We've got a very special place in our hearts for the first Broken Sword game. When Shadow of the Templars first arrived in 1996, it brought adventure gamers to the streets of Paris, with beautifully rendered traditional animation and locations. Its sequel, The Smoking Mirror didn't differ too greatly from the original, but still offered a worthwhile experience, while the series' first 3-D incarnation The Sleeping Dragon kept the charm but not the challenge. And the less said about the latest instalment, The Angel of Death, the better. Now, game director Charles Cecil and the Revolution team have back to the series' roots with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars: The Director's Cut, bringing the series to the DS and Wii. With a surprising amount of new content added into the game, as well as new art and puzzles, can this thirteen year old adventure find a place in today's gaming world?
Once again, the story centers around George Stobbart, an American patent lawyer holidaying in Paris. While enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee and enjoying the Parisian waitress - we mean, scenery, an accordion-playing clown prances into the cafe, snatches a customer's briefcase, and leaves his instrument behind. Seconds later, the cafe explodes. Alive, but understandably disgruntled, George begins his own little investigation into what happened, eventually becoming entangled in a conspiracy of assassinations and ancient cults. He's joined by Nico Collard, a French journalist who's hot on the case of a string of murders by similarly costumed-killers, and you'll need to use the skills of both to unravel the mystery.
Most of the game's story is essentially identical to the original Shadow of the Templars, seeing as most of the game is as well. The new additions to the story take the form of new playable sections with Nico, as she gets her own sub-plot involving the murder of Pierre Carchon. This new story actually begins at the start of the game, acting as a prologue before George's mishap at the cafe, and kind of takes away from impact of that event. This aside, the new sections with Nico are as well-written as the rest of the game (despite a somewhat abrupt end to her storyline) and tie in very nicely with the original game. In fact, if you'd never played the game before, it's possible you wouldn't even realise where the old content ends and the new starts (if not for some presentation inconsistencies, but more on this later).
The Wii naturally lends itself very well to the point-and-click style of adventure gaming, as you simply point and hit A to interact. The Nunchuck is not used in the game, which means you'll also be pointing and hitting A to lead George and Nico about, while the B button is used to replicate the right-click function from the PC version, allowing you to 'observe' an object for more information. There are also new Director's Cut exclusive puzzles which have been sprinkled over the affair (although are obviously more prevalent in the new Nico sections), some of which take advantage of the Wiimote, for instance, twisting a key into place and others which are just new brain-teasers, such as a substitution cipher. These gameplay additions are smart, and add to the challenge to the game rather than just being gimmicky extras. What is just a gimmick is the throwaway two-player mode. Ever wanted to play Broken Sword while a second player can point at things rather than just watching? Yeah, we never did either. But it's here.
The majority of the game, however, still remains largely unchanged. That means that you'll still be leading George around various locations, having amusing conversations with the locals, picking up and combining items to retrieve other items and advance, and making pithy observations on mundane objects. This is the standard adventure-game format, and it still works quite well, largely because of the clever dialogue and engaging storyline which constantly drives you to keep playing for the game's twelve-hour length. There's a reason so many people think fondly of Shadow of the Templars, and that's because even after all these years it's still a surprisingly riveting experience. As well as an often very funny one.
Now, unfortunately where Broken Sword falls down is where it should be shining - in its presentation. The game has some great new additions, including new character portraits and cut-scenes by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, which match and mingle with the original game's traditional animation quite well. Unfortunately, they're only animated in certain key moments, which means that most of the time, you'll be staring at static, albeit well-drawn, faces. Something else that is a little strange is that the characters in Nico's new sections appear to be cel-shaded 3D models, instead of the traditionally animated 2D sprites of the original game. They still blend well with the scenery (although their animations are a bit stiff), but it's a little perplexing why they didn't just use the old sprite style for consistency's sake.
That article in the top-right? "Brutal Assasination of Pierre Carchon. The Nation in a State of Shock." Yeah, we know French.
The biggest issue is with the game's audio. Barrington Pheloung's brilliant soundtrack (which is also fully orchestrated) returns, lending the game the same amount of European charm and villanous menace that it always did. The problem is with the quality of the recorded dialogue. While the new dialogue recorded by the actors for Nico's sections and new linking passages is fine, the quality of the voice samples from the original game (which accounts for most of the game's dialogue, keep in mind) is heart-breakingly sub-par. At times there are weird echoes, at others it's hard to make out what people are saying, and most of the time it just sounds horribly compressed. This is a shame, as one of the game's strongest points is the witty remarks of George and Nico, although you can always keep up with what people are saying thanks to comic-book style subtitles.
So, in the end the question is whether a thirteen year old game still holds up on the Wii? The answer is yes. If you're after an engaging storyline and memorable characters, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars: The Director's Cut offers them in spades. Newcomers will finally be able to see what all the fuss has been about, while gamers who have tried it in the past will find something new with Nico's new gameplay. If you're a Broken Sword nut, it may be worth thinking twice about playing through the game again, seeing as there's no fun in it if you remember every key event and funny line. Despite some disappointing issues with what should have been the title's greatest iteration yet, The Shadow of the Templars is still absolutely worth your time, if you're after a slower-pace, a mystery and a laugh.