Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered – Review

With the success of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow…but how do you follow up such a compelling story of conspiracy and murder?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Revolution Software and published by Virgin Interactive. It was released in 1997 on Microsoft Windows and the PlayStation. A remastered edition was released in 2010 on Microsoft Windows, OSX and iOS. For this review, I looked at the original version on the Playstation and PC, and the remastered version on the PC.

It has been six months since George Stobbart and Nico Collard stopped the Templar plot. Stobbart has returned to France from the US, where he was visiting his ill father, and plans to resume his relationship with Nico. Together they visit the house of archaeologist Professor Oubier in order to learn about a Mayan artefact that Collard has been researching. After arriving at Oubier’s house, they are ambushed, and Nico is kidnapped. Stobbart must rescue her whilst learning about, and preventing, a conspiracy to release the Mayan God Tezcatlipoca during an imminent eclipse.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”, or so the old saying goes. The graphics have remained in the classic animated film style, which I am a fan of. The music, whilst subtle, is atmospheric and fitting, and usually indicates either danger or that an important puzzle has been solved. The controls and gameplay also remain the same, that is, you can control George and Nico (at separate times during the game) and direct them to walk or interact with objects by using a cursor. The cursor icon will change depending on what action you can do. For example, if you place the cursor over an item you are able to pick up, the icon will turn into an animated hand that motions as if to pick up an object. It’s all very clear and straight forward. You are also able access your items from your inventory by moving your cursor to the top of the screen, where your collected items will appear. Similarly, when talking to another character, icons will appear at the bottom of the screen, indicating that more information can be gleaned from that person.

The Remastered Version

After replaying the game years after its release, Charles Cecil, who originally designed the game, wished to fix several issues he noted about the original version. He felt that the backgrounds were too pixelated, the movies were of poor quality, the audio needed sharpening up and that some of the dialogue seemed a bit out of place. With these issues addressed, Cecil explains that they decided to add a diary and a hint system. He also enlisted the help of illustrator Dave Gibbons to create new artwork for an interactive-comic bonus.[1]

A large brick building

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A comparison between the original (top) and the remastered (bottom) versions (screenshot taken by the author)

There is a small difference with the original in how you gain access to your items. In the corners of the screen are slightly translucent icons. The bottom left is a satchel where your can find your collected items; the bottom right is the diary, reminding you of your journey; top left is the option menu, and top right is a question mark for when you need help. When talking to another character, a box will appear onscreen with icons that you can click on to gather information from that person.

A person standing in front of a building

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A comparison between the original (top) and the remastered (bottom) versions (screenshot taken by the author)

I enjoyed playing this game, but I think I still prefer the first instalment. It was great to see some familiar faces from the first game, and there were some interesting new characters added too. For me, there are two things that let this game down. Firstly, I felt that they didn’t provide enough information on the Maya and Tezcatlipoca. Other players may not feel they needed more information but I’m an archaeologist and a historian by trade, and so my curiosity naturally seeks more information on such subjects. My second gripe was slightly rectified in the remastered version in that I wish they had added something new to the game to.

In the remastered version, the graphics do look a lot smoother, and the colours have been toned down a bit to add more realism to the scenes. The little portrait character boxes that appear during conversations is a nice new touch too.

Did I complete the game?:

Yes, but I found this game tougher than the first and so probably used hints more often.

What the critics said of the original Version:

Gamespot: (Playstation) “The horrendous loading times that plagued the original have been trimmed a great deal, and the animation runs a lot smoother. Still, the game is not for everyone. Earfuls of semi-relevant conversation and the digital pad’s inability to properly replicate a mouse make Broken Sword II tedious at times. But while Broken Sword II certainly isn’t revolutionary, it’s still refreshing to see a game of this nature done well. A compelling story, plot twists, offbeat humour, great graphics, and solid sound makes Broken Sword II a game with great aspirations. It’s simply too bad the game’s format and the Playstation’s limited capabilities keep Broken Sword II from fully realizing them. Overall 6.9/10.[2]

Gamespsot: (PC) “George is slightly more sophisticated (a consequence of all that traveling he did in Circle of Blood no doubt), Nico has been fleshed out a bit and takes on a few adventures of her own, and the quirky humour of Circle of Blood raises its oddball head once more (i.e., the minor character who gets up from his desk only to reveal that he works in bikini underwear – not pants – because it makes him feel friskier). It’s Circle of Blood with new characters, a new storyline, a new threat to world harmony, and a few omissions and additions that help to streamline the adventure. Overall 7.9/10.[3]

Next Generation: (PC) “What’s new helps the game immensely, and the already intuitive interface is still there. Smoking Mirror may not be an outstanding leap in graphics adventures, but much like the sequel to a good book, it’s a fun romp with familiar characters and well-worth the price of purchase. Overall 3/5.[4]

Computer Gaming World: (PC) “All in all, Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror is above average, but it’s not great. While the engine and the graphics have been refined, there are some minor slips in plot, dialogue, puzzles that bring the whole experience down a bit. Overall 3.5/5.[5]

What the critics said of the remastered version:

Gamezone: (PC) “Among the most impressive things about the Broken Sword series are its animated cut scenes, which look fantastic on the iPad. The animation itself is a bit dated, but it also brings a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of cartoons and animated movies of the same time period. The voice acting is solid, and the game sounds great on the iPad. The remastered version of The Smoking Mirror is compatible with both the iPad and iPhone, and though the game can look a bit stretched and blurry at times on the iPad, the bigger screen is preferable for gameplay purposes. Overall 8/10.[6]

My verdict:

“A great sequel and enthralling storyline. Great graphics, and tougher puzzles than the first instalment. Pity about the lack of innovation in gameplay, and information regarding the Mayan culture”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword II? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Hoggins, T., (January 4th 2011). ‘Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror Interview’. The Telegraph. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8238685/Broken-Sword-II-The-Smoking-Mirror-interview.html Accessed 7th March 2020).

[2] Stohl, B., (May 5th 2000). ‘Broken Sword II Review – Playstation’. http://www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-ii-review/1900-2545928/ Accessed on 7th March 2020).

[3] Muldoon, M., (May 1st 2000). ‘Broken Sword II Review – PC’. http://www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-the-smoking-mirror-review/1900-2538230/ Accessed on 7th March 2020).

[4] ‘Rating: PC – Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror’. Next Generation. (December 1997). Issue 36:170.

[5] Nguyen, T., ‘Review: PC – Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:162.

[6] Chase, S., (May 4th 2012). ‘Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered Review’ Gamezone.com. (https://www.gamezone.com/reviews/broken_sword_ii_the_smoking_mirror_-_remastered/ Accessed 7th March 2020).

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition – Review

Get ready for a swashbuckling adventure and set your wits against the cream…well the dregs, of the Caribbean. Only by solving mind-boggling puzzles and matching your witty repartee with your enemies will you win the day.

Original title screen (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

The first in a popular franchise, The Secret of Monkey Island was developed and published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. The Special Edition was released in 2009. It can be found on many platforms including the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, Macintosh, CDTV, FM Towns, Sega CD, OS X, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I chose to review the Version downloaded from Steam.

Plot

This single-player point-and-click adventure game starts with Guybrush Threepwood declaring “I want to be a pirate!”. What ensues is an adventure full of humour, perilous pirate trials, the rescue of a damsel in distress and the defeat of the ghost pirate LeChuck, all set in the Caribbean. Along the way Threepwood must complete tasks to progress in his adventure, many of the tasks are peculiar and to solve them involves thinking not just outside the box, but outside of any other shape you can think of as well.

What’s New?

The Special Edition sees the game get a makeover with slick new graphics, improved music and sound, and vocalisation which adds to the humour of the gags. However, for the purists you are able to revert back to the original music and graphics at the click of a button. On many of the screens you can opt to hear commentary from the games creators explaining how they created the graphics and music, which I think should be incorporated into more games.

How Does It Handle?

In order to interact with the world around you, you must choose from 12 commands at the bottom of the screen. These commands include ‘pick up’, ‘talk to’, ‘open’, ‘close’ etc. This can become quite tiresome, especially when you are stuck and need to enact the “try everything with everything” method of problem solving.

Graphics

Although cartoonish, and originally in 8-bit graphics, the backgrounds and characters are very colourful. Oddly enough, when close-ups of characters occur, they look very life-like, which is the opposite of the Special Edition. The music also sounds great and captures the pirate mood exceptionally well. For me, the Special Edition graphics adds more life to the environment.

Original graphics (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition graphics (screenshot taken by the author)

Music

The main theme is incredibly distinctive and will get stuck your head very quickly. The cartoonish pirate style in-game music works well.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The only thing that let’s this game down, and it is only one thing, is that some of the puzzles are so convoluted that you will need to use a walkthrough to find the solutions to many of the them. I like a mental challenge as much as the next person, but most would never think of using a rubber chicken as a zip-line.

Did I Complete The Game?

I did finish the game, but there were many times that I needed assistance from walkthroughs.

What The Critics Said Of The Original Version:

Computer and Video Game Magazine – “Usually the entertainment you get from an adventure is derived solely from solving puzzles, but the hilarious characters and situations, and the movie-like presentations make playing this more like taking part in a comedy film so it’s much more enjoyable.  Overall 94%[1]

Dragon Magazine: “If you enjoy a great graphic adventure spiced with humour top-notch graphics, and a soundtrack filled with really good, original compositions, this is a must buy for you. We haven’t stopped laughing yet! 5/5.[2]

Zero Magazine: “At last an adventure game that’s enjoyable rather than frustrating. Overall 84%[3].

What The Critics Said Of The Special Edition:

Eurogamer.net: “Few games can stand the test of time with such confidence, and whether your interest stems from its genre-defining significance or its reputation as an unforgettable game, you won’t be disappointed by time spent on Monkey Island. Anyone who disagrees probably fights like a cow. Overall 9/10.”[4]

IGN.com: “The Secret of Monkey Island has a special place in the museum of videogames for its quick wit, its personality, and the way it surprises us at every turn. Playing this adventure will take you back to a simpler, more innocent time before games needed to bash us over the head with ultra-violence to get our attention. They definitely don’t make ’em like this anymore. The Special Edition doesn’t offer any new gameplay, so its appeal may be limited if you’ve already been initiated. But if you’ve never seen a three-headed monkey, download this now. Overall 8.7/10.[5]

Gamespot.com: “If you’ve got opposable thumbs, a sense of humour, and a brain that you’re not afraid to use, this puzzle-filled adventure is one well worth taking. Overall 8/10.”[6]

My Verdict:

“Avast me hearties, here be a fun, classic point and click pirate game for ye. The puzzles be tough, but there be plenty of laughs for a landlubber such as yourself. Now pass me the grog!”

Rating:

What are your memories of The Secret of Monkey Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Glancey, P., ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Computer and Video Games Magazine. (December 1990). Issue 109:112-4.

[2] ‘Review: PC/MS-DOS – Secret of Monkey Island’. Dragon Magazine. (April 1991). Issue 168:49-50.

[3] ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Zero Magazine. (November 1990). Issue 13:58.

[4] Whitehead, D., (16th July 2009). ‘Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition’. Eurogamer.net.  (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review?page=2 Accessed 13th December 2019).

[5] Hatfield, D., (Jun 14th, 2009). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. IGN.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20111208163158/http://xboxlive.ign.com/articles/100/1003651p1.html Accessed 14th December 2019).

[6] Calvert, J., (April 23, 2010). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20120804010019/http://www.gamespot.com/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition/reviews/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review-6260007/ Accessed on 13th December 2019).