Has anybody seen my gal?
Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror is the sequel to Circle of Blood and it shows its heritage well. You play the part of American tourist George Stobbart. You have returned to Paris to meet your girlfriend, Nico, as she shows a Mayan artifact to a Professor Obier. You are clubbed, and Nico is drugged and taken away. You awaken, tied to a chair and left in a burning room with a giant spider. Like the stereotypical villains that they are, they have left without making sure that you are dead. Following the tradition of its predecessor,Broken Sword relies on a well-worn plot line that most would call cliché.
The plots of Broken Sword and Circle of Blood are very similar. In both, there is a powerful artifact. The bad guys want the artifact. You and the love interest (Nico) gallivant around the globe after the artifact. And of course, if you fail, the world is doomed. This game bears a strong resemblance, as does its predecessor, to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Indy is replaced with George, Sophia is replaced by Nico, and the Nazi's are replaced by Tezcatlipoca. The plot feels like the designers played the Indiana Jones game and just changed a few things around.
People who bought Circle of Blood will feel right at home. They will also be relieved to hear that Revolution has fixed most of the technical problems of Circle of Blood. I did not experience a single crash in the total time I was playing. I was relieved thatBroken Sword did not insist on overwriting my graphics driver, or reinstalling DirectX. The quality of the cutscene animations has also improved.
However, Broken Sword seems to have inherited the sound problems ofCircle of Blood. There was often a light reverberation in the speech of characters, and occasionally a total loss of sound quality for several seconds. Other than the occasional sound problem, Broken Swordis technically solid. If the sound is giving you problems, you can always turn on the subtitles.
My main gripe against Broken Sword is the puzzles. They are just too easy. Broken Sword seems to rely too much on the 'distract someone' puzzles, and it still has too many inventory puzzles that require only one or two objects, or which are too obvious. This is not to say that the puzzles are bad, just generally too easy. There is also very little danger in Broken Sword. Mostly, the only penalty for failure is being unable to advance, not death. I was glad to see that Broken sword relies less on the 'get the key to the lock' puzzle than on the 'bypass the lock' type. However, the easiness of this game is exacerbated by the fact that is very hard to misuse an object. The play value is further reduced by the linearity of the game. You can't go back to a previous location and there is only one path the end. In Fate of Atlantis although there was one ending, there were three paths to that ending. With all the designers borrowed from the Indiana Jones game, it would have been nice if they borrowed the multi-path design.
The humor found in Circle of Blood is carried over to Broken Sword. Although the jokes can be a little silly, they are not corny. Some of the humor can get a somewhat risqué at times. Although the puzzles of Broken Sword are at a good level for a child to handle without too much trouble, the dialogue makes this game more appropriate for the PG-13 crowd. If you likedCircle of Blood, you will definitely like Broken Sword. However, I would only recommend this game to someone who would like to try out an adventure game without too much challenge, or who really likes the artifact-chasing, save-the-world type of adventure. For the more experienced adventurer, I would recommend that you pass this one up.