I don’t know what it is about fandom that makes the “desert island” question so popular. I guess it’s a need to reinforce our tastes and question how well the things we love would hold up as infinitely repeatable experiences. A more interesting question, and one that I’ve been asked before, is what genre I’d choose if I had to be confined to one for the rest of my gaming life.
The answer may surprise you – the point and click adventure.
Despite my affinity for masochistic action games and epic RPGs, I came to terms with the fact that point and clicks were my favorite genre a few years ago. I blame Myst for starting me on this path, but in a different way, Broken Sword is just as guilty. You couldn’t find two games more different than each other while still being in the same category – one, an obtuse and self-serious puzzler drowning in lore, and the other, a character-driven mystery full of dry humor. That’s why I think I’d be just fine on my hypothetical desert island. There’s a rich history and variety for me to chew on, with a lot of great stories I’ve never had time to sit down and finish experiencing.
That’s one thing that really stands out to me, revisiting Broken Sword now. Sure, I know how to breeze through all of it now, including the horrible goat puzzle (which is so infamous that it has its own Wikipedia entry), but walking around as George Stobbard, talking to all of the batshit insane people that populate the world, it still holds up. The characters are memorable and funny. The writing is actually good. For all of the hand-wringing that goes on as we discuss how games writing needs to hold up to other mediums, it’s as if the entire adventure genre just ceases to exist, or more accurately, has been forgotten.
Does that cover for every other cheesy modern narrative? Perhaps not, but a little adventure game from 1996 proves that we can still do it. Maybe it’s a matter of proving it to the right people, since there’s a distinct look and feel to Broken Sword that’s never really been replicated anywhere else, particularly due to the fact that low key settings populated by people that are nothing more than sentient deadpan snark just don’t really show up very often anymore. It’s a maturity that’s not measured by blood and sexuality, but by intelligence and awareness. Broken Sword is a smart game. You feel smarter when playing it and smarter for engaging with and understanding its subtleties.
I recognize that may be odd praise for a game featuring a homicidal clown.