Final Thoughts 04

Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror

Note: This is not a review, but merely my musings after having recently completed a game as part of my Rogue's Adventures playthrough of my backlog. Follow @RoguesAdventure to keep up with my playthroughs.

Also Note: This was originally written (and game was completed) in December 2012.


Developer: Revolution Software

Release Date: Oct 31, 1997 (original), December 16, 2010 (Remastered)



After the commercial and critical success of Shadow of the Templars, Revolution Software quickly churned out a sequel using its same Virtual Theater engine it had used for its previous games. Taking place six months after the original, The Smoking Mirror reunites American George Stobbart with French Journalist Nicole Collard as they quickly become entangled in a dark plot involving the resurrection of the Mayan god of death and sacrifice.

Playing the sequel directly after the first game allowed me to compare all the changes and improvements that were made. The interface largely remains the same, as does the progressive hint system and notepad. The in-game notepad was much improved this time around, giving whole paragraphs of information that nicely summed up what had been going on in the game. The inventory was also a bit more user friendly when in dialogue mode, as only the objects that would elicit a reaction from the person would show up.

Despite getting lower scores from most reviewers, I actually enjoyed the sequel's plot and quality of writing more than its predecessor. The return of Tezcatlipoca was a much more interesting plot hook than just a bunch of guys trying to rule the world with some vague Templar powers, and characters like Karzac and the General (and his mom) provided interesting, more fleshed out antagonists than the assassin from the first game. Having an actual goal set out - finding the other two ancient Mayan stones to be used to re-seal Tezcatlipoca in his prison also gave a better sense of purpose than simply running around the world trying to solve puzzles.

Where the sequel fell short for me, however, were the puzzle designs, which for an adventure game is a pretty big knock. Too many times the solution to a puzzle was to simply talk to this certain character after learning that certain piece of information. A few inventory puzzles were used, though the game suffered from the same issue as the first in that you held on to many objects throughout the game, even after using them in a puzzle. This lead to not knowing whether they had a second use or not, and the inventory ends up getting cluttered with stuff that's never used again. Also, the game had only a single visual puzzle that I can recall, and it's near the very end when you have to decipher some hieroglyphics on the wall and match symbols. A shame as many of my favorite puzzles in the first game were visual puzzles like the chess set and the coded messages.

All in all, I'd say I'm one of the minority that liked the sequel more than its blockbuster original. The story telling, the increased use of exciting cut scenes, the characters, and the writing all worked far better for me, and the finale actually gave a really exciting (though hands-off) conclusion. The use of dual protagonists worked really well in the middle of the game to add another element of tension, and it was fun reading the notepads of both characters as each situation was written from their point of view. While the game was much shorter than the first, much of the first game's length was due to the "Director's Cut" that was added a decade later. It's too bad the puzzle design couldn't improve along with everything else.