History: Several years back an animator left Disney Studios over artistic differences with then studio head, Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller. Don Bluth was not just any animator, he had been trained by the heir apparent to the master Walt Disney, directing animator Wolly Reitherman. Before he left Don worked on the rescuers, a style of animation that can still be seen in his work.
After leaving Disney, Don Bluth formed his own studios which have been responsible for many films, such as The Secret of Nimh, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and animation for the coin op and later computer and console versions of Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. The animators who worked on Circle of Blood were the same animators trained by Don Bluth to work on Disney quality animated feature films. This is why Circle of Blood, called Broken Sword in some parts of the world, interests me and should interest you.
Plot: An American in Paris, handsome and dashing, George Stobbard is having a cup of café one the sidewalk outside a Parisian café. A peaceful scene is transformed into one of chaos as an accordion playing clown (No, it is not Weird Al Yankovic on a rampage. - Ed.) ruthlessly kill a man and steal a priceless medieval manuscript that he is carrying.
The clown was not satisfied with killing the man, and moments later the café explodes (No not the one in the cup. - Ed.). You know that you must identify the clown killer, recover the manuscript, and save the world before you go home to the U. S. of A. Soon you find yourself embroiled in an adventure that involves the Knights Templar and their mystical secrets, and resembles Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade right down to exploring the sewers (Complete with little and big rats. -Ed.).
The Knights Templar were an elite military group and religious order who were founded during the Crusades to protect European and Papal influence in Jerusalem and the Middle East. A group is plotting to use the ancient source of power of the Templars to enslave the world under their iron fist rule.
The rich plot takes you through a number of locales including Paris and the Montfacuon Catacombs, Ireland, Spain, Syria, and the finale in Scotland. You will have to brave the rats in the sewers of Paris like Indiana Jones did, fix some appliances in an Irish Pub, Confront a murderer in an ancient hidden Templar site in Syria, convince a Templar's decendent in Spain of your good intentions, and finally defeat the Templars at their source of power below the ruins of an ancient Church in Scotland.
Interface: In the past most of the problems with Don Bluth’s computer, console, and coin-op games was the interface, which you either loved or loved to hate. The controls were unforgiving imprecise timed events that required you to act on a schedule or return later to repeat the scene over and over again. Hopefully the new interface is easy-to-use and intuitive as the press release claims.
Puzzles: The puzzles are mainly the treasure hunt type where you find the implement to advance the plot. In Syria, you need to get the toilet bowl brush stolen from a secret bar there in order to obtain admittance to the bathroom to steal a towel to jury rig a broken fan belt to get a truck to take you to the Templar site. The brush is being used by a street vendor to baste the meats he is grilling. Rat on a stick anyone.
Some of the puzzles are easy, while others are very hard to fathom. At the Templar site, you must jump off the cliff just at the right point in order to survive the encounter with a killer. I have no idea how you are supposed to figure this out from the game. I do not remember any hints, I just tried the old monkey island ledge jumping trick and it worked. Many will be advised to get a good walkthrough to help you though the rough spots. (We invite those who found the puzzles easy to explain to us mere mortals the logic behind them. This would make a good article. - Ed.)
Graphics and animation: The graphics and animation used for characters and background is traditional two dimensional with the use of a muliplane camera technique to create depth. These are not your normal animation and background drawings, they are highly sophisticated and precise artistic creations. The history of the art used has been at the forefront of animation since Disney’s Snow White was released in 1937.
Voice actors: Voice actors contribute voice overs to the product which can either be turned on or off depending on your preference. Circle of Blood (Broken Sword) uses a cast of 16 actors to play out the roles of the major players in the game. The French accents are not bad or overplayed and be prepared to hear a lot of them. The female lead played by Rachael Atkins has just the right mix of sultry sex and coy innocence.
Musical score: An original series of compositions by highly acclaimed music composer Barrington Pheloung (Nostradamus and Truly, Madly, Deeply) were created for the game. The music was played by The London Metropolitan Orchestra. The music does not intrude on the game but sets the tone. As with all orchestral accompaniments, it is very important to move along with the game. There are different themes for different areas but other than this accomplishment the music does not provide any clues to the action.
Sound effects: Hackenbacker Studios provided the sound effects
Multiplayer: The game is designed as a single player game, but would be well suited as a family experience in front of one of the new wide screen digital computer and television displays in the living room or huddled around a 17 inch monitor on the computer in the computer room.
Journalist: Industry vetran Peter liked the game and its humor, so did we.
Cindy Yans, Camputer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 68.
Peter Olafson, PC Games, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 128, 95%.