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.