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Circle of Blood (Game Boy Advance)

81
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3.4
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Written by  :  Ruben van der Leun (11)
Written on  :  Sep 07, 2002
Platform  :  Game Boy Advance
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

An extremely well-executed adventure for the Game Boy Advance.

The Good

I was surprised when I first heard that an adventure series, previously released for the PC and Playstation, was going to be ported to the Game Boy Advance. Having never had the opportunity to play this game, and being quite a fan of adventure games, I sought out this game for the Game Boy Advance. Suffice to say, this game is one of my most pleasant buys I've made so far for the little handheld console.

The game itself starts out in Paris, where George Stobbart is quietly enjoying his vacation. In the beginning, the peaceful life takes a turn for the worse when the restaurant where Stobbart is relaxing is suddenly blown up, and a single man dies in the incident. For various reasons, George feels that he has to solve the mystery. Little does he know that this little adventure will soon turn out to be a world-wide quest of epic proportions...

I am very surprised how well an adventure game works for the GBA. Broken Sword originally used a point-and-click system, but the developers chose to implent a different system for the GBA release. It reminds me pretty much of playing style found in Grim Fandango... The player controls George movement with the D-Pad, essentially making George the 'cursor' in the game. Whenever the player comes near a usable object, a small icon pops near the object in question, usually signifying what one can do with the object(ie. a pointing hand shows that George can walk towards a new room, whilst magnifying glass signifies that George can take a closer look at the object). The player interacts with objects using the A Button, whilst he can use the B Button to look at an object. The L-Pad brings up the inventory, in which the player can use an object or merge two objects together. The R-Pad brings up a nifty feature that will reveal all the hotspots within a room. Whilst this option makes the game less difficult, it also prevent the game from turning into a 'find-the-hotspot/pixel' game.

The graphics have been extremely well ported from the PC/PS versions to the GBA version. Every room is displayed with crisp detail, and characters only become somewhat pixelated when they come very close to the screen. All icons found in the game define very well what they're represent.

The sound effects and music are well represented. The music ranges from average to very good. The sound effects are somewhat average, they don't really stand out. Naturally, the GBA version does not have any speech, unlike its PC and PS version.

And of course, now I come to one of the (if not, the) most important part of an adventure game : the story. Suffice to say, Broken Sword delivers. Actually, Broken Sword delivers EXTREMELY well. The mystery starts out good, with a mysterious clown blowing up a restaurant. Once the smoke clears, you can start digging up several clues, and meet a fascinating French reporter who can aid in solving the murder. However, once the player starts digging further into the mystery, and searching for the identity of the murderer, everything gets turned upside down. Once you think that you have figured someone/something out, a new clue is revealed that invalidates your theories, and your mind immediately start to absorb all the information, and new questions arise... the story will surely hold you from the explosive start to the surprising ending.

Of course, an adventure game can't be an adventure game without its puzzles. Just like the story, Broken Sword delivers with its puzzles. They are often laid out in a logical fashion, but won't pose too much of a problem for the average adventurer. The difficulty is just right. You might be stuck for a long time in a certain scene, and just when you're about to get frustrated, you suddenly notice that one clue that you missed, and immediatley solve the puzzle and move on. Then, you might get stuck again, but once more before getting frustrated, the puzzle is solved. One puzzle I sincerely enjoyed was the mystery that a certain manuscript contains. I studied it whenever I could, and it's just so fulfilling to travel to a different location and suddenly recognize something from the manuscript that will help you solve the problem.

The Bad

Unfortunatley, Broken Sword has one thing that has plaqued many a game before : Bugs. There is a bug that will leave the player stuck in a situation from where he can't continue. If you have saved past this point, you'll have to completely restart the game... Apparently, if you travel to Spain before visiting Syria, you will encounter this bug. Luckily, I had been warned of this bug beforehand and didn't walk into the death-trap myself. This happens pretty far in the game and it could be annoying to start all over. Also, on a few rare occasions, George managed to get stuck in a location, and he couldn't move at all... saving often is recommended.

I've heard from several reviews that Broken Sword is pretty hilarious on the PC and PS version. Although several sarcastic comments from George made me smile from time to time, I didn't find anything that truly made me laugh out loud(a feat not too hard to accomplish). Mayhaps most of the jokes were cut from the GBA version, or the delivery of the voice actors manage to bring out a joke, but I didn't find anything outstanding..

Also, the game is somewhat short... I managed to complete the game in about three days. Of course, I also played this game as often as I could.

The Bottom Line

In the end, playing Broken Sword feels like reading a good book. The mystery manages to keep itself mysterious throughout the story, every character manage to possess a characteristic of its own, and plot twists often come at the right moment. Once you've finished the game, you might put it away, but you'll dig it up pretty soon to go through it again to see which plot points you missed, or just to be completely entertained by its enthralling story.