Wise cracking adventurer George Stobbart returns as the unlikely hero in the fourth game of the Broken Sword series, Secrets of the Ark. The game begins with George running a bail bonds business in an attempt to settle downâ€”his rest is cut short, however, when a mysterious woman being chased by the mafia draws him back into a world of conspiracies and legends. As the player, you control George (and sometimes his friends) in this third-person adventure game.
Overall, the models and locations in Secrets of the Ark look very nice (although this particular reviewer experienced some occasional graphical glitches). Old faces from the previous Broken Sword games return, and are complimented by plenty of other quirky new arrivals who George must trick or sweet-talk in order to uncover information or escape certain death. There are plenty of close-up sequences that showcase the nice graphics, and each character has a look that instantly defines them in a most fitting way.
The world is Georgeâ€™s playground, and in his quest to help his new lady friend, you will travel to a seedy New York hotel, an underground palace, a high-end massage parlor, and the Vatican, among other interesting places. Each locale is quite different from the rest, and all are textured attractively. Too much time is never spent in one area, and this is a much needed boost to an otherwise slow-paced game.
The game uses a simple point-and-click interface where the player can move his mouse around the screen, with certain hotspots changing the cursor into an icon tied to an action, such as looking through a window or picking up an object. There is the occasional wrestling with the interface when you are attempting to climb up to a certain position or click precisely on a small object, but after you become accustomed to the smaller quirks, the game plays intuitively.
As the back of the box touts, the puzzles in Secrets are for the most part logical, with only a couple frustratingly obtuse parts. Given enough time and concentration, though, nothing the game throws at you will be insurmountable, and the difficulty averages out to be fair. Some complaints may be had for the linear style the game follows, but it keeps everything clean and doesnâ€™t force the player to continually backtrack to find a missing item or talk to characters that have been removed from the story.
The script of Secrets is solid enough, and is backed by some great voice acting. Sly humor is the most shining part of the game, and many of the one-liners uttered by George or his various companions provoke the intended reaction. The sound bits can get a little stale, though, after hearing them ad nauseam when you are stuck at a certain encounter; some are clipped, but others are unfortunately not. The music of the game is fairly subtle, highlighting important moments, but is for the most part unnoticeable.
Although the pacing of Secrets of the Ark can at times feel slow, the light-hearted and witty attitude of the protagonist keeps things loose and entertaining. While hardcore fans of the adventure genre may want something more challenging and less linear, casual fans or newcomers can certainly enjoy what Secrets has to offer and not be disappointed in the least.