The third installment of middling adventure series Broken Sword gets off to a terrible start with a goofy control scheme, but that's not the least or last of its problems.

The game has transitioned to a Gabriel Knight 3-esque engine, rendered entirely in polygonal 3D and where you run about environments with a joypad or the arrow keys. I give it kudos for automatically detecting my Xbox 360 pad, but it refused to actually use anything but the left analog stick, forcing you to go to the keyboard for buttons. And this is where it gets confusing, because instead of simply tying actions to specific buttons, it does this weird "action menu" thing that at first is just so vague and strange I can't even describe it. I sorted it enough to make decent progress in the game but even at the point that I quit I still didn't feel I understood the controls 100% and sometimes was still pushing several buttons randomly until the game actually did what I wanted it to do.

The new 3D graphics actually look pretty good (for 2004 anyway), but part of the charm of the first two games was the hand-drawn art, which is now completely gone. As far as the soundtrack, generic fluttery symphonic guy that a lot of fans seem to love is back for a third round. George retains his popular voice actor, but we've got the 3rd different Nico in 3 installments now, which is a little jarring (though she's not bad.)

Figuring out the oddball controls and interface, unfortunately, is the biggest challenge of the game. Once you're past that, this is easily the simplest and most straightforward game of the series. I faulted the second game for being way too obtuse at times, but this ones cants back too hard in the other direction. Instead of traditional point-and-click/conversation puzzles, this game centers more around object-pushing Fizzicks puzzles to show off its spiffy new 3D engine. And they're by and large obvious and easy. One other issue with the new 3D engine is that it sometimes has you running about huge pointless areas wasting a lot of time for no good reason.

One weird element here is that the game takes a cue from Shenmue and throws in a few QTEs out of absolutely nowhere. However, don't expect the branching paths or elaborate fail/death animations of, say, a Shenmue 2. Often it's just a choice of two different actions, both of which work. If one doesn't, you just fade out and go back to the start of the QTE again automatically.

I guess the one positive thing that I can say is that if you were deeply into the Neo-Templar angle of the first game, this one returns to it and fleshes out that story even further, including some returning characters that seem to be popular with the fanbase. Outside of a tiny contingent of hardcore fans, though, I don't know why anyone would be that interested. It also gets extremely nonsensey by the end; if you don't plan on finishing the game or don't care about spoilage check out the ending sequence ( to see how fantastically ridiculous it gets. Long way from the realism of the first game.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video