Well bonjour mon petits chéris! Bienvenue à Paris!
Or rather I should say welcome back to Paris, as in Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse, the series returns to it’s Gallic roots. But this is no time for reminiscing — A rare painting has been stollen, the gallery owner murdered. It’s down to affable American insurance investigator George Stobbart and plucky French reporter Nico Collard to crack the case.
This is a classic point-and-click adventure game that fully embraces it’s retro origins. Gone are the awkward 3D visuals of the series’ more recent games with a return to beautifully hand drawn backgrounds and simple cel-shaded characters. On the Vita’s diminutive screen, every scene looks absolutely gorgeous and ticks all the nostalgic checkmarks for lovers of the original game.
George and Nico are as colourful as ever, along with a plethora of past characters, including bumbling Sergeant Moue and Lady Piermont. The voice acting is fairly solid as is usual for the series, but the dialogue between George and the imbecilic Inspector Navet are the real show stoppers.
The play style is exactly as series fans will remember. To move the characters you simple tap the screen and they walk to that spot. To interact with the environment, you drag a finger across the screen until a blue indicator shows that something there can be interacted with. It is simple, if somewhat overly leisurely in its implementation. George and Nico walk everywhere no matter what and it can seem a little strange when they fail to move with urgency when say, the building around them burns to the ground.
The game plays out as a series of scenes in which you have to solve various puzzles and such. Some of these are simple, find the object puzzles and some involve riddles and secret codes and all sorts. In the early part of the game, these puzzles will rarely be taxing and you will breeze through it. The second half of the game really ups the ante though and you will find yourself tempted more and more to use the built-in hint button.
The hints offered escalate with each tap from simple clues to outright telling you what to do to solve the puzzle. Disappointingly, use of the hint feature is unlimited and you will suffer no penalties for exploiting it. There is an option however to disable it completely for the puzzle purists out there.
The problems and puzzles themselves are interesting, though not especially challenging. In fact, I found some of the most challenging parts of the game to be when I couldn’t see a particular part of the scenery due to the art style. One portion requires you to climb onto a metal girder which is practically imperceptible from the surrounding scene. Overall though, you will get a fairly decent brain workout and suffer at least a few head-scratchers along the way.
As beautiful as the game looks though, all is not well in the house that Vita built.
The gorgeous screen is also its biggest weakness in this type of game. It’s simply too small. My finger takes up a large part of the view when I’m exploring the scene, and it can be hard to differentiate between objects that are close together, often leading me to click on the wrong one. There are also some sensitivity issues, with the result that I sometimes have to tap the screen multiple times to elicit a response.
More troubling is that on occasion the character models flicker and phase in and out over the otherwise pristine backdrops. The soundtrack is also rather choppy, with songs cutting off suddenly to be replaced by something else at random. While not being game breaking, it is very sad to see such things happening in what is otherwise a beautiful looking game.
Unfortunately, there is one issue that occurs periodically that renders the game practically unplayable. There are moments where the frame rate drops to near zero, making gameplay extremely arduous for several minutes at a time. I can’t be sure what is causing this to happen, but when it does, you will lose all interest in playing. The attached video shows just how troublesome this problem is.
For such an undemanding game, this is really disappointing. I recently played through Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars on my iPad and never experienced anything like this awful frame rate drop. I am sure that this is a Vita specific problem, making the platform the weakest place to experience a otherwise great multi-platform game.
I’ll admit that this issue did get the better of me and I failed to finish the game because of it. My advice is that Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is great edition to the series and a beautiful looking game. Just don’t buy it for Vita.
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Sebastian has been playing games since the age of 8, cutting his teeth with Nintendo and Sega, and now can usually be found dying repeatedly in online FPS’s. Really, he should just quit. Open world RPG’s and grand strategy games also see him lose his sense of reality for several months of the year. You won’t find him on twitter though since he lives in a cave