Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror - Remastered (PC)

Broken Sword The Smoking Mirror Remastered logo
Developer:Revolution|Release Date:1997|Systems:Win, OS X, iOS, Android

Looking back over the games I've played for my site over the last seven years, I've noticed a pattern forming: I've played a horror game for Halloween on every odd-numbered year, while even-numbered years have gotten games like Snake's Revenge and Saints Row IV at the end of October instead. Seems to me that I've got a bit of a tradition forming here... but I despise pointless traditions, so this year on Super Adventures I'm breaking the pattern by playing Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror - Remastered! I don't think I'll be seeing any ghosts or zombies in this one.

I'm torn here, because I really want to call it Broken Sword II, but there's clearly no 'II' in that logo up there. There was in the original game's logo, but they've taken it away for the Remastered version, because I guess knowing what order things go in only confuses modern audiences. Personally, I'm more confused by the subtitle. Is it referring to a mirror that's recently been used as a murder weapon? A mirror people that go out to when they fancy a quick smoke?

Wait, I forgot to mention that I'm playing the game on Halloween because it was released on October 31st, 1997, the same day as Curse of Monkey Island and the Blade Runner adventure game, so all three are twenty years old today! Well okay, technically this is only seven years old because I'm playing the Remastered version on Steam. I would've played my original CD version but I've lost it. I’ve checked shelves, I've checked boxes, I’ve checked other boxes buried underneath boxes, and it seems like the bloody game’s just vanished.

Funny thing is, when I bought the game the discs were already damaged and some of the video files wouldn’t copy when I installed it. Fortunately, when ScummVM came out there was a compatibility problem with the video codec so Revolution put revised cutscene files up for free and I could finally play this game I'd owned for years! I actually still have that install on my hard drive ready to go, but I lost half the files in a hard drive failure and now ScummVM won’t even recognise it.

It’s like fate doesn’t want me to play this game, and it doesn't care how much physical storage media it has to break to keep me from it.



Oh, you have got to be shitting me.

Hang on, I think I've figured it out. I had another hard drive fail on me a while back and I must have rescued this install of the game from it. I put Steam on the case, and it told me that a 15.9 MB file failed to validate and will be reacquired, then kindly fixed it for me.

I'll be leaving the game at its original 640x400 resolution, by the way, to get the sharpest looking screenshots with the biggest subtitles. The game can stretch the art and fuzzy it up for you if you're playing it on a monitor made this millennium though.

The game begins with a cartoon cutscene just like the first Broken Sword, except with Mayans instead of a killer clown. There's two stories being told here, as the video intercuts between a human sacrifice on a Mayan pyramid during ancient times, and the heroes George and Nico visiting an archaeologist's mansion in France during less ancient times.

The two of them are greeted at the door by a man who looks a lot like the bloke in the past, and he invites them into Professors Oubier's house. It's kind of ominous though that as they're walking up the stairs it cuts to a man being led up the pyramid steps to his death.

Well, the guy didn't plunge a ceremonial knife through George's heart, but getting a cudgel to the back of the head isn't much fun either. Nico's spared the skull fracture though as the guy's got a friend hiding in the curtains armed with a bamboo pipe who drugs her using a blow dart.

Whoever these two are, they're old school.

So old school that they apparently haven’t seen even the Connery Bond movies, as they think kidnapping Nico and leaving George alive in an inescapable death trap's a good idea. Sure he's barely conscious and tied to chair, with a deadly spider crawling towards him and the carpet on fire, but he's gotten out of worse than this! Well... maybe. I dunno, I never finished the first Broken Sword.

The Director's Cut of the first game changed its opening cutscene a bit, but the Remastered Broken Sword II seems to give you what you'd expect from the name: the same thing, except less blocky and with more than 256 colours. Though the original animation didn’t actually include the spider in this shot; it's been added in the Remastered edition to put all the threats into the same frame, as the door slams shut to seal him inside with them.

They also replaced this cameo of poor unfortunate Mr. Plantard from the first game with a boring picture of a Mayan pyramid!

So now I'm playing as George and I have to solve this 'locked in a burning room with a deadly spider' problem with just my feet. Fortunately, this is the one bit of the game I remember how to solve (plus it's the super-easy first puzzle) so I'm not overly concerned. I don't think it's even possible to get killed in this scene, so this spider and I could stare at each other for hours without him making a move.

The controls are exactly the same as they were in Broken Sword. In fact, this may as well be Broken Sword: Episode 2 as I’ve rarely seen a sequel so identical. I could pretty much stop playing it right here really as there’s nothing new for me to learn or show off, so I think I will.


CONCLUSION

Broken Sword 2 is a lot like Broken Sword 1, except you go to different places and do different stuff. I liked the first game well enough and this seems like it'll have an interesting story, so I'll give it a Not Crap award and move on to the next game.


Though it doesn't really seem right just leaving George tied to a chair like this. Plus I suppose I should at least try to rescue Nico before turning the game off... okay fine I'll give it an hour or two, see if I can save his friend.

Broken Sword II (Original Version)
And I'm out of the chair!

I cut out all the cursor movement to make the GIF smaller, but it only took three clicks. First I used the right mouse button to examine the bookcase to see if Oubier had anything by Iain M. Banks I haven't read yet. This revealed the bit of wood keeping the thing from toppling over, which I removed with a quick left click to allow gravity to resolve my spider problem.

Then I left clicked on the sharp metal bracket to slice through George's bonds and achieve his freedom! Well relatively speaking, he's still stuck in a burning room with metal bars blocking all the windows, but I'm sure I'll soon come up with a solution to that as well. And it'll probably involve clicking on things.

This is the original Broken Sword II you're looking at here by the way, as I figured it's 256 colour art would mean a smaller GIF with no quality loss. Steam and GOG both offer the original version as an optional download when you get the Remastered edition, so I was able to replace my lost scratched discs at last! Of course right after doing that I actually found my long lost CD copy sitting in a box... on my desk.

The original version has this menu appear when I move my cursor to the top of the screen, so the clues are pointing to it being made for Windows 95 (though as far as I'm concerned it's a ScummVM game now). I guess the icons to the right of the Windows logo as supposed to be load and save, but this is from 1997 so they've upgraded them to CD icons instead of archaic disks. Funny, I don't remember saving much to CD back in the day... oh, it must be a picture of a hard drive platter! Yeah, that would make a lot more sense.

See, this is why the floppy disk has stuck around to this day as the universal icon for saving: you can always tell what it's meant to be.

The two versions don't seem all that different during gameplay; they've just prettified the art a little for the Remastered version and added blue hotspot markers for when my cursor is close to something I can use. That came in handy when a hotspot revealed that there's a tiny drawer inside the writing bureau with a decorated pot inside.

There's a bottle of tequila sitting there as well, so I told George to pick it up and he went and took a swig instead, getting a mouth full of worm. Now I’ve got a tequila worm and no drink.

He didn't want to pick up Nico's bag on the floor either, though he did grab her lipstick and a pair of red, lace trimmed panties though. Just in case. There's all kinds of item interaction going on here, which is a nice change to all the talking Broken Sword 1 started with.

Aww, I've made George sad now. This is another thing added for the Remastered version by the way; the original game doesn't have portraits appearing during dialogue.

That inferno blocking the door is the well-mannered kind that keeps to itself and tries not to inconvenience anyone too much, but it’s still in the way and I need to resolve that. The water syphon on the cabinet seems like part of the solution but the gas cylinder is empty, so it's useless as a fire extinguisher until I can replace it. The cabinet's the obvious place to look for a new cylinder but it's locked, and this key I found in the pot doesn't fit.

So I checked the room again examining the note in Nico’s bag, the photograph on the wall, even the spider box, but nothing. They've added a hint system for the Remastered edition, but I've got too much puzzle-solving momentum going to give in and look up the answer now.

I'll just have to use everything on everything and see what happens.

Oh, so he can pick locks with blowpipe darts huh? That would've been nice to know earlier. He could've said something like 'this isn't much of a lock, I bet if I had some kind of pin even I could get it open', and then I would've been suitably informed about his skills.

Anyway, the heat's blown one of the gas cylinders, but cylinder #2 is intact. It's also bloody hot so I need to use something to pick it up with...

Hey, this seems like a perfect opportunity to whip out my exotic panties.

"With a well-aimed squirt of his soda fountain our unshakable hero saved the day!"
I love how dorky George is, even after all he went through in the first game. Though he’s smart enough to know that the door handle would be hot without touching it, and badass enough to kick it open without tripping and falling down the stairs or something.

Now I can cross 'get out of the chair' and 'escape the room' off my list of things I wanted to do, and move on to saving Nico.

That key I found in the pot turned out to be the house key, but before leaving I used Oubier's phone to call up the asshole who sent Nico the panties and arranged to meet him at a café. It seems like this  Lobineau guy might know something and I could use the help.

So now I'm stuck outside a café somewhere in France, unable to move from this chair. I'm waiting for George's arch-rival Lobineau, but there's no way he's going to arrive until I've figured out how to get a coffee from this rude waiter. I asked him directly and he just ignored me!

The man at the other table is someone George knows from the first game, a former police officer who's started a new career as a drunk. It doesn't seem like I can show people absolutely everything in my inventory like I could in BS1, but a few of my items have found their way into my conversation icon box. None of them are getting me this coffee though.

I tried slipping the tequila worm into his wine to drive him away so that the waiter has no choice but to acknowledge my existence, but it's not working out. I can't figure out how to get my hands on that flask he keeps pouring into his drink either. I'm doomed to be trapped here in this café trying everything on everything else until I stumble upon the solution or spontaneously develop the ability to read the designer's mind.

Oh, turns out that I just needed to talk to the waiter twice. Well... okay then.

I got my coffee and Lobinaeu appeared on cue. Then a giant portrait of his appeared to cover his head! Someone spent ages animating this scene and now people don't get to see it.

Oh, that's something worth mentioning: the Director's Cut of BS1 took out all the talking animations, but the Remastered BS2 still has them (even when it covers them up with big cartoon heads).

Broken Sword II (Original Version)
Here's the original BS2 for comparison. The only real change here, aside from the speech bubbles and portraits, is that the Remastered version smoothes out the graphics a bit. Dialogue, voices, music, all that seems the same to me.

I clicked every icon in my dialogue options trying to get Lobinaeu to give me a clue to where they've taken Nico, but the only thing he knows anything about is the decorated pot I swiped. Well, he knows a guy who might know something about it anyway. So that's my only lead: the pot Oubier used to keep his spare house key in. It's lucky I'm a kleptomaniac I guess.


MEANWHILE, SEVERAL HUNDRED KILOMETRES AWAY…


Oh cool, do I get to play as Nico for a bit now to get her out of a chair as well? Maybe crush some other poisonous creature? Or is this just a cutscene? It's just a cutscene.

Okay fine I’ll send George to the gallery to speak to Lobineau's friend then. There's no separate map screen to pick my destination with anymore, I just click the appropriate icon when I exit the location I'm at now.


SOME CLICKING IN A GALLERY LATER.


What the fuck! I gave my pot to this guy to examine and he smashed it on the ground! That thing was really expensive... probably. Plus it was my only clue. George is enraged by his shitty behaviour and vows to turn this to his own benefit and get revenge at the same time, somehow.

I spoke to the gallery owner and he was a bit of a pompous git too. He revealed that he gets his artefacts from Oubier but won't tell me what docks the man uses to bring them into the country. I didn't even know that I wanted to know about the docks, but they're apparently important. I could likely check what's written on the boxes in the back to find the info, but he won't let me near them. So now I have to figure out how to use the contents of this room and my jacket to distract the gallery owner long enough for me to snoop around in the back and hopefully get revenge on the other jackass in the process.

I have Oubier's house key, Oubier's bank statement, a letter from Lobineau to Nico, exotic panties, a news clipping about an eclipse, lipstick, a tequila worm and a poison dart. In the room there's lots of expensive pots, a credit card reader, and two girls that tell George that he's pretty in Japanese and then giggle.

Right... I think this is the perfect time for me to try out the hint feature. Because I have no idea what to do here.

This is what I hate about hint systems in adventure games: whenever I'm finally frustrated enough to resort to using them I invariably find that I have to keep clicking the button until I'm right down at the real idiot-level hints to find out what I need to do. It's really damaging to my self-esteem!

I'd figured I was done with the café on account of the fact that I'd spent forever using everything with everything else there before I left, but it turns out that the situation has changed. Man, I really hate that café. I hate it so much.

I went back there like it said and asked the ex-cop on the other table if he missed his job and when he put his hands over his face in despair I grabbed his flask of absinthe! He’ll never suspect it was me.

The art critic was totally okay with me pouring stuff in his drink without telling him, so I gave him a good dose of absinthe and he soon toppled over into a cabinet full of the priceless jugs. Another victory for George Stobbart, spiteful bastard.

With the owner distracted I can go around the back and check the packages to see where they came from.

George found some stuff out, but I can't be bothered writing it all out so I'm using this as an excuse to show off the new diary feature. Unlike the original game, BS2 Remastered lets you review the story so far, to remind yourself what's going on.

So basically George found a label and a bank statement, and from this he's deduced that Professor Oubier himself is behind Nico's kidnapping and the next clue is in Marseilles. Uh... I'm not sure I'd come to that conclusion myself, but then I suck at mysteries so I'm trusting George on this.


A FEW HOURS LATER.


Okay, now the developers are just showing off that what their artists can do (and that they've figured out how to get foreground parallax working). The place looks great, though I'm not sure about that the white outline on the lamp post. In fact, everything next to it along the water has a purple outline as well, it's weird.

Oh, I mentioned earlier that they've added blue markers to indicate hotspots when the cursor gets close, and you can see one's appeared near the bottom of the screen right now to the left of the cursor. It turned out to be useless junk though, so that was a total waste of a blue circle.

I went down some steps to look for a way to sneak around the fence, but all I've found is a guard dog and a bolted trapdoor at the bottom of the hut. There's a hinged platform in front of the dog so I'm getting the feeling I'm supposed to lure him forwards then dunk him, but I've got nothing he wants and I can't reach the hinge.

Maybe there's a string of sausages down here I can give him. There has to be something as there's no way to return to the café this time. Though now I've finally reached a location with multiple areas I've learned something new: the original Broken Sword 2 lets me jump between screens by double-clicking on the exit, but Remastered doesn't. I have to wait for him to walk to the stairs instead, and I hate waiting.

Wait... I've just spotted a tiny boat hook near the stairs! That ought to extend my reach a little. You just wait there little doggie, I'll get you soon.

Broken Sword II (Original Version)
Hey, I can look in through the hut's window!

I watched the watchman unbolt the trapdoor and drop a bottle through it, then asked him when the gate to the docks will open. 'Not in this game' was basically his answer, so I will need to break inside somehow. I'll need to get inside this hut too as the watchman's got dog biscuits and all kinds of other stuff I might need, but that means getting rid of the occupant first.

Ah, I can block the chimney and let the hut fill up with smoke. That should get rid of the watchman for a bit. Trouble is, George needs to remove this bloody conical chimney hat first, and he won't touch it because it's hot. I've tried everything on it... like the exotic panties I used to pick up the hot gas cylinder earlier, but it's not happening.

I went back down the stairs and discovered that the bottle the watchman dropped was floating in the water, so I grabbed it with the boat hook and tried pouring it out onto the hat. Didn't work! I don't even know what this game wants from me...

Oh! I just had to look at the bottle first to let George know that it's full of chimney hat cooling seawater (and touch the hat so that he knows it's hot). Now that George is aware that he has a cold thing and a hot thing I can utilise my puzzle solving techniques to use one on the other, remove the hat and block the chimney. Finally.

My dog biscuits now! I also grabbed a lump of coal, but everything else in here seems to be a red herring. More things me to try using everything in my jacket on later when I'm really stuck.

Now though I need to be elsewhere before the watchman comes back.

Broken Sword II (Original Version)
With the dog now dunked I'm faced with another conundrum: how do I get through the locked fence? I tried popping up through the trapdoor and lifting the keys from the watchman's belt with my boat hook, but they wouldn't even register as an item in the room. Every other piece of crap shows up as an item, but not the keys.

There's just one last thing I can think to try before resorting to hints...

... hey it worked! George just climbed over the damn fence without the guy catching him. Now I'm inside the docks, though not inside the warehouses.

Hey, look who it is! Well actually you can't really seem him clearly, but it's that creep who kidnapped Nico and tied George to a chair in a spider-infested inferno! Not much I can do about him from up in this window though and trying the front door seems unwise. There is a fan here next to me though, so I could try doing something about that...

... there, I just shoved my boat hook into the fan and broke both of them. No more conditioned air for him and no more hooking boats for me. I feel like I've just skipped a step in a later puzzle but it hasn't done a damn thing to help me now.

I tried throwing stuff from my inventory to get him far away from the door but George started saying things like "I decided there was a better way to get their attention," and eventually moved onto saying "Wrong wrong wrong," so I'm going back outside before he really hurts my feelings.

Hey, there's a device next to the window that drops barrels into a barge. Handy.

I tried walking off to double check I hadn't left anything I need in the hut, but it seems I'm trapped in this area now. I can't even walk back to the fence. Which is good, as it limits the number of objects I need be aware of and lets me know I haven't missed anything. Everything I need to solve this puzzle is right here.

Okay, I've got an idea. It's a bit crazy but it might just work. I'm going to try to... walk inside through the door.

Oh damn, this isn’t clever. George, I didn’t want you to knock on the door and threaten him you idiot! He's like twice your size. And he has spiders!

The man came out to do a bit of violence, so I ran away, climbed the ladder and waited for him to go back indoors. Clearly I need to lure him over to the barrel contraption I found in the last screenshot, but how? George refuses to tie the exotic panties to it.

I finally gave in and checked the hints and the answer is... activate the barrel mechanism to lure him over to the barrel mechanism. It never occurred to me to lure him over to my trap by revealing it!

With the door now open and unguarded I got inside the warehouse and discovered a clue pointing to my next destination: Quaramonte City. But now I need to get back out of here without running into the angry bloke I just knocked into a barge.

I took a lift to the warehouse attic, then jammed it by shoving a crate in front of the photoelectric sensor, so he can't get to me here at least. But now I need to get to the pallet handle (probably) and there's currently two other boxes stacked in front of it. I can't shove them aside because together they're too heavy, and now that box #1 has been pushed away I've nowhere to slide this top crate of live... somethings over to. This reminds me of all the fun I had searching boxes for my game CDs earlier.

At least this gives me another chance to listen to George telling me all the countless ways that two items don't work together. Or at least it would have if the writers had given him more unique lines; most of the time I just get a generic 'nope' statement from him.

Hang on, one of those tiny tiny lift buttons on the right isn't for the lift! I'm gonna walk over and press it.

It opened a secret passage to the room where Nico's being held! And the game immediately flashes up a message about bonus comic artwork to ruin the moment. Thanks game.

Hey, there's a new button on my menu screen that lets me read an entire prequel comic! That's cool.

I can't quit and read it yet though, I still need to rescue Nico. And George.

Now that Nico's around I can tell her to lift the box full of monkeys (or whatever) while I shove the other box over! Well, you'd think so at least, but it's not part of my conversation options. She doesn't want the panties back either.

I got the boxes out of the way without her help in the end, though she did at least join in when I needed to shove the statue along the rail to smash through the door. You'd think that Nico would be full of ideas of how to get out, seeing as she's a puzzle-solving adventure game protagonist herself, but she didn't even understand was I doing.

Right, the door's open so we've got our way out. We're on the top floor so there's a bit of a drop, but there's a cable running to the ground so I think I have an idea how we're getting down.

Well how was I supposed to know it wouldn't hold both their weight!

Good animation though.

And it's nice to see that the dog's doing alright at least. Nico's so shocked to see him that her pupils have slipped to the top of her irises.

Man those portraits really don't match the cutscene art at all. But hey I've saved Nico and reached Quaramonte so I can finally turn the game off.


CONCLUSION

I can't really judge either game properly after playing for just a couple of hours, but it seems like Broken Sword 2 is a lot like Broken Sword 1, except you go to different places and do different stuff. Plus there's less talking and more environmental puzzles. Maybe it's just that I'd had less topics to talk about this time so I stumbled across the right conversation icons quicker, but whenever I got stuck it was because I hadn't collected or used the right item, not because I hadn't said the right thing to the right person. Personally, I'm considering that to be a good thing.

The sequel's also quicker to switch up the scenery, as I visited the mansion, the café, the gallery, the docks and Quaramonte in the same amount of time I spent wandering the streets of Paris in the first game. One negative I should mention is that's it's apparently hours shorter than the original. Wait, I mean huge positive. I know a lot of people like to get lost in games for hours, but for me this means I'm considerably more likely to ever finish the thing.

Visually it seems identical to the first game and that's fine because the first game looked great. It also sounds the same, and that's fine too because the original game had great voice acting and music. Everything is fine. Well okay, I'm not 100% keen on Nico's new voice, but then I wasn't a massive fan of her old voice either, so that's not a big deal.

This is definitely a remastered version this time rather than a director's cut, with smoothed out graphics and features like the hotspots, diary and hints, but no extra chapters, dialogue, or sliding block puzzle (that I'm aware of). All the animation seems intact this time, and that's good because it's great. It's a bit annoying that they took out the option to double-click to jump between screens instantly, so I have to put up with his slow-ass walking speed, but other than that it seems like the Remastered game is what you want. Unless the hints are too much of a temptation.

If you buy it from GOG or Steam you get both versions to play with, so you can try them both out. Or go nuts and play them simultaneously if you want to! That's what I did with the first game. You know, for research, for my video game site. Anyway, I'm done.



Thanks for reading, comments are cool and welcome.

7 comments:

  1. The cafe, is the exact same one from BS1, they copy pasted the graphic.

    I always liked the slowness of the first one game better. But this was also fun, until the last chapters with the pyramid, which weren't so fun.

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  2. I am almost certain that I haven't played this game but that watchman's hut puzzle seems very familiar.

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  3. I really like the two first game of the series... i really hate the rest of them... not beacuse the history or gameplay... just because they take away what makes BS1 and 2 good...and is the hand draw animation...they replace it for horrible 3d animation in 3 and 4 and also horrible pendulo style animation in the last one...Broken Sword 2.5 (a fan made game) is much better than the rest of the series just beacuse of that... I also dont like the remastered and final cut version of the games... the portrait looks ugly and also for the inclusion of some stupid puzzles... this kind of "remakes" (like the gabriel knight 1 and monkey island 1 and 2) are really really really horribles... like the one that are trying to do of Fate of Atlantis... horrible horrible horrible...really...

    PS: do Paradigm...thats good and funny...and great graphics too

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  4. I have actually like this part, I have played Broken Sword 1 but I think Broken Sword 2 is much better for me I think this is because I like to find adventures in the game, I don't know but I love its second part.

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  5. Great blog!! Your posts are super detailed and entertaining. I bought a lot of the games in this series when they were on a discount :D

    When you get a chance can you check out my blog as well and let me know what you think? I post gaming screenshots and screensavers. Here's the link: https://dovinsgaming.blogspot.com/

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  6. looks like the blog is dead now =(

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  7. Dead?! No way, it's probably a small break, nothing more...

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