Reviewed: October 4, 2007
Released: February 13, 2007
Gamers got their first glimpse of a Broken Sword game in November of 1996 with the release of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (or Circle of Blood) to us North American gamers. The Broken Sword series was created by Charles Cecil of Revolution Software Ltd. The series so far is made up of four titles that have graced the PC, Playstation, Xbox, GBA and even the Palm Pilot. The first three games, noted in their North American titles, comprise of Circle of Blood, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror and Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. This leaves the fourth title in which I write this review for, Secrets of the Ark, A Broken Sword Game.
Secrets of the Ark is a third-person point and click adventure like many other games of its type. The games series stayed pretty much the same since its start and thank god for that. There is nothing I hate most then when a games series is shuffled around between different developers and different ideas on how to make the game. Revolution Software has made an enjoyable series and I pray that they make more.
You play as George Stobbart, the unwitting hero, in a quest to help a mysteriously beautiful women find a powerful Artifact. Anna Maria, the mysterious women is captured and it is your job to get her back and solve the mystery of a very old manuscript.
I have played many third-person adventures and I donít plan on stopping anytime soon. Some of my favorites include Syberia and Keepsake. Now enough about me, let get to the good stuff.
The interface of Secrets of the Ark are pretty simple (like they should be) and havenít really changed from the last games. You move to where you want to go simply by clicking. However there is another way to move your character. Thankfully, the game supports keyboard movement in conjunction with the mouse. There are parts in Secrets of the Ark that are near impossible just using the point and click method. Trust me on this one. I had to walk away several time in fear of breaking my keyboard.
Like most adventure games there is a drop down interface that holds items that you come in possession of thought out your adventure. Secrets of the Ark was several features that I enjoyed and some that I hated. One of the plusses of this game is the puzzles. There is everything from ďhackingĒ puzzles to elaborate environment puzzles. I will admit that I sat in front of my computer saying ďHow In the hell do I get past this guy.Ē Some of the puzzles actually take a bit of thought to complete. Sure it bugs me to no end to search for hours on how to get past certain parts in any game, but then again I donít want it to be so simple that I can fly through the game.
A perfect example is when I had to set off some sprinklers without a certain person stopping me. I had to open a window while a personís back was turned to open a bloody window to distract him so I could set some flowers on fire. I wonít even go on about how I had to get something to light them with, Sheesh! But seriously, Secrets of the Ark is a winner in my book.
Secrets of the Ark is very similar to Keepsake in its design and of course the first three Broken Sword games. The reason that Keepsake comes to mind for me to compare Secrets with is the times where you must use both characters that you have access to solve a puzzle or get past a problem. Like several other adventure games you can interact with non-playable characters (or NPCs) to gain information or as in Secrets of the Ark, get people to disappear for a few moments so you can get that key item you need to continue forward.
But alas like most games, Secrets of the ark does have its faults. Secrets is first and foremost a point and click game, but as I noted above it allows you to use the arrow keys as a movement option. I stated above that I found that I needed the keyboard to complete some objectives, but the keyboard movement was also one of my problems. Every time you went through a door or entered a different area the camera angle changed (as to be expected) and did the movement controls. I felt like I was playing Resident Evil without a controller.
The other thing that bothered me was that when I needed to hack a computer network I had to be somewhere out of the way. So that means I couldnít stand outside the building that housed the computer network to hack it. I had to be across town to do it.
The graphics in Secrets of the Ark are good, not fantastic but still pretty good. In several instances some of the characters just looked plan goofy but sometimes that canít be helped. I will commend the developers on the attention to details on the character models though. Georges beard didnít look painted on like some other games that Iíve seen or played. The characters clothes actually looked pretty good as well. But there were a few things that bothered me. Small things like bushes having a shadows but not George.
The sounds in Secrets of the Ark were great, not first rate but damn good. In some adventure games the background music is overpowering, but not in Secrets of the Ark. The background music was subtle most of the time, but upbeat and noticeable at key times. I noticed it mainly when I was engaged in a timed objective, such as moving a block of ice somewhere before it melted. The voice was excellently done, though a few characters had that stereotypical voice that makes you laugh every time you hear it.
Rolf Saxon returns in his role as the voice of George yet again. I love it when they keep the same voice actor in game series. However Nico has a new voice yet again and is voiced by Katherine Pageon.
Secrets of the Ark took me a fair bit of time to beat. With all the time it took me to figure out how to get this done and how to get over there I found myself frustrated at times. But once I did get past them, I was relieved. I mean what would an adventure game be without that one puzzle what drove you nuts.
A perfect example for me would be the Piano puzzle in Myst. Man that one bugged me to no end. You may find that you will be stuck on a puzzle or two for a while but donít let it discourage you from continuing. This game is a onetime deal, but if you like the Broken Sword series you may just find yourself playing it again and again.
I highly enjoyed Secrets of the Ark and will probably play this one again. With a compelling story, complex puzzles and great voice acting, I couldnít ask for more. The controls were a bit frustrating at time but all in all a great experience. But it is a Broken Sword game. Itís to be expected after all. If youíre a fan of the Broken Sword series and even if youíve never played one before, this game is for you. The game retails at $30 dollars and I would pay it in a heartbeat.