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).

Chuck Rock – Review

He may not be the sharpest flint in pre-history, but Chuck Rock has a head as hard as a rock and a belly that is deadly. So get ready to navigate jungles and swamps, battle dinosaurs, and rescue your wife before Garry Glitter has his way with her. Unga Bunga!!!

Title screen (screenshot taken by author)

Chuck Rock is a single-player side-scrolling platform game developed by Core Design. It has been published and ported to many other platforms including:

  • Core Design – Atari St and Amiga (1991), Commodore 64 (1992), and Amiga CD32 (1994)
  • Krisalis Software – Acorn Archimedes (1991)
  • Virgin Interactive – Sega Megadrive (1991), Sega Master System (1993) and Game Gear (1992)
  • Sony Imagesoft – Sega Mega-CD (1993), SNES (1992) and Game Boy (1993).

I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

Beautiful level design (screenshot taken by author)

Plot

Set in a fantasy prehistoric Stone Age, Chuck’s wife, Ophelia, has been kidnapped by Garry Glitter (no, not the disgraced pop star).

Gameplay

Chuck must navigate his way through jungles, swamps, ice-capped mountains and caves, all the while evading various dinosaurs and prehistoric animals; or if you are feeling brave, barging them out the way with your belly, performing flying kicks, or picking up huge boulders and throwing them. I’d recommend using the latter two to kill your enemies.

Chuck may look like a everyone’s least favourite uncle, but he is the hero of this tale (screenshot taken by author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are easy to learn and are nice and responsive. The game is challenging with some tough levels. Oddly, the end bosses are all very easy to defeat with the exception of the third boss. The only boss that you need a strategy to defeat is the first boss, but other than that, it is simply a case of button mashing.

Graphics

Throughout the game the graphics look fab. There’s plenty to catch the eye and make you think “That looks cool!”.

The levels look gorgeous (screenshot taken by author)

Music

The music is good throughout the game. The opening musical number on the title screen is awesome and I found myself delaying playing the game in order to listen to the song the whole way through. It seems that even though Chuck isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, he has aspired to lead singer of a rock band.

Replay Value

Sadly this game lacks replay value, and once completed you may only wish to revisit it once or twice before turning your attention to the next challenge.

(screenshot taken by author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I completed the game without the use of cheats. Sadly, Upon completing the game you are met another example of an anti-climatic ending to a game that deserved more.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: An excellent and quite original platform game that’s highly recommended to all Megadrive players. Overall 91%.[1]

Mean Machines Index: “A brilliant, humorous Megadrive platform game with real character. Its graphics are out-of-this-world, the sound completely brilliant, and the game play pretty good too! A must have for your Megadrive collection. Overall 91%[2]

Sega Power: Groovy goings-on 100 million years B.C. with wild sonics and graphics as Chuck rescues his wife from the evil Garry Glitter. Overall 4/5.”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The gameplay could use a little fine tuning, but it is still very fun to play. The graphics are comical and the music jams. Overall 7.75/10.[4]

Megazone: “Graphics wise this game is a hit (as good as the Amiga on the Mega Drive), the sound is pretty good (not quite up to the Amiga, but still pretty hot) and some imaginative sprite drawings have been added to this game. Overall 85%.[5]

GamePro: “The game’s worth the bucks for the music and graphics alone. From standpoint of challenge and gameplay, it’s middle of the road – not too hard and not too easy. Overall 4.6/5.”[6]

My Verdict:

“Unga Bunga – The game has nice graphics and is fun to play. The simple button mashing as oppose to a strategy needed to defeat end of level bosses, is a mark against this game. The lack of replay value means that once completed I doubt you will want to play through again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Chuck Rock? 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] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (June 1992). Issue 21:76-8.

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96.

[4] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Chuck Rock’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1992). 32:26.

[5] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:36.

[6] Feline Groovy. ‘Genesis Pro Review – Chuck Rock’. GamePro. (December 1991). 29:70.