Ah, adventure games. Where else are you rewarded for stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, somehow stuffing it in your pockets, and combining those items in strange, esoteric ways to accomplish everyday tasks? Broken Sword: Secrets of the Ark is The Adventure Company’s latest foray into this fun little genre, and it just happens to be a pretty fun little game, complete with all the adventure-game quirks that fans find so appealing.
The forth game in the Broken Sword series, Secrets of the Ark once again chronicles the adventures of George Stobbart as he gets himself into some trouble of Biblical proportions. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing any of the previous titles, but aside from missing out on a few of the inside jokes, I had no problems jumping right into the story and having some fun.
The game picks up with a beautiful woman showing up on George’s doorstep, with some rather unruly goons chasing after. Soon, George finds himself jetting around the world in search of the Ark of the Covenant, which is apparently some sort of superweapon about to fall into the Wrong Hands. Puzzle-solving craziness ensues, with a colorful cast of characters and exotic locations. The story is actually quite fun, and the dialogue, while a little rusty in the translation to English, is often amusing.
The game plays in familiar adventure-game fashion, by traveling across many detailed screens, hunting for stray items, and finding clever ways to use said items. The puzzles are solid, not too easy but not incredibly off-the-wall. Generally, picking up all the items, trying all combinations with in a given situation, and talking through all the conversation topics with various characters can solve most any problem. There are a handful of non-item puzzles, which are mostly logic puzzles (including a series of “hacking” puzzles that are quite a bit of fun).
The controls are quite clean and easy to use, and well-suited to this style game. There are a few too many camera angles in each of the locations, which makes finding some of the items or hotspots tricky at times. Our Hero also doesn’t move exactly where told every time, which got a little frustrating. These were just minor issues, and didn’t detract too much from the game.
What did cause me a bit of concern was the stability of the game. I had several occasions where I’d drop to desktop or just freeze up, losing several minutes of work. In addition, for some reason I’d only hear every other line of dialogue, prompting me to turn on the subtitles so as not to miss anything important. As the dialogue was already a bit confusing in its translation, this made things more difficult than was necessary.
Aside from the dialogue drop-out, the voice acting was actually pretty good. The main characters were solid, though some of the pronunciations were odd. Some of the supporting characters weren’t as strong, but overall the vocals were decent. The graphics also held up well, while not too flashy they certainly didn’t get in the way of gameplay at any point. I never felt like I was pixel-hunting to find a certain item, which is a big problem with some adventure titles.
I had fun with Broken Sword: Secrets of the Ark, and it really helped scratch that adventure-game itch that I get every so often. It doesn’t have the fine polish or quality of the great adventure games of the early 90s, but Secrets of the Ark was still an amusing ride. The puzzles were just about right, the story kept my attention and was good for a few chuckles, and I had a good time. For adventure game fans, this title should be a nice bit of diversion.