Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode 1 review – meet the point-and-clickstarter

You know you’re onto something good when you’ve been walking around the same room for over an hour without the slightest hint of boredom. My usual short attention span should have me rage-tapping the rear touchpad in frustration – or bailing entirely to have a mild fit at the latest music video/filth reel from Miley – but instead I’m flitting between suspects at a crime scene, uncovering clues, keys and evidence like an adrenaline-fuelled Poirot.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode 1 PS Vita review

Like the Broken Swords of yesteryear, number 5 is a point-and-click adventure with a killer mystery at its heart. Returning super-sleuths George and Nico find themselves embroiled in a murder investigation after an art theft goes wrong, so it’s up to the insurance crime-solving duo to catch the killer and recover the stolen masterpiece. Staying true to the design philosophy creative director Charles Cecil developed nearly 20 years ago, Broken Sword 5 is a series of beautiful hand-drawn locations filled with quirky puzzles, hidden clues and a colourful troupe of eccentric characters.

“You’d be for forgiven for thinking you were back in ‘96″

You know the bread-and-butter of Broken Sword: inspect items, store them for later use. Tapping an NPC will engage them in conversation – these exchanges are a hammy highlight, with the mixture of accents bordering on Allo, Allo levels of authenticity. New topic options appear once you’ve investigated a scene in more detail, so it’s worth getting the toothcomb out to progress smoothly. All this snooping around and chatting gives the game a leisurely pace, allowing you the time and space to work out puzzles without pressure.

These head-scratchers form a big part of your duties. From fixing a car engine so you can use its horn to rearranging the shredded bits of a letter (classic), the tasks and mini-games littered throughout Paris, London and beyond. They’re not overly challenging, but are a fun way to break up the ever-changing trees of fun dialogue.

“NPC exchanges are a hammy highlight, with the mixture of accents bordering on Allo, Allo levels of authenticity”

Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, this was originally designed for the PC, with the possibility of other platforms dangled as a stretch goal. The point-and-click controls do feel cramped on the haptic-heavy Vita, though. The touchscreen-only controls – such as dragging your finger around to uncover glowing blue clues – are all responsive, but each room and location in the game are so full of small and intricate details that seeing them (never mind selecting them) can occasionally become a frustrating lottery of screen tapping.

Broken Sword 5 is clearly a real labour of love on Cecil and co’s part, but their desire to recapture the spirit of the beloved early games has left this one feeling more than a little dated. Apart from the presence of mobile phones and flat-screen monitors in scenes, you’d be for forgiven for thinking you were back in ‘96. And while it’s still a fun and charming experience, this colourful sequel feels more like a niche appeal offering than adventure of a calibre to furrow Drake’s brow.

Our Score

Score: 7
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