Starting with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good And Evil, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re going into a big and thought-provoking experience. But, other than a very interesting and deep discussion on free will with a topiary-loving gardener/mobster, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is a fun and colorful globe-trotting adventure with regular series protagonists George Stobbart and Nicole “Nico” Collard. The game starts with a peek at 1930s Spain before fast-forwarding to modern-day Paris, where George and Nico are quickly drawn into a mystery around a murder and the theft of a strange painting. And, through the tried-and-true mechanics of a point-and-click adventure game, they try and tie together various strings and mysteries. And, this is a very old-style adventure title, having more in common with the classic Monkey Island games than the more modern Telltale Games fare that has re-popularized the genre.
The story is told in a light-hearted way, with George and Nico interacting in amusing ways with the interesting characters they meet along the way, both old and new. And, while these old characters pop up, knowledge of the previous games is in no way necessary to find enjoyment here, as before this one I’d never even heard of the series. The writing is really amusing. George has many quippy lines and Nico get her fair share as well, with the various side and background characters getting their own quotes, too. From the stuck-up waiter to the aforementioned topiary artist, these character make playing through the story a fun experience. The downside is the game is fairly linear, especially after the characters leave Paris in the second half. But, even before that, you’re usually stuck in a room until you find the solution, not even being able to travel to other locations on the map until the current puzzle is solved.
But, sometimes the game’s point-and-click genre takes the forefront…and not always in a good way. This especially shows in the gameplay, where sometimes a more complicated solution is used instead of a more obvious and simple one. For instance, in one such situation you need to remove a large insect. Instead of just squishing it, you have to cure a man of his migraine by fixing his neon sign, he gives you a biscuit, you have to find and empty a match box, then finally you can catch the bug which was somehow blocking your progress. It’s silly, but really makes you think, especially in the latter half of the game where things can become VERY complicated and a bit unclear. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, and I felt even more satisfaction when solving these puzzles later on. But, you might find yourself peeking online at walkthroughs more than a few times. Though, after finishing the game, I actually had to go back and TRY to fail to even see if I could, which just loads the game to right before the death or failure. So, the usual “rub every item on every other item until something happens” strategy of these kinds of games can still be applied if you’re really stuck. There’s also a “hint” system, if you’re so inclined.
The game especially stands out in terms of its art style, which looks similar to a cartoon and characters have wonderful animations. The backgrounds and scenery are also very detailed and beautifully created. The only time this all falls apart a bit is when character’s faces are shown close up, and their mouths just seem…off. Almost like they’re moving stickers. Anyway, it’s a small complaint and doesn’t really detract from the experience. The sound direction is also well-done. The music fits the jaunty and fun tone of the game well, while the voice actors all give really good performances. Which is good, since all of the game’s many lines of dialogue are fully voice-acted. A particular shout-out to Tim Bentinck’s Inspector Navet, whose air of unfounded superiority is a highlight of the first half of the game.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is an enjoyable sleuthing adventure for those that love movies like The DaVinci Code or classic point-and-click adventures (or both!). The art style will draw you in with its colorful visuals and smooth animations and you’ll stay for the murder-mystery and clever dialogue along with the sometimes tough puzzles, especially in the latter half of the game. The real only problems are the short length of the game (which is common for this genre) and the odd animations when the action is zoomed in, but those are hardly deal-breakers. The price can also be a sticking point if you’re on the fence. But if you’re looking for some old-school adventuring, you can’t go wrong with this choice.