February 9, 2008
Here's the screwy thing: It wasn't until I played this swell new fan-made freeware homage to the first two games in the Broken Sword series that I understood that weird box cover picture on Broken Sword 2 (The Smoking Mirror). As you probably know, the Broken Sword games by Revolution Software are among the most heralded in adventure-gamedom. Well, the first one anyway, subtitled The Shadow of the Templars, which often pops up on best adventure game lists. The second usually gets ripped to shreds in comparison, but I never felt that was fair. Then the third and fourth entries started to get kind of Tomb Raidery and have their own controversies, so I'm not going to delve into that here.
But back to that box cover. It shows a huge loin-clothed guy in a scary mask about to plunge a dagger into our hero George Stobbart. Now, you play the game and you can't help but notice that this has virtually nothing to do with what's going on. Mostly it's George wandering around cheery cartoon backgrounds trying to outwit nasty dogs in Marseilles, or talking to gaudily dressed American tourists in some South American tourist trap. Only at the very end of the game do you arrive at an Incan, or maybe it's Mayan, tomb, but still no gory human sacrifices that I could see. Maybe I just blotted them out of my memory.
So along comes this German-adventure-fan-made game titled Baphomets Fluch 2.5. Now, what the heck is a Baphomets Fluch? I know it's the name the Broken Sword games go by in Germany, but beyond that what's it mean? Yahoo Babel Fish tells me that Fluch in German is Curse, but what is Baphomet? Turns out Baphomet is a whole whopping satanic sideshow in its own right. It's wrapped up in the Knights Templar, the subject matter of the first game, all right, but oh there's a lot more. This is serious satanic myth territory here, with goat-headed, big-boobed idols and, well, the kind of scary stuff that finally goes with that weird box cover. You see, this is one of the things I love about adventure games. They're often produced by extremely knowledgeable enthusiasts, and the games frequently have deep, bizarre back stories. Just the type of thing that fosters loyal, even cult followings. Take, for instance, Jane Jensen's Gabriel Knight series, which by the last installment turns even more twisted than the Broken Sword material.
Baphomets Fluch 2.5, or, in English, Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars, clearly has been a gargantuan labor of love for the couple of dozen folks at someplace called MindFactor who produced it over who knows how many years. I remember playing the demo a while back, then lost track of it until I recently ran across the finished game. The full game was apparently released last August and these very talented, creative folks really should be praised just for getting a final version out the door. I've had my eye on any number of similar fan-made adventure game "sequels," and most either drag on "in development" forever or just implode entirely. The King's Quest homage sequel The Silver Lining is only one prominent, ongoing example of this. Producing these games clearly requires vast amounts of work.Baphomets Fluch 2.5 appears to be a largely, perhaps exclusively, German product, but these fan projects can pull in recruits from all over the web. When you stop and think about it, that perhaps is the most significant aspect. The world wide web has permitted folks of similar leanings from all over the globe to pool their efforts together to create. When in the history of man has this been possible before? Today it's adventure game tributes, tomorrow it might be a cure for cancer.
As for the game play of Baphomets Fluch 2.5, I can report that it is smooth, expert and great fun. During those first scenes in Paris I honestly felt I was back playing the first Broken Sword game. The difference technically, to my admittedly untrained eye, was undetectable. From what I glean on the web, the "2.5" refers to the game's events taking place sometime between the end of the second and start of the thirdBroken Sword game. Okay. What I think this really means is that the people at MindFactory were able to throw in all their fave characters from the first two games.
The current download only supplies German voices, but the English subtitles are almost flawless. Not only is the spelling admirable, so is the idiom, which is usually the harder part to nail. You know, I'm starting to get the feeling that Germany really is now the hotbed of adventure games. Another impressive group of German programmers and artists recently came out with a fan sequel to Zak McKracken. (This too isdownloadable, but only in a German version and the files are enormous, in the 3 gig range.) Why have Germans taken so strongly to the adventure game? I don't know. But God bless 'em if they keep producing such good work gratis.
I hate to nitpick when a game is provided free of charge, but Baphomets Fluch 2.5is on the short side. It's breezing along, the plot humming nicely, and then George and Nico (George's sometime French girlfriend) show up in China and it all kind of stops on a dime. I got the feeling that the development team ran out of steam, or money, or time, or whatever. In any case, the story gets wrapped up in a whirlwind of verbiage. That's okay. What there was of it was excellent. Okay, it was perhaps a little too easy. The anti-linear-gameplay contingent out there also won't be that pleased. Actually, it's not so much easy as it's very hard to go too far wrong. You're never dealing with more than a handful of inventory objects before they're whisked away from you and onto the next self-contained scene. The game is primarily, like the original Broken Swords 1 and 2, two-dimensional sprites on brightly colored backgrounds, but the sprinkling of cut scenes have been lovingly, no doubt painstakingly rendered in 3D. This is not as jarring as one might expect. The 3D modeling is at times quite impressive, but at other times looks like George and Nico have been replaced by Gumby and Pokey and we've returned to the magical world of Claymation.
Really, none of this detracts from the overall excellence of the effort here. The important thing is that the game entertains you and makes you feel like you're back in George and Nico's world. The download is largish, about 700 megs. The game ran on my Vista system flawlessly. I can't really judge the voice acting since I don't sprechen sie Deutsches, but the inflections sounded well acted. The music is also of professional, symphonic quality. Honestly, I don't know how they do it. As I have mentioned more than once elsewhere, we in the adventure game community are lucky to have such talented people producing these games for us, not only the freewarers but also the excellent independent game developers. If software and hardware hadn't gotten cheap about ten years ago, the folks at Sierra and Lucas would have taken their adventure toys and gone home and we'd now be playing Tetris clones for the rest of our digital lives. We owe these hard working, dedicated, talented folks more than one round of hearty applause, and maybe a round or two of St. Pauli Girl, to boot.
So what's the final grade for Baphomets Fluch/Broken Sword 2.5? Appropriately enough, a "B." But a B with a bullet. Or, as they used to say on Romper Room, a "do" B. Keep up the good work, Boys.
Final Grade: B
System Requirements (as stated by MindFactory):
We can't specify the requirements. Please ensure to use a newer OS than Windows 98.