I came into this game expecting The Curse of Monkey Island, and what I got was Super Stealthy Crate Mover 64. I was hoping for a brand new graphical adventure, the likes of which I haven’t seen in ages, and what I got was a game that tried too hard to implement popular game features into a genre that doesn’t need them. I was looking for puzzles that were fun to solve, a story that was fun to follow, and a game for Xbox besides Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes that I’d actually want to play. What I got was Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m very thankful to own this game, as it was a generous Christmas gift from my loving parents. And it’s not like they just blindly picked a crappy game to give me—I specifically asked for this crappy game. I guess I must not have read enough reviews of it, or not paid attention to said reviews, because this is a game that should definitely not be in my collection. Well, okay, that’s stretching things a big, considering I have Bubsy and Hexen in my collection; but the fact remains that this game was not worth my parents spending their money on.
The story is this: You play as both George Stobbart and Nico Collard, former sweethearts who starred in the last two Broken Sword games. Nico is a reporter assigned to interview a computer geek about this “end of the world theory” he has, but she has trouble accomplishing this, as she finds the geek dead at his computer. Meanwhile, George is on a mission to talk to this other geek about this energy-making device he’s created, but he has trouble accomplishing this, as he finds the geek dead at his cave. These two paths converge to form the story of evil masterminds and destroying the world and yadda yadda blah blah.
To show you how interested in this story I was, in writing this review, I had to keep referencing the game’s instruction manual, because I wasn’t really sure what the story even is. The whole shebang is explained nicely in cutscenes and in-game action, but that doesn’t make it exciting. This game seems more like a lesson in physics than a graphical adventure.
But that’s not my main gripe with Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. The things I really dislike about this title are the crate-moving puzzles and the stealth action sequences. Being raised on LucasArts adventure titles, where the only way to die is if you really try hard at it (and even that usually involves looking up “death” in some walkthrough), I was both shocked and chagrined to find myself getting killed quite frequently in Broken Sword. I could deal with the parts where you have to press one button to avoid death (which seem eerily reminiscent of Dragon’s Lair), but it was the stealth sequences that really “killed” me.
At several points in the game, you have to evade spotlights and armed guards in order to get from Point A to Point B, and if you are seen at all, you are killed instantly. These guards have perfect aim. If they sense you at all, you’re dead. I didn’t much fancy that. I might have fancied it in an action game, but Broken Sword isn’t an action game. It’s an adventure game. You’re supposed to advance the story by solving tricky puzzles, not by skirting death. It just isn’t fun.
And the crate moving stuff is just pathetic. I can understand one or two puzzles like that in the game, but there are literally dozens of them in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. It’s hard to believe how often George or Nico have to manipulate boxes in a certain way in order to climb over a wall, or to create a pathway, or to reach a trap door. It’s insane, and it lacks variety. If the developers had just focused more on producing quality, unrepetitive puzzles, and less on creating crate puzzles and stealth sequences, this game could have been oodles better. As it stands now, though, I’m not particularly looking forward to Broken Sword 4.
It could have been worse, I suppose. If I hadn’t been constantly checking a FAQ so I could complete the game and finally move on to another, there might have been some fun in solving the puzzles. But the game just gets way too bogged down by the stuff I’ve mentioned. For those who care, the graphics are pretty, but the music and sound effects are not memorable in the slightest. Except for the voice acting, which for the most part is top notch.
One thing, besides the stealth and crate-moving, that I could not get over in this game, is the controls. Instead of your classic point-and-click adventure gameplay, you have direct control of the character. Just like the stealth and crate-moving, this fits a lot better with an action game than an adventure game, and just seems out of place in this title. I just purchased Broken Sword 2 a few weeks ago, so maybe that’s better. Hopefully it’s better. This isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one of the worst adventure games I’ve ever played, defeated in that category only by Escape from Monkey Island. Do yourself a favor: Don’t ask for this game for Christmas next year. Ask for Hexen instead. Yeah, you heard me right. Hexen is better than Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. That should tell you something, shouldn’t it?
Oh, man. Is THIS why Paul hates the crate-moving puzzle in 999 so much? It all makes sense now…