Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror
In this sequel to Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars we catch up with George Stobbart as he is reunited with Nico in Paris. Somehow Nico has managed to get her hands on a mysterious Mayan stone, and as she and George arrive at the house of Professor Oubier, an expert on Mayan artefacts, a nasty surprise awaits them inside. Nico is kidnapped and George is left tied to a chair where he is being stalked by a large, hairy spider and, just for good measure, the room he is in has been set on fire. Indiana Jones eat your heart out! Now it's up to you to help George extricate himself from this predicament and to find out what new entanglement Nico has got herself, and you, involved in.
Most of the time you will be controlling the actions of George, especially in the first half of the game, but later Nico also shows that she is a more than capable young woman as the gallant adventurers risk life and limb in pursuit of ancient stones to prevent a Mayan prophesy from being fulfilled. In the process there are many entertaining problems to overcome -- escaping a burning room is just the start as Nico and George manage to get themselves into a 'fine mess' more than once.
Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror is a third-person perspective, cartoon-style, adventure that has the same excellent graphics and engaging gameplay as its predecessor although I did think that the puzzles were quite a bit easier. This may have been because the areas to explore seemed more restricted than in the first game and usually the solution to the particular obstacle to be overcome was close at hand. As a result I moved through the game fairly quickly and, though I enjoyed it immensely, I was rarely stuck on one puzzle for more than a few minutes at a time.
Despite this, the puzzles are generally entertaining and fun to solve and the game sweeps you along with its great characters, story, humour and dialogue. This makes it an excellent game for less experienced players and also for anyone who likes the odd chuckle. From the opening sequence I knew I was going to enjoy it and from then on I found myself playing along with a smile on my face. I particularly loved the movie set sequence where yet another classic of children's literature, Treasure Island, was being horribly mutilated by Hollywood-style treatment. And it was fun to meet up again with Pearl and Duane from the first game. Yet the most amusing moment for me was when I was reunited with my lucky piece of coal after I thought I'd lost it forever. To describe what happens would be to spoil it, and it probably wouldn't sound that funny anyway, you'll just have to play the game. There are several touches like this, but you may miss them if you don't try everything that the game allows you to do.
The interface in the first Broken Sword was very easy to use and this one has been made even simpler. Good news for novice players, but I have to admit that, as an experienced player, I was quite happy with the old one as it seemed to provide more interaction options.
In this game a grasping hand icon allows you to pick up items and a beckoning hand at the edges of the screen tells you there is more of the location to reveal. The cursor changes to a mouth if you can talk to a character and items and people to ask about appear as icons at the bottom of the dialogue screen. A click of the left mouse button causes George or Nico to carry out an action and a 'right click' will get you a description of the object you wish to examine. It's useful to remember this, especially when you want to examine items in your inventory as you may find more than first meets the eye. Your inventory appears at the bottom of the screen when you move the cursor beneath the action window and the game controls similarly appear at the top of the screen. From the game options you can set the volume controls for music, speech and sound effects and you can still choose to have subtitles for all dialogue.
You must have Windows 95 or NT to play this game and it provides DirectX 5.0 for you to install if you don't already have it. Consequently, you cannot install or run the game from DOS.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Broken Sword and this one is just as entertaining, though a little easier. As I said in my review of the earlier game I do like this sort of graphic adventure -- they are just fun to play. Experienced adventurers may find the game over all too soon, but for new or less-experienced players there are many hours of fun in store. Have we seen the last of George and Nico? I hope not because the stories and gameplay are very entertaining and I've become rather fond of this adventuring couple. I'd like to see Nico involved in even more of the action in the next one.
Just one last thing, if you are a true cartoon adventure fan don't let the box cover put you off. I mention this because many people have told me that they didn't give the first Broken Sword a second glance on the shelves as the box cover didn't look like it was promoting an adventure game, let alone the kind of adventure game it turned out to be. Though the cover of The Smoking Mirror is not quite so 'menacing' it could still get lost among the action titles in many stores and you may overlook it if you are not careful.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1997.
All rights reserved.
Win 95/NT 4.0 or above, 486DX266 MHZ (Pentium recommended) 16 MB RAM, 1MB DIRECTX 5.0 compatible SGVA Card (2MB recommended), DIRECTX compatible sound card, 2x CD ROM (4 speed recommended), 66MB hard drive space (minimum install, 280MB max) Mouse.