A little while ago, I promised to write a reviews system for Pol, who hosts Aquarionics. Since this was around the time of [E]2’s existence, I decided that instead of writing the reviews section of the new Epistula, I would write a generic reviews system. Thus the world would continue to turn and I’d never lose content.

This hasn’t yet happened, so you’re stuck with reviews-as-articles until I find the required shaped tuits.

The Broken Sword games are adventure games. Every time a new adventure game is released, every magazine starts the review with a paragraph about the death – supposed or otherwise – of the puzzle-based adventure. Broken Sword has always been a standard use-rope-on-scaffold-to-absail-to-new-level type of adventure game, and this has survived the transition into 3D just as well as the also recently released Worms 3D has. It’s a wonderful game.

Sleeping Dragon is a traditional adventure game, but in three dimensions. It has the dreaded ‘Action Elements’, but in contrast to almost every other adventure game which has tried this, these are never separate arcade bits, but flow quite naturally though the game. They come in two parts: First are the Dragon Lair type ones, where you have a limited amount of time to do an action (Normally just clicking “use”) before the next bit of the cinematic kicks in and you either succeed – if you hit the button – or die – if you didn’t. If you didn’t, the game just instantly picks up from the beginning of the cinematic and you try again. The second type is the action stuff that has made Adventure vultures up and down the Internet hold up their hands in despair. George runs! and Jumps! and climbs! The immediate assumption seems to be “They’ve turned it into Tomb Raider” which is unfair. It’s just another adventure thing. When you get to a button, you have the option of examining it, pressing it, or using a hammer on it, or something. Standard adventure stuff. When you get to a ledge, you might have the options of climbing it, jumping it, or tying a rope to it. Standard adventure stuff, just better animated.

Here we lead onto the biggest flaw most reviews have found in the game. One of the things you can push, pull and climb over are crates. Fassands of ‘em. In the same way that previous adventures have used object based puzzles, dialogue based puzzles and just puzzle based puzzles (pull the stoppers in the right order to released the organ grinder’s monkey type stuff) Sleeping Dragon adds slidy-block based puzzles to the mix. Move crate, step on crate, shift crate. There are a fair number of them scatter around the area, slightly too many, in fact. They are rarely ever the same, and vary about as far as it is possible for them to do, but still the game would have been better less a few of them.

The game takes about 10 hours to complete, or did for me. The plot flows smoothly on from the last two games, although neither of them are required knowledge, with George and Nico no longer together and from there right though conspiracies and characters to a dramatic conclusion. The story is well planned, well written and well executed. It doesn’t cause any major continuity problems from previous games, and very few internally. The voice acting is well done throughout and made me laugh out loud a few times. The graphics were very, very shiny (on my Athlon 2000XP & Geforce 4, so your mileage may vary) although the low polygon counts on some objects and people were a little too obvious. The musical score is impressive and haunting by turns, edging its way in to build up tension where necessary and underlining important plot points where you might otherwise miss them.

The interface is without a doubt the best realisation of a 3D adventure yet. Sleeping Dragon utilises multiple fixed cameras most of the time, occasionally using guided-rail where necessary (Walking down corridors, for example) which ensure that you can always see the important items. Interesting items are highlighted using both the “Head turn” method from Lucasarts (where the character’s head turns towards any object you can examine) and a “Glint” method last seen in Adventuresoft’s Simon the Sorcerer II where every interesting item has a glinting star over it (In Broken Sword these are the items near your character, in StS2 it was all objects on screen), both of which deal nearly with the common pitfall of missed objects.

My only major fault with the interface is that there is no method of skipping dialogue. This is particularly annoying when you have to sit though several paragraphs of explanatory text that only tell you this character has no more to say to you on this topic.

All in all, a top notch adventure game, well worth the hours of your life it takes away.

(In related news, Revolution Software – who made Broken Sword 1, 2 & 3 as well as Lure of the Temptress and Beneath as Steel Sky, are offering the latter two of these titles for free. Lure of the Temptress from their web site and BASS as part of their support of the ScummVM project. ScummVM enables you to play all your old LucasArts adventures (and also BASS and Simon the Sorcerer 1 & 2) on any supported platform (Inc. Linux, Pocket PC and Smartphone))