Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror

1997 Revolution Software
Designed by Charles Cecil, Dave Cummins, Jonathan Howard, Steve Ince
Reviewed 1999 December 3

Rating +2 Linearity straight
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

You are (for the most part) George Stobbard, an American in Paris. George's girlfriend, Nico (whom you also get to play for a bit), a French journalist, has come across a strange Mayan artefact. As the two of you investigate it, you are attacked. Nico is kidnapped, and George is left tied to a chair in a burning apartment, with a poisonous spider on its way. Once George escapes and sets off to rescue Nico, he slowly learns of a big conspiracy unfolding in central America. After rescuing Nico, the two of you must save the world.

The story is very good, steadily developing throughout the game. The jumps from playing George to playing Nico and vice versa are a bit rough, though. You meet many good characters throughout the game, people with real personality. While the story is primarily a serious adventure, it also has a lighter side with lots of funny asides.

The gameplay is excessively linear, a series of short scenes, each a situational problem to solve. Most are inventory based, with some dialogue trees thrown in. The challenges are original, relevant, and mostly sensible, and there is a good reuse of objects. One nice touch is that the objects that you carry around are small, believably fitting into your pockets. The few large objects you need, like a mop, are only carried around by hand within that scene, and don't go into your inventory.

The game is presented as animated characters on beautiful 3 pane drawn backgrounds. As each scene scrolls to the side, the panes give a feeling of depth. Your inventory is a convenient row of small icons along the bottom. Dialogue is also handled by a row of icons, representing topics, in place of the inventory. The idea is good, but the implementation is sometimes confusing since the topic icons are small and hard to associate with what they represent (one was a picture of a man I hadn't yet seen). Overall, the interface is very transparent.

The Smoking Mirror is too easy for those looking for a good challenge, but it does have a worthwhile story. The strong linearity will be welcomed by novice or casual players -- you never have to wonder what you should be doing next. Despite it's simplicity, there is a lot of interactivity, so you do feel like you are in the game, moving along nicely.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Related reviews:

  • Broken Sword 1
  • Broken Sword 3
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.