself.

And of course, November is loaded with big name games to help me climb a little higher. On 11/11/11, I’m picking up not only The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but also LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7, the latest LEGO game for Tara and I to plow through. There’s other titles too that I want, but feel like I’ll have to resist in hopes of not breaking the bank (for example, Cave Story 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Jurassic Park: The Game to name a few). It’s a disgustingly great month to be a gamer.

In terms of the backlog, well, if you’ve been reading me for awhile now you’ll know that I’ve been slowly working on collecting as many decent PS2 games as possible before they disappear entirely from store shelves. So, there’s those. Namely Suikoden III, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, and yes, probably to Greg Noe‘s horror, Escape from Monkey Island. See, I have plenty to play, but it just requires willpower and time, and if I also want to be a famous artist/writer, well it’s probably not going to mesh well with that. So while I’d absolutely relish in joy if I completed around 50 videogames for 2011, I know it’s also probably not probable.

You can read about every game I’ve knocked out of the 2011 park right here on Grinding Down by following this nifty tag. Or, if you’re into looking at lists, I keep one pretty up-to-date over at GiantBomb.  Other than that, good luck to all of you out there with a compulsion to complete all that you got and please wish me luck on fifteen more.

Without power, I guess I’ll play more of these DS videogames

Still no power at the Pennsylvania house, putting us last on the list, just like during Hurricane Irene. Could be a few more days; it’s really hard to guess when anything will happen up in the mountains. That means still squatting at the in-laws, which means no drawing stuff, no heated blanket, no Internet, no small comforts, and, sadly, no Xbox 360. My only source of gaming these last few days has been my 3DS, which is always at my side, but the device never gets this kind of attention normally.

I think I got Tara hooked on puzzles as she’s currently playing my copy of Professor Layton and the Last Specter and loving it. She’s even progressed further than me at this point. We’ve discovered that she’s the type of gamer that has to complete every puzzle she comes across, no matter how hard or reliant on math skills it is. Me, I’m more than content to pass the tricky ones by; it’s all about the story, cutscenes, and mini-games. Though so far, the train and fish mini-games are just as difficult, and I haven’t tried the puppet show one yet. I’d like one of them to be a bit more easy.

Anyways, here’s some short blips about what I’ve been playing as we all wait for the power to be restored…

Templars love chess

Just crossed the 80% completion mark last night in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, but I’m currently stuck on my next goal. George Stobbart needs to head back to Spain to tell some old lady what he’s learned about one of her ancient templar relatives, but each time I head to the world map screen, Spain is untappable. Seems like there is still something to do in Paris, but I’m without a clue. Maybe I’ll look up a walkthrough today before heading back to an Internet-less abode; eh, maybe I won’t. Part of the fun in point and click games is discovery; of course, a lot of the roadblocks are merely missing a pixel or bit of dialogue. Will try again as I’d love to wrap this adventure up with minimal cheating.

There was a pretty fun chess puzzle though, where some pieces were placed on the board, and then you had to place three opposing pieces in the correct spots to achieve checkmate. Maybe for some this was a challenge, but as a hardcore chess nerd, I saw the answer rather quickly. Good to know that all those late afternoons spent during high school in chess club (and being teased for it) have paid off.

Mixing monsters magically

I haven’t really done much with Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker since I gave it a review of its first thirty minutes and watched in horror as my favorite–and only–blue slime was taken to the Great Beyond. After resurrecting Blues and grinding for a bit, I eventually made my way to the top of Infant Isle to take the Scout Pledge. This helped advance the story a bit, and Hodor met some new characters, as well as was given permission to explore two other islands for new monsters and darkonium, star-shaped metal that we need for, um, something.

Something interesting I discovered is that you can synthesize monsters once they’ve reached LV 10. This is kind of like breeding, where you take two monsters (both LV 10 or higher), and fuse them together, creating something new that can inherit specific abilities and skills from the former two monsters. I did this with Blues and somebody else, creating a weird faun-like beast. Unfortunately, the new monster pops out as a LV 1 so it’s back to grinding before I try to track down more darkonium…

Retro levels for the win

I completed the main levels in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure the other day, including the final boss, which I consider beating the game. I did it alone, and it was okay, but the game’s appeal is definitely in gaming with others and trying to acquiring more rupees than everybody else. By yourself, well…you always win that race. The thing is that after you kick Vaati to the curb, you get access to the Realm of Memories, where retro-themed levels are playable. I’ve only done the first one, which is based on the first castle from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and traversing through it was like a trip back in time. Looking forward to seeing how the other retro levels are treated, even if they aren’t anything difficult.

I seriously hope we’re back in the house by the time Skyrim comes out or else…well, y’all don’t even wanna know. I mean, I can only play my DS for so long. All DS and no power make Pauly go something, something.

George Stobbart is dirty, makes me laugh

The other week, Tara and I spent most of the afternoon moving stuff into our new place. Since I got out of work earlier than she did, I arrived at Grimmauld Place first, did what I had to do, and had a good hour or so to kill until she arrived. Thank goodness I never go anywhere without my Nintendo DS 3DS!

It’s been some time since I played Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (first half-hour review here), and I had a hankering for something other than my usual go-to titles (Dragon Quest IX, Pokemon White, Let’s Golf! 3D, or Scrabble). I couldn’t quite remember where I had stopped plot-wise, but I do remember that I had just finally broken free from the restraints of only exploring Paris, arriving in Ireland outside a pub and schmoozing with the locals about a ruined castle–that’s also haunted. Oooooh. I did not actually enter the pub back when I saved the game for the last time, which was around the six-hour mark, so it was a great re-starting point, entering a bar with lots of people to talk with and lots of new items to pick up. Eventually, George learns a heap of new information and leads, and we’re back to Paris to see what Nico’s up to. Mostly spoilers.

Back to George, and the game decides to suddenly get really funny. I mean, it’s been decently funny from the get-go, but when George infiltrates the hospital and has to pretend to be a competent doctor amongst an array of incompetents….it goes to a whole new level. Exhausting dialogue options has never been so humorous.

Plus, this little bit of inner dialogue happens later on in a church:

Sorry for the shoddy camera work. I had to resort to using Photobooth on my Mac, holding my 3DS up at an angle I can only describe as awkwardly decent. If you can’t make out the text, George is talking about the firm buttocks of young ladies. In a church. Ya dirty boy.

I’m kind of stuck on a tripod puzzle at the moment, and it’s basically “steal a tripod,” which is not as easy as it sounds. While online looking for better screenshots of the above moment of glory, I discovered that Ireland is like only the second place out of six or seven locations that George and Nico will be visiting during their search for shadowy Templars secrets and killer mimes. And I’ve played for six-plus hours so far. This is a long game. I hope to finish it soon, but if I continue to only nip away at it in bite-size increments…it might take a good while. Hmm. So long as George continues to voice his dirty thoughts, I’ll make a more of an effort then.

Half-hour review of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

Wow, that was a boring subject line. Maybe the picture caption will make up for it? Hmm?

Popping up in here real quick to link y’all to my half-hour review of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars over at The First Hour. Go check it out as I think it’s a fun review to read…then again, I wrote it, and there’s my ego shining for a fraction of a second. However, sadly, due to The Busy and The Stress, I’ve not gotten to play more of the game after deciding that, yes, I want to know what is up with the creepy mime. Hopefully soon though.

Half-hour reviews take longer than a half-hour to write

Last night, I found some time, sat down, and finished up a half-hour review of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars for The First Hour. Will probably go up live sometime next week. One puzzle frustrated me to the point of cheating. Stay tuned for that.

I do find it interesting that writing a half-hour review of a videogame took me over two hours to do. Why’s that? Well, for starters, I use a stopwatch and take notes as a I play. I am constantly stopping time, writing down some quick notes, starting the time again, and then playing some more until another note-taking session demands my soul. That means my half-hour of gametime is never straight through; it’s choppy as the Artic Sea and maybe just as frenetic. Also, there were a couple of phone calls during my play session, which I needed to answer–so everything went on pause then. After a full thirty minutes were played, it was time to review my notes and clean them the frak up. Nobody could read my drivel, but after some copyediting and writing, the minute-by-minute playthrough is much more readable. Hopefully, enjoyable too. Plus, then I have to write beginning copy as a lead-in to the review, and a summary of things that happened over the past half-hour. Sometimes writing comes naturally; other times, it’s like pulling teeth…out of a bulldog.

And now you know my process. As offbeat as it is. Truthfully, it works best for Nintendo DS games than anything else as taking notes while playing a console game (and using a stopwatch to keep track of time) is slightly tougher to do because of my entertainment setup.

I will spoil y’all now and tell you that my answer to the Will you continue playing? question is a yes. In fact, I’m playing it as I write this blog. If anything, these reviews are strengthening my multi-tasking skills.