Wednesday, May 19, 2021

That's Entertainment

I finally finished Broken Sword 5 this evening. According to Steam it took me 16.4 hours. As with so many of Steam's timings that feels way off, even though I'm sure it's accurate to the second. After all, if there's one thing computers can do it's read a clock.

Subjective perception of time is curious. I've seen my share of movies at the cinema, where I've checked the time after a couple of hours to see how much longer there is to go, only to find it's not even been an hour since the film started. That means the movie hasn't worked for me. I don't think I can come up with a single example where feeling a movie has gone on longer than it actually has suggests anything positive about about the experience.

For games it can work both ways. Sometimes, for example in a tedious instance or an attritional boss fight, fifteen minutes that passes like half an hour means exactly the same as it does in the cinema. When I say it feels as though I've been playing BS5 for at least twice as long as Steam says I have, though, that means exactly the opposite. I've been having a fine old time.


I think what happens is that for all those puzzles, when I'm doing nothing but problem-solving, staring at the screen, cogitating like crazy, mind whirring, lost to all other thought, subjective time stretches like a lazy cat. A few public minutes expand into personal hours. I can generally tell it's happened when I notice my backside has gone to sleep.

You can take that as an endorsement. Once again, I became thoroughly engrossed in George and Nico's adventures. I believe the accepted oppinion is that BS5 is far, far better than BS3 and 4, neither of which follows the traditional point-and-click format, but not quite up to the standard of BS1 and 2.

I can remember the first Broken Sword pretty well but I can't remember very much about the second (which probably means I should play it again). Based on my no doubt inaccurate memories, I'd say the fifth and so far final episode is on a par with the first two.


A lot of the strength lies with the two central characters, both of whom are likeable, amusing and good company. The voice acting is also extremely strong, particularly from Rolf Saxon, who plays George Stobbart in all five games. Nico has apparently changed actor more than once although the voice I've been listening to these last couple of weeks sounded exactly as I remembered it.

Most of the supporting cast are both well-written and well-played and the plot is good, solid pulp/noir adventure but for me the real stars of the fifth game have to be the artists. There aren't all that many locations in the game but almost all the ones we get to see are superbly detailed, intricate without ever being fussy, characterful without being quirky. I spent a lot of those sixteen hours peering into every corner of the screen.

It didn't hurt that several of the locations are places I've visited. Not just the cities or the countries but the specific places in the shots. The scenes in Paris and London are emblematic rather than representational but all the elements look entirely familiar. 


Well, perhaps not the junkyard right behind what appears to be the old Battersea Power Station. I'm pretty sure that never existed. The flying pig is a nice visual joke though.

The long section set in Catalonia brought back some memories. I've traveled a good deal in that part of Spain and while I'm not quite sure I've seen a valley exactly like the one where Senor Marques has his Castel (it looks more like the South of France to me), I have been to almost every one of the numerous towns and cities shown on the map that forms part of one of the puzzles.


The location that really surprised me was Montserat, the mountainside monastery. As a major tourist destination and somewhere I've visited a couple of times and passed by several more, the buildings and settings were instantly familiar. I've ridden on that cable car - albeit on the inside. Things like that do add something extra the experience. 

As for the gameplay, it was just about perfect for me. I found the pacing better than I expected (I remember getting very stuck at times on the first two games) and the puzzles seemed to be very well judged in the way the complexity ramps gently throughout. The in-game hints were very well-judged. I only had to use them a few times and in all cases it was because I knew what to do but couldn't quite figure out the mechanics of getting the game to let me do it.

Most of the solutions were at least feasible, if not always plausible and there were fewer times when I cocked my head at the screen and asked "Really?" than in most adventure games. I could have done without George adopting a cockroach as a pet and carrying it about in a matchbox for the entire game but maybe that's just me being picky.

The climax, including the unexpected, brief animated cut scene, was suitably spectacular. The best part was the coda. About bloody time is all I can say.


All in all, excellent entertainment. I suspect we have now seen the end of George and Nico's adventures but if not, count me in for whatever they get up to next.


  1. I think I've found a new series to examine. It's been a long time since I've played games such as this. A very long time...

    1. Most successful adventure series of all time in Europe according to wikipedia...

  2. This reminds me that I was working through the series, did the first two, was about to start 3 and veered way off into the weeds somewhere.
    I should get back on that sometime.

    1. I'm wondering now whether I should try 3 & 4. The reviews aren't encouraging but then my expectations are low...


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