Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon - Review
The Broken Sword series began with Shadow of the Templars on the PSOne and PC, which was a classic adventure game during the end of the old-school point-and-click adventure game era. While 3D graphics were starting to take over the world, Broken Sword showed that 2D adventure games could look and play just as good with charismatic hand drawn graphics. The Smoking Mirror was the second game in the series, bringing back Nico and George for another mystery-packed adventure. Similar to the first, it was one of the few games where sampled speech was prominent throughout, which again made it stand out from the crowd by giving the characters that extra bit of personality. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is the third title in the Broken Sword series (also being the first on the PS2), and immediately breaks away from the previous mould by being the first Broken Sword title in 3D. Unlike many other adventure games before it, The Sleeping Dragon has survived the leap from 2D to 3D, being a fantastic adventure game without losing an ounce of the Broken Sword spirit.
|The hero of the game - George.|
The Sleeping Dragon begins with two separate tales of Nico and George, the same Nico and George from the previous Broken Sword titles (fortunately a brief synopsis of both these games is included in the game, to fill in events from Nico's and George's past if youíre new to the series). Nico is a, chic, sexy journalist who is in Paris investigating a story. Just as she's about to interview the French hacker, Vernon Blier, a Nico-lookalike kills him, and flees the scene. Framed for murder, Nico must clear her name and investigate what Vernon knew that was worth dying for. George on the other hand is an adventurous patent lawyer from the US, en route to a scientist's lab located somewhere in the thick African jungle. On the way, George's Aussie pilot (very stereotypical of course, "mate") manages to fly head-first into a massive thunderstorm and crash the plane just before landing, stranding them both on the edge of a cliff. One thing leads to another, and before not too long, George and Nico cross paths (as they've done in the earlier Broken Sword titles) and work together towards a common goal.
|Don't fall off there.|
The transition from 2D to 3D may have changed the graphics and point-and-click interface of previous Broken Sword titles, but The Sleeping Dragon feels right at home on the PS2. Now the players are controlled with the directional pad (walking and running), and available actions are displayed onscreen and used with the picture buttons (such as use, look, climb). This interface is the same for the PC version of The Sleeping Dragon, and has had many PC gamers crying and screaming because of this console-based setup; PS2 owners will be rejoicing on the other hand. The controls may seem a little different to other adventure games, but they are easy to use and involve little thinking as to what each button is assigned to.
|Better then lara? Almost.|
The gameplay itself involves much walking, talking to characters and thinking (on your behalf!). There are a plethora of characters that you will meet during the course of the game, yet they all are unique and have their own character to them. That is, there doesn't seem to be a 'generic' townsperson to each area as you encounter with most adventure games, which is one big plus that makes The Sleeping Dragon stand out from the crowd. The puzzles in the game involve noticing and using odd items lying about. To make things a little easier, items (and devices you can use) in the game glimmer as you walk past them, so there is no need to constantly hammer the 'look' button to find an item or point of interest. Unfortunately, a not-so-minor annoyance I found is that the game is quite excessive with the push-the-block puzzles, which get tedious and annoying after not too long.
For such a nice game, it's appropriate that the main problem with The Sleeping Dragon doesn't lay with the game itself, but more the load times. At certain stages in the game between cutscenes and gameplay sequences, you can quite literally make yourself a cup of coffee in the time it takes loading. Most of the loading times aren't quite this bad, but it's one of those problems where once you're aware of it, they take twice as long as they actually do. Also, while not really a fault with the game, it would have been a fantastic addition if the game supported extra sound formats (such as Dolby Pro Logic II), because it would add to the atmosphere behind the game rather than the stereo and 'surround' modes that are offered.
|Just hanging around.|
Graphically, The Sleeping Dragon is right up there with the best adventure games on the PS2. Everything from landscapes and towns to people and objects has been modeled meticulously without sparing any effort. If it weren't for the sparseness of some of the towns, you could almost be convinced that they continued living and breathing after you had moved on. Characters have been modeled in a semi-comical style, similar to those in the Timesplitters games; it's just enough so that you can judge a person's character before talking to them, without them having to look like a complete caricature or cartoon character. George and Nico still keep the same charm about them from the previous Broken Sword titles, even in 3D, which will please the hordes of Broken Sword fans out there.
The eyes don't get all the fun in The Sleeping Dragon though, with well thought out background music during appropriate times during the game, and the aforementioned voice acting. Even though there is no music for the majority of the game, there are sufficient background ambient sounds, be them traffic, birds or whatever else which create the right ambience just as well as any musical score could have. Similary, the voice acting is of a high quality, with just as much effort put into the voices behind minor characters as the voices behind George and Nico. The lip-synching for the voices too is well done; while not being completely perfect, it's far from any poorly dubbed kung-fu movie.
|The Aussie pilot - drunk.|
If you hadnít worked it out already, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a fine game, for both fans of the Broken Sword series and casual gamers alike. It is a prime example of how games can progress over many years, whereby developing the engine, graphics and sound behind a game, whilst still keeping the essence and character behind the original (while thatís the 8th time Iíve used the word Ďcharacterí in this review, thatís because this game is oozing it). If you want a mysterious adventure to occupy yourself with over the Christmas break, I canít recommend The Sleeping Dragon enough; go play it now!
Review By: Chris Gobbett
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|GRAPHICS||The 2D series moves to 3D without missing a beat.||92%|
|SOUND||Ambient sounds never sounded so good, movie quality voice acting.||88%|
|GAMEPLAY||Problem-solving adventure hindered by too many block puzzles.||90%|
|VALUE||Itíll take a fair while to finish, though there arenít many extras.||89%|
|OVERALL||Broken Sword Ė The Sleeping Dragon will remind you what adventure games used to be about, good old-fashioned puzzle-solving adventure. This Christmas; Sit back, dim the lights, and prepare for one hell of a mystery adventure!||91%|