Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode 1 review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC
Publisher: Revolution Software
Developer: Revolution Software
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I don’t understand why the Vita hasn’t seen more adventure games. Setting aside the relatively niche status of both the genre and the handheld, considering both the attention shown to the Vita by PC developers and the Vita’s touch screen, it seems like the two should, in theory, be a perfect match for each other. Not only that, the adventure games that have come out thus far on the system — by my count, that’s The Walking Dead, Jacob Jones Episode 1 and Machinarium (plus a few visual novels like Danganronpa and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, if those count) — have all been excellent, showing that the games don’t just work well in theory, but in practice, too.

Further evidence, if you need it, can be found in the form of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse: Episode 1. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Revolution Software have been making the Broken Sword games for almost twenty years now, so by this point they’re clearly aware of what works as far as game mechanics go, and what doesn’t. Couple that with touch controls that are tailor-made for the game’s point-and-click action, and you can see why the bigger story would probably be if the game didn’t work very well. (It should probably also be noted that this isn’t Revolution’s first foray into touch gaming; they re-released their first game, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, a few years ago on iOS.)

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Having said all that, the gist of The Serpent’s Curse is pretty much what you’d expect from a Broken Sword game. There’s an ancient mystery to solved — in this particular case, the story involves a possibly cursed painting from the Spanish Civil War, Russian mobsters and Dominican monks, among other things — and George Stobbart and Nico Collard have somehow gotten mixed up in all of it. It’s probably not giving away too much to say that there are puzzles to be solved and quips to be made, and I assume that it all comes together in the end — though I can only assume, since this is only the first half of the story.

And that, if anything, is The Serpent’s Curse’s main flaw: that even though the full game has now been released on PC, Vita owners in North America are only getting the first half now, and need to wait an undetermined amount of time to see the ending. I understand wanting to release the game episodically, but still: it means that just as things here start to pick up, you’re left on a cliffhanger, with no word yet of when the second half is coming out.

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On a less annoying note (and maybe not even on an annoying note at all, depending on your point of view), I should note that the game seems sort of…out of time, for lack of a better way to phrase it. Everything about it seems to have come from a time well before now, from the art style (vaguely retro-European) to the music (’70s rock) to the way people dress and talk (again, from some point in Europe’s not-too-distant past). I don’t say this as a criticism of The Serpent’s Curse, mind you, but rather a statement of fact. Outside of Europe and the adventure genre, they literally don’t make games like this any more.

Which, of course, may be why we’ve seen so few Vita adventure games. Even though they seem to excel on the handheld, it is kind of an anachronism, as genres go. But you know what? Considering how great they’ve been on the Vita so far, and considering that Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse: Episode 1 continues on in this tradition, I say bring on the anachronisms. If they’re all as well made as The Serpent’s Curse is, then that’s a throwback I’m happy to see.

Grade: B+