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Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon PlayStation 2

Published by THQ
Developed by Revolution
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

It's been six years but at least we finally have another Broken Sword game. Once again we get to control both George Stobbart and Nico Collard as they attempt to thwart a plot to ruin life as we know it. Much has changed in the game world since Broken Sword II though and we know longer have point 'n' click adventure games, which is shocking, and in it's place we have full 3D games where you directly control the characters. Personally I still think the point 'n' click adventures were a lot better but times have changed and the latest title in the Broken Sword series is a different experience from any of it's prequels.

Each character begins in different parts of the world but they are soon united. The game begins with the stars of the game both in a mess. You have to get George out of a precarious situation as his airplane has just crashed and is overhanging a huge cliff. George is a patent lawyer and is meant to be meeting a professor, however when he finds him he has been murdered. When you get to control Nico she is in a much safer situation but that too soon turns very sour as the man she goes to interview, Vernon, ends up getting shot before Nico arrives and on arriving Nico comes face to face with Vernon's killer, the evil Petra. To make matters worse Petra was disguised as Nico and Nico is framed for the murder. Early on in the game George and Nico's path will cross and amazingly they are both concerned with the same problem.

Throughout the game, control will swing from George to Nico. Most of the time they will be separated but you also have stages where they are together although when this occurs you can't switch between the characters. You can ask the other character for help though if the problem requires it. There are only a few puzzles that do require both of them. On the subject of puzzles you'll be disappointed by the lack of true adventure game puzzles in this game. Instead of trying to make you think with their puzzles Revolution obviously thought that block/box pushing and pulling was far more appealing and the amount of puzzles that require you to do such tedious activity is beyond belief. There are even instances where this block/box pushing doesn't even make sense and it appears to be included for the hell of it. This lack of innovation gives the game a definite slant towards the Tomb Raider style of game rather than a classic adventure.

Revolution have attempted to add a sense of urgency to their previous games and in The Sleeping Dragon there are times where, if you don't react quickly enough, it's game over. Well it's not game over in the true sense but the scene will have to replayed until you get it right. The first of these instances is when Nico confronts Petra in Vernon's apartment. Petra pulls a gun on Nico and it looks like it's all over for Nico. After the dialogue between the two ends, you'll have a split second to press the X button. If you time it right Nico will pick up the nearby frying pan and give Petra what she deserves. If you fail you'll have to repeat the sequence again. These 'quick response' moments are actually more of a pain than they should be. There is a similar kind of thing in Shenmue II where a sequence of buttons are displayed onscreen and you have to press the buttons as soon as possible. In Shenmue II you get slightly longer to press the buttons but in The Sleeping Dragon you get hardly any time at all and I found myself just bashing the relevant button on redoing the scene and this was sufficient to get through these irritating moments.

We've already mentioned that in terms of controlling the characters, The Sleeping Dragon is nothing like the prequels in the series. The four primary buttons on the controller are context sensitive and their action (which is shown onscreen by the use of icons) changes to suit the situation. It's a system that works well and will take no time at all before you are accustomed to it. You can also make George and Nico run and sneak too should the need arise. Items can still be combined but you won't have to do this too much during the game. There is no need to worry about jumps either, as you approach a location that requires a jump, an icon will appear on screen on the button that needs pressing. Simply pressing the button will perform the jump. In a nutshell then the control scheme is really suited to the gamepad control.

Graphically The Sleeping Dragon looks good. Throughout the game you'll visit locations such as Paris, Congo, Glastonbury and Prague. There are several graphical glitches during the game and whilst this doesn't really affect anything it's a shame that they exist. Camera angles can also be a pain too. You have no control over the games camera but for most of the time there is no problem. The problems comes when you are required to sneak around to avoid detection (in Susarro's castle for instance). It's really awkward because you can't manoeuvre the camera to see what's in front of you. Some kind of camera control would have been nice. The camera niggle pales in comparison to the loading times though. We only got to play the PlayStation 2 version, so we can't say if it's the same for the Xbox version, and the loading times are horrible. The amount of loading screens you'll see are also woeful. On plenty of occasions we've encountered loading screens for apparently nothing at all. We've expected a cutscene to follow but no, nothing has happened even though we were subjected to another loading period. I would imagine this isn't a problem on the PC version though. Slowdown was also a problem on the PlayStation 2 version. The sudden drop in framerate didn't cause any problems but it's definitely disappointing to witness.

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Subtitles can be enabled and the text is quite large and very clear. You'll even find that several sounds in the game have been captioned, although not all of them. When you solve a puzzle that will allow you to move on to a different location ,music is played to signify this but this is something a deaf gamer would be unaware of. It's not a big issue though but it would have good if this sound had been captioned. In fact if there are any hearing gamers reading this I advise you to enable the subtitles as on more than a few occasions the speech has overlapped and it would have been impossible to know what was going on if it hadn't been for the subtitles.

This might seem like a negative review and I suppose I have highlighted some of the games weaker points but I'd still recommend this game to fans of the series. Whilst there are some problems with the game the quality of the story will help you to ignore most of the aforementioned faults and will keep you playing for about the 10-12 hours it takes to finish the game. The puzzles aren't particularly difficult but I suppose for most this will be a major selling point.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
In an age when adventure games are all but extinct it's great to see one of the best series return. The Sleeping Dragon is not without it's problems though.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No real problems for deaf gamers.