Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars
For Game Boy Advance

Review by Skinny Minnie
June 2002

Languidly enjoying the view outside a quaint French bistro, Californian George Stobbart was vacationing in Paris. A bit perplexed at local custom, George stared curiously as a clown dressed in spectacular garb and wielding an accordion barreled into said bistro on the heels of an older, grey-suited patron carrying a battered briefcase. There wasn't much time for reflection, though, as the explosion of the next instant found George knocked unconscious and flat on his back, covered by what was left of the bistro's outdoor canopy ...

Languidly enjoying the view lakeside on an American campground, New Englander Skinny Minnie was vacationing with her new Game Boy Advance. A bit perplexed at Nintendo custom, Minnie stared curiously down at the 2.9" screen that seriously screamed for the addition of a backlight. There wasn't much time for reflection, though, nor could many of those be seen on the screen either, as Minnie's head craned and bobbed like a goose on the lake ...

BAM! Entertainment's true-to-the-original port of the 1996 PC tourist-turned-detective tale was humorous, serious, captivating, invigorating, and above all hard to put down! French photographer Nicole Collard (aka Nico), who arrived representing her newspaper at the opening scene to get shots of the cafe's bombing, begrudgingly struck up what was supposed to be a "business only" partnership with eyewitness George. She agreed to this so they could string together the events surrounding the calamity. With police more apathetic than empathetic, it was up to George and the alluring Nico to conduct interviews with local inhabitants and to research the events of fourteenth century history to uncover a multinational cult conspiracy of knightly murder and mayhem.

The 32-bit graphics capability of the Game Boy Advance itself was put through its paces here, resulting in colorfully detailed environments that belied their tiny roots and only occasionally appeared grainy or pixelated. The sound, although harkening back to the PC games of the early 90s, did offer melodious French accordion music, spooky synthesizer sounds, and soothing piano pieces. A lovely pealing of bells could also be heard whenever vital information was discovered or a puzzle was completed in the correct fashion. There were occasional sound effects of explosions or creaky doors, but speech (and George's hilarious thoughts) were represented solely by onscreen text. Actually, many areas were bereft of sound altogether, and sometimes the only thing that lakeside passers by, both human and chipmunk, could hear was the chortling of an amused gamer as she read George and Nico's latest witty statements.

Controlling the two-dimensional George in this Game Boy Advance version of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (originally released in the U.S. as the PC game Broken Sword: Circle of Blood) couldn't have been easier. The A and B buttons on the right side of the GBA functioned as neatly as a left and right mouse click would, allowing George to interact with people, places and things, depending upon what icons were on the screen. A mouth icon indicated the possibility for conversation via onscreen text. A magnifying glass appeared when something could be examined further. Round gears appeared when something could be activated or made to function with something else, often via interaction with inventory items on hand. Pulsing white hands indicated paths for impending scene changes and also showed when a new inventory item could be picked up. The only icon inconsistency I found was a few instances where inventory items needed to be used in spots where only the magnifying glass icon would appear, instead of the usual round gears.

The left trigger pulled up the actual inventory items, which were usually used in understandable ways that blossomed out of and served to further the rich plot. Attempting to use each inventory item in turn when stuck, or combining two or even three items that were pulsating in inventory and then using the newly created item, usually yielded results. The right trigger could be used to cycle through all available hot spots in any scene, showing if anything was overlooked. The directional pad on the left was used both to scroll through inventory items and to move George around in each scene. At the end of every successfully finished area, George was transported either to Nico's apartment to reconnoiter or to a world map where he could walk in seconds from locale to locale or even from country to country.

The start button was used when beginning to play and when saving the game wherever desired. The only drawback to the save function was that one save slot would get continually covered over itself every time the game was saved, leaving little ability to go back to an earlier save in the event of George's occasional untimely demise. The only workaround was that there were in actuality three save slots (allowing three different players the chance to have separate games going), and the options menu did allow the copying of one save to another slot. Eventually I learned to copy early saves into the second and third slots, still continuing play via the first save slot but able to regress back in time if need be via the other save slots.

Major Bug Alert!

With a Daddy Long Legs and a Baby Long Legs watching from my picnic table in horror, I spent a scary amount of time crying over bugs—game bugs that is! If you play this GBA game, do not visit the Spanish villa before you have returned from Marib, even if Spain shows up on your map first! If you visit Spain first, you will later find George trapped in a European sewer after having solved the Marib puzzle, with Marib stubbornly not showing up on the map as the next destination even though all indicators point that it should. Nico will refuse to mention Marib, too, if George visits her for ideas. You may send Mr. Stobbart back to all previous locales thinking you have missed something, only to find no new clues and all dead ends. You will in fact be forced to begin the whole game again, unless you have jogged around "copying" previous saves to other slots beforehand. This was found out by me the hard way as I desperately searched for and found a GBA version of the walkthrough.

The Marib bug and also an inventory puzzle bug at the end were confirmed in that walkthrough, so I'm passing them along for your reference. The second bug at the end of the game occurs because a few red herring inventory items from the PC game were never removed, even though they are not needed in the GBA version. If you use the red herring items in place of the proper ones when solving the final puzzle (and believe me, they fit), they cannot be removed again, and the game comes to a grinding halt. I suggest a save copy to another slot before George enters Bannockburn Church with Nico, so you can experiment with inventory items as you please.

It is hard for me to estimate the length of time that this game would take for the average adventure gamer to finish, as I wound up having to repeat over half of it due to the Marib bug. Until then, I did not use a walkthrough, even though I paced around my camper more than a few times, causing the Long Legs family to run for the Dramamine as I puzzled out George's next move. After the Marib incident, however, I did begrudgingly scan the walkthrough in fear of another forced restart, finding out about the ending bug but ruining some of the story along the way.

However, bugs aside, it was an exciting and intriguing tale of both honorable and dishonorable knights, of love and laughter, and of tragedy befalling a noble family down through the ages. I highly recommend this game to any adventure gamer, as its charming and engrossing storyline and puzzles are worth the price not only of the game itself, but of the Game Boy Advance (and obligatory 300-watt lamp) as well. I do rate it a star despite its glitches, and I fervently hope that if and when I play a future Broken Sword GBA port, the only bugs I find are the ones crawling up my legs ... The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Revolution
Publisher: BAM! Entertainment
Release Date: March 2002

Available for: Game Boy Advance

Four Fat Chicks Links

Player Feedback

Screenshots


An Eye-Opening Opener


At the Bar in the Aftermath


George in France


Got Any French Fries, Miss?


Nico's Pad


Quit Clowing Around!


Sewers Are a Popular French Attraction


Ubu Hotel


With the Boys in Blue

Where to Find It


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