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    2014-05-16

    Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Episode 1 Review

    
    
    In 1996 the Broken Sword franchise was introduced to the world. A classic point and click type adventure, it must have gained quite a following. I say this because this latest adventure was saved by raising funds from both Kickstarter and Paypal, over $823,000 in funds to be exact. Topping several charts for one of the most anticipated games of 2013, there were many people who looked forward to this game's release. Past entries in the series have all been fairly well praised and are looked upon quite fondly by fans all over. Five sequels, a few remakes, and some switching back and forth with graphic styles and gameplay, the Broken Sword series has finally found it's way to the PS Vita with the release of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse. With it's vibrant screen and touch interface, the PS Vita seems like a perfect choice for such a game, and in many ways it is. Unfortunately, while a good game, there are a few issues holding it back and it leaves you wondering where all that money went to.


    Gameplay- 5/10 Throughout the game you will take control of series' stars George Stobbart and Nicole Collard as they try and solve a murder and catch an art thief. While games such as The Walking Dead and Danganronpa have reinvented the feel of these types of games, the gameplay here definitely has an old school point and click feel. Any fan of classic PC games will feel right at home here, well, besides the controls. Unlike most Vita games, you have no choice in the control inputs, it's all done by the touch screen. The only thing the buttons do is scroll through text faster. That means walking, interacting, and going through menus are all done by touch interface. For the most part it's not a huge problem, but the type of touch screen the Vita uses is not known for it's precision. You slide your finger around the screen searching for little blue pulsing circles, which indicate you can interact with an object or person. Many times these are cluttered together very closely and tapping the one you are aiming for can sometimes be difficult. Maybe it was my fat finger, but I found this interface very clunky at times, making me wishing I had a stylus. Walking around is as simple as tapping on the screen where you wish to move to. There were many times I was trying to interact with something but accidentally just kept moving my character around, and they tend to stand in the way and block your view. As you travel from location to location you will come across several items your character will put into their inventory for later use. Tapping this inventory(represented by a suitcase icon) will allow you to drag an item around to use onscreen or combine two items together by dragging them into each other. These items will also be used to activate specific conversations when interacting with NPC's. This menu also allows you to save/load, and access the all important hint icon. The majority of this game consists of searching areas and solving puzzles. Anyone who doesn't play these types of games often may find some of the puzzles and situations pretty tricky. Don't get me wrong, that's a good thing, for the most part, it's the only challenge in the game. While there are a number of brain teasers, there are also times where the game is just confusing, not quite being clear on what you are expected to do or not being able to activate the next event because you haven't fulfilled the necessary requirements. This is where the hint option becomes extremely handy. It allows you to just get a vague hint of your next objective, or you can choose just to have it straight up tell you what to do. You have the option of turning this feature off if you really want the challenge, but I personally found it very helpful. While the games description does remark that your character can die or fail at certain times, I found no instance where this happened. The entire game is simply trial and error, and it seems there are no real consequences for mistakes, regardless of the above mentioned description. The game may insinuate a sense of urgency at times, such as finding the right clues before someone discovers you, but it's all a facade. As far as I can tell, nothing will happen until you correctly gather all the necessary clues to activate the next scene. The same goes for items, as using an incorrect item at the wrong time merely gets you a snide remark. You are free to continue until you stumble across the correct choice. With some of the more confusing puzzles, I just found it easier, and a lot less time consuming to just spam the hint option. Some may find this "cheating", but this game tends to leave you more than often confused as to what exactly your goal is with little to no explanation. All in all, I found the game to play and control awkward, leaving you with the feeling of uncertainty at times. The touch controls in no way make the game unplayable, but I would have liked the option of having an analog controlled pointer, as it would have helped some of the investigating sequences feel a bit more precise, as tapping the screen can feel clumsy at times.


    Story- 6/10 The story offers quite a intriguing mystery involving murder and theft. After a brief intro movie(which you have the option to skip), you will find yourself in a small art gallery exhibit in the shoes of George Stobbart. After the gallery is suddenly robbed of a single painting and the owner shot dead, it is up to you to unravel this murder mystery and find the stolen piece of art. With the help of "Nico", Nicole Collard, you will both traverse a number of locations around London, looking for clues and questioning suspects in order to piece this case together. As you progress you will find yourself dealing with a bumbling detective, questioning shady characters, searching seedy locations, and meeting up with friends both old and new. The story does a fairly good job at bringing all of this together, and tries it's best to include humor and suspense. It's quite linear, and even though you are, at times, given an option of where to go next, nothing will progress until you complete the part that the game wants you to complete. There's nothing wrong with this, as a mystery, being allowed to stray too far would only add confusion. While I found the game to start out very slow, it does pick up toward the end, though not by much. One of the biggest problems I had with this game was the cliffhanger. This is a two part game, though nowhere in the title does it say "Part 1", so if you are not familiar with it you would never know. The whole experience ends with the feeling that it was just a long, drawn out prologue. Still, as far as mysteries go, this game has all the necessary parts including, clues, twists, and multiple suspects. It's all up to you to find everything and put the pieces of the puzzle together, the plot unfolds very nicely, albeit a bit slow.



    Replay- 2/10 As far as reasons to want to play through multiple times, there are none besides 2-3 trophies you might miss. One of those trophies can be missed due to a bug, and it happened to me. Apparently, it's completely random whether you'll get it or not, and as of this being written, there is no way around it besides a smart save right before the scene and replaying it until you get it. Does that make me want to play through it again just to grab that last trophy? Not at all. There are no branching paths, nothing you can do differently, and there is only one correct answer for every scenario. The story is just too slow, and having to deal with the tasks more than once would just be tedious, especially since nothing changes. The game is bare bones, no extra modes, mini games, or features, it gives you no reason to keep it after completing.


    Graphics/Sound- 6/10
    Graphically, the game is set in a static world with 3-D character models that are pre-rendered as 2-D sprites, and while it is all very nice and colorful to look at, the character animations leave a lot to be desired. All of the background are like paintings, and even though there are only a few settings in the game, they are all very nicely detailed and in beautiful HD. Little things like handing a character coffee or a slice of pizza, and the items are actually there, onscreen, are nice touches, but the actual interactions between characters felt quite robotic and stiff. After initiating dialog with someone, there were too many times where there were long pauses, it felt as if you had to press a button and wait for an animatronic puppet to activate and respond. While the cartoon look does work for the game, everything just felt a bit dated. Movements were at times extremely choppy, and smoother character animations would have done wonders. Obviously, most of the funds went to the voice cast, because it's one of the best parts of the game and the reason why this category scored so high. The dialog may be long and at times boring, but it is all wonderfully done, with all text being spoken. There is quite a lot of it too, show someone an incorrect clue or use the wrong item and you'll get a quirky or snappy response, it adds quite a bit of charm to the game. The problem is, a lot of the conversations are pointless, as you don't really need to speak to most of the characters at times, for it adds nothing to the story and you can just skip it. There is music in the game, but nothing you will really take notice of, and certainly nothing you'll remember. That's a shame too, a good music score would have made some of the longer, more drawn out parts of the game much more tolerable. 
     
     
        I had to consider a few things while reviewing and scoring this game. One being that, from what I've seen on Youtube and read about in various places, this is just like the majority of the older Broken Sword games. That means, to the fans of the series, this is probably exactly what they expected and wanted, and those are the main people who will be buying this game. I had no choice but to keep that in mind when giving the game it's final scores, would a long time fan enjoy this? The answer to that is yes, this is what these games have always been like. That being said, to anybody else, I simply cannot recommend it. I admit, I went into this with no clue of what to expect, I have never heard of the series, and after playing this game, it didn't make me a fan. With dated graphics, a clumsy touchscreen interface, and some really confusing puzzles do to the lack of direction, this game just wasn't very fun and the absence of any type of consequences when making mistakes just made it all feel kind of pointless. It tells a nice story, but the narrative is just way too slow for the majority of the game, and when it does pick up, it leaves you with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. While the voice cast did a splendid job, it's not nearly enough to save this game, the whole thing leaves you with a feeling that it's unfinished. It definitely would have helped if they had waited and just included the second half, at least you would have gotten a complete game. Perhaps someone looking for an old school PC like point and click adventure will find some joy in it, but Broken Sword 5 was pretty much made for Broken Sword fans, after all, they did provide the funds to have it completed. For the rest of us, there are just too many great games being released for the Vita, I have to say skip this one and save the space for one of them.

                                                                           
    Gameplay- 5/10
    Story- 6/10
    Replay- 2/10
    Graphics/Sound- 6/10
    Overall- 5/10
    



     
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    Item Reviewed: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Episode 1 Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Gabriel Watkins
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