Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror is a point-and-click adventure from Revolution Studios that was first released back in 1997 for PlayStation 2 and Windows PC but is now available as a download. Great characters, a good story, clever dialog, and superb voice-acting help make up for inconsistent puzzles, some of which are good and some are boring. The second game in the Broken Sword series, this is definitely worth a try if you like character-driven adventures.
The main characters are George, an American, and his Parisian girlfriend, Nico. You start out playing as George, but when the couple separates, you play some scenes as Nico. Nico is a reporter who gets them caught up with criminals and mysteries but then blames George for all the trouble they get into! They saved the world in The Broken Sword, but separated at the end of that story when George had to return to America.
The Smoking Mirror starts 6 months later when George comes back to Paris. Nico is doing an investigative story on a druglord, and when she’s kidnapped, George gets pulled into an adventure involving drugs, smuggled South American artifacts, and mysterious curses. One of the things I like best about the series is both characters get into trouble, so sometimes it’s George rescuing Nico and sometimes it’s Nico rescuing George.
The graphics style is bright and cartoony, a little like Mortimer Beckett or Flux Family Secrets, but the animations are great throughout with lots of little details. Whether it’s Nico’s very French shrug when she can’t find something, or George bending at the knees to look at marks on the sand, it’s a real pleasure to watch. The dialog has the same kind of extra detail, and it’s fantastic. Funny lines like “She told me to guard it with my life.” “Surely it’s more valuable than that!” and “I could have broken my neck—or worse, a heel!” fit smoothly into the storyline. You should know this is not for little kids. There are three or four obscenities, and there’s a running joke about some red thong panties. Nothing crude, but Owen Wilson kind of stuff.
There are multiple deaths in the story, but thanks to the cartoony style, it’s not too intense. Your character can die in a couple of places, but as long as you save at the start of each new location, you can restore and go on. There’s no autosave, but you can save at any point in any scene, and I really like that you name your own save files. I had over 30 different save files.
There’s no in-game tutorial, so you’re going to need to read some general tips and tricks or do a lot of restarts at the beginning until you figure things out. But it’s straightforward. You talk to characters, collect inventory items, and interact with characters and items in the scene. Just remember there’s no autosave!
Some of the puzzles are great. Some are either too easy or just boring. There’s a long “lather, rinse, repeat” scene at a South American city where you have to keep talking to every character, 3 or 4 times, until finally they’ve talked enough so they themselves start doing something. The fact that the dialog is good helps, but it’s still boring. Then there are other scenes where you use 10 or 12 different objects to make things happen, and it’s all logical and interesting. So if you buy adventure games mostly for the puzzles, you’re going to find this one frustratingly inconsistent.
There’s also a really long maze sequence in the jungle. No kidding, you could spend 10 hours figuring that one out! I recommend using a strategy guide there, you won’t miss anything if you take the right paths the first time. Most people will take 20 to 25 hours for the game, but if you spend a lot of time on the maze it could be 40.
If you’ve never played an adventure game before, this would be a great one to start with. The story is engaging, the animation is fantastic, and you really get to know the characters in a way that shows you the difference between adventure games and other genres. Most of the puzzles are logical, and except for the maze, there are no long trial and error sequences. The in-scene hints are excellent. You’re putting yourself into the middle of a movie, and it’s a lot of fun. I play a lot of adventure games, and I really enjoyed this one. It’s quality work all the way through.