[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing, especially where video games are concerned. When it was first released in December of 2013, Broken Sword 5 was intended to be a nostalgic throwback to what made the original Broken Sword one of the most popular and well loved point and click adventures of the 1990’s. I still remember picking up a copy of it on the PlayStation and being enthralled with its story, its incredible painterly graphics and its likable, human characters.
Now, five years after the release of Broken Sword 5 and twenty two years after the original game was released, I’m staring at another Switch re-release. Like the hundreds and hundreds previous and current generation remakes already making their way to Switch, Broken Sword 5 brings with it no upgrades and no changes, offering only the exact same experience as it did on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, albeit with the ability to switch between docked and handheld modes.
That said, Broken Sword 5 looks as appealing today as it did when it was first released. In this iteration of the game, the design team returned to the roots that brought them so much success in Broken Sword and Broken Sword 2. Rather than being a three dimensional adventure game as per the third and fourth outings in the series, Broken Sword 5 returns to a purely two dimensional plane. The backdrops have a beautiful, hand-painted style that offers very fine detail and really brings the locations in the game to life.
In the foreground, moving features such as characters share a slightly cartoonish, but still fairly realistic style. The two different approaches to artwork blend seamlessly together in a way that feels like an update to the original Broken Sword, but without compromising Broken Sword 5 as anything other than a true point and click adventure. The music and voice acting is absolutely top notch, with lead characters George Stobbart and Nico Collard delivering excellent performances and a whole cast of sinister, funny and sarcastic roles around them adding a lot of interest.
I think that’s one of the things that I loved about the original, as a teenager. Broken Sword 5 has the same kind of witty, fairly adult script (featuring romance, action, murder and so on) that the original did, as well as a good few dialogue puzzles. It was those things that made me feel rather highbrow back in my youth. Now, as an adult, I can still appreciate the same kind of writing from a different perspective, although oddly I think that I am less capable of working out some of the more abstract puzzles (of which there are few) than I was when I was younger.
On the subject of puzzles, Broken Sword 5 returns to the same kind of form that it found across both of the first two games and for anyone who remembers the famous goat encounter, there’s even a little Easter Egg here that’s just for you. Without giving away any spoilers, Broken Sword games are certainly at their best when they deliver reliable, realistic puzzles that stretch the imagination just far enough to make the player sigh with relief when they finally solve their current challenge, rather than exclaim with frustration because they’ve had to try every random combination of items.
The locations are also as varied and interesting as fans of the series have come to expect and demand. Again, the first two games played this best when they delivered scenes that were visually impressive because of the architecture and the ingenuity of the things that they depicted – the Catacombs of the first game, or the Mayan Ziggurat of The Smoking Mirror. Broken Sword 5 aims for a diverse set of locations that really feel exciting and fun – from the opening art gallery, to streets both modern and ancient and beyond to yet more catacombs, mansions and ancient courtyards.
Overall, Broken Sword 5 does a good enough job to rekindle my love for the series, but it’s a stretch to mention that the Switch version is worth picking up if you have any other version of the game already. This is a precise and well done port of a game that exists on every other console of the current and previous generation, although I guess it’s fair to say that if you are a dedicated Nintendo player, you won’t have had a chance to play a Broken Sword game since the Wii. Basically, if you’ve never played Broken Sword 5 and want to, this is the version I’d get, thanks to it’s portable awesomeness. If you’ve played it already, keep on walking.