Sequels to classic games can be a bit tricky, especially when they look almost the same, and if the main theme is changed, oh my… But maybe that’s a good thing and Revolution Software’s Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror is a great game on its own, plus the Remastered version of 2010 is an improvement over the Director’s Cut of the first game?
Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror (PC)
(UK 1997, developer: Revolution Software, publisher: Virgin Interactive (defunct), platforms: PC, PS1)
A good yarn with fun characters, but without conspiracies
Unlike the first game, the story doesn’t follow the path of old and Neo Templars, but is influenced by Mayan culture with a mix of crime investigation and even a pirate tale. It’s less mysterious, but still suspenseful enough to keep the player curious. Travelling the world and seeing different places and people isn’t as prominent as in the original, but there’s still a strong sense of place and there are enough interesting characters to meet. This time, the conversations have a more comedic tone to them. Fortunately, the dialogues are witty and seldom end up in terrible punch lines, always teetering on the edge of dry humor before landing on memorable quotes.
In addition to a welcome return of a prototypical American tourist couple, the other characters are just as well written: two old ladies who trust a suspicious architect with no backbone, a priest living in his treehouse because of some touchy problems with the locals, a governor’s son who is patronized by his mom (the governor), are some of the likeable characters. Only the really bad guy and whole demon plot feel a bit too clichéd and trashy, and the ending is also rushed. On the plus side, Nico is a playable character and despite the missed opportunity to work together simultaneously to solve puzzles, this adds variety to proceedings.
One small criticism of the first game was the lack of challenging puzzles. Even if the inventiveness of a Monkey Island is never reached, the similarities to a McGuyver-style object combination of George and Nico are obvious. Most of them are fun and logical, while others can be trickier and also slow progress in certain instances. Except for one puzzle, the puzzle design relies on object combinations with the investigation/interview part. Unfortunately, the historical aspect which made the original stand out is less intriguing here, making research in most parts of the game sorely lacking. This is a shame, because the story has a lot of potential when it comes to finding certain stones strewn around the world to thwart the evil Mayan god’s resurrection plans. Going on a pirate treasure search with George is a lot of fun, while Nico’s participation is usually less involving by simply talking to people in closed environments, although it gets better at the end.
Same old tech
The presentation of the game doesn’t surprise at first, as the engine is only a refinement of the original, exemplified by smoother character animations and better-looking cutscenes, although the slow walking animations are still annoying. The backgrounds are also vibrantly realized with a hand-drawn comic-style, while the music and voice acting (except for Nico’s forced French accents; even with a new voice actress) are again of the highest quality. But one shouldn’t expect a new look or many improvements in the graphics and sound department, compared to the first game.
Remastered and reimagined?
In 2010 Revolution Software also released Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered for PC and mobile devices (iOS and Android) which addressed a few problems of the original with a higher audio quality, enhanced graphics, and fully animated facial expressions, according to the press release spreadsheet. But comparing the two reveals that the changes are ever so subtle. Something which made the Director’s Cut of the first game controversial was the inclusion of new story content and puzzles. This remastered version has none of these and is the better for it. There are some character portraits included during conversations with courtesy of Dave Gibbons (who is known for the Watchmen comic and also for artwork of Revolution Software’s earlier title Beneath A Steel Sky), but these stay true to the characters on screen without creating any discrepancies. Gameplay-wise, the addition of a diary and hotkey feature are welcome as well.
An enjoyable game, but also a worthy sequel?
Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror is a sequel which improves on the original with more, sometimes quite inventive but frequently fun puzzles. It might look the same, but the mix of mystery and crime story in addition to some likeable characters still works quite well. This time, the dialogues are even more humorous, which has an unfortunate impact on the overall suspense of the plot, despite it having a darker background with the Mayan sacrifice and demon culture. One also shouldn’t expect any Templars references, making the title Broken Sword misleading.
Still, with its great presentation and fun gameplay, this remains an accomplished adventure game. Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered does only some small cosmetic and gameplay changes to the title, therefore deserving the same score as the original (in contrast to the discrepancies between Broken Sword and Broken Sword: The Director’s Cut.
Buy the iOS game on
the ITunes Store
Buy the Android game on
For the original version:
For the remastered version:
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