Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Revolution Software
Platform: Windows, Windows Mobile, DOS, Macintosh, Palm, Game Boy Advance
I hate this game. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it!
George Stobbart, an American tourist, is sitting at a café in Paris when a clown flies past him inside, setting off a bomb, blowing the place to smithereens. The intro sequence which lays this out is exciting, marvelously done. Everything from there on out is down the sewer (quite literally, in fact).
Circle Of Blood (a.k.a. Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars) is a confused, hormonal teenager. The epic plot, encompassing murder, mystery, and them good ol’ fashioned Christian soldiers, is dark and suspenseful in nature. But the characters, graphics, and dialogue aim for the clever wackiness of Disney. The result is an awkward, unbelievable mess. It begins with two corrupt, incompetent police officers who show up at the café with no fire rescue or ambulance crew to be seen. Moreover, our hero George involves himself in this mystery for no apparent reason other than for kicks. He has no background which would plausibly make him a willing participant in this soiree, other than his inclination for chasing French tail (a female protagonist wraps herself up in the plot also, though for plausible reasons). Had the writers gone for slapstick, it may have worked, yet we are bombarded with serious situations that simply don’t fit in this ridiculous world. It comes to a head when George manages to impersonate a doctor at the hospital, and nobody questions his presence despite his obvious ineptitude at being inconspicuous.
It also doesn’t help that I hate George Stobbart. I hate his smug (who-me?) demeanor. I hate his clumsy bravado. I hate his creepy, juvenile mannerisms around the female photographer. George can’t even pull off the endearing accidental hero shtick, as he’s too intelligent to come off as innocent. He’s a schmuck and I was happy every time I killed him off. And the fact that his female conquest actually falls for him by the end is so utterly ridiculous (especially considering that she exhibits appropriate disgust towards him up until that point) that I was glad to hear she gets kidnapped in the sequel.
I hate this game because there was enough talent and effort to truly create something magnificent, and instead it was wasted. Some of the one-liners are funny, and I laughed out loud a half-dozen times. Some of the serious parts are engrossing. But nothing holds any steam as the game can’t decide what audience it’s playing to. But what I hate most is the droning, pointless conversation that dominates the empty space between puzzles and plot development. Every character has something to say about every inventory item George has, and it’s difficult to determine what is important and what isn’t. And as most of what isn’t is filler (as opposed to charming conversation intended to further develop each character’s personality), I found myself redirecting a lot of my hatred for George towards the numbskulls who thought such gameplay was a good idea.
So far, the series has spawned three sequels (and a remake of this game for modern phones and consoles). Being that George stars in all of them, I don’t know if I’ll be able to bite the bullet. I’ll have to create a Broken Sword drinking game to manage.