The Da Vinci Code
Similar To That feeling you get when you realise you're about to stand in dog shit but can do nothing to prevent it the feeling you get when you're faced with the official game of the crap movie of the decent book is one of worry - especially when it's released alongside its silver screen companion, suggesting that the fundamental influence in the game's development was cold hard cash.
Rather amazingly however, The Da Vinci Code isn't entirely unappealing. Like realising it was actually a plastic joke-poo you stood on, then turning to your friends, laughing and giving them two thumbs up before walking off happier than before. If you haven't read the bestseller, the maddeningly twisty plot will keep you on edge throughout the game - probably its best appeal. Following the plot of the papery opus closely, the game lifts dialogue, characters and settings right out of Dan Brown's over-hyped pamphlet of lies and places them in a third-person Broken Sword-style clue-hunt 'em up.
Not surprising really, since Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil was on board for development and it shows in places. Despite feeling like a rushed PC conversion, The Da Vinci Code is an enjoyable adventure. Action sections are passable, and the game's logic puzzles managed to attract a crowd of baying amateur cryptographers. While it lacks the charm and cleverness of the Broken Sword games, it retains the compelling one-more-chapter allure of the novel. Also, that loser Tom Hanks isn't in it.
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The best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code is one of those books you hear about long before you read it. You might pick it up with some initial skepticism--will it lead to a slippery slope of Oprah-approved literature that ends with Tuesdays With Morrie? (And do you really want to read the same novels as your mom?) It only takes a couple of pages, though, before even the doubters are hooked. The murder mystery mixed with cryptography plus a dash of power politics deep within the bowels of the Vatican makes for truly scintillating reading. The Da Vinci Code is a page-turner even for the less literary-minded out there.
But those same doubters really couldn't be blamed for wondering why a videogame company might snap up The Da Vinci Code license. It's not like the book spent a gazillion weeks on the best-seller lists because males aged 18 to 34 were putting it on their Amazon wish lists. If you think about it, though, adapting this book into a game makes a lot of sense. Solving the mystery of a gruesome murder requires you to decipher complex codes, find pUies hidden in paintings, and unearth secret doors and hallways.... You're constantly evading a sinister assassin who represents a shadowy cabal out to destroy you....
You visit a series of exotic locations, from the Louvre Museum in Paris to the Pope's chambers in the Vatican to the catacombs of Rome and the cathedrals of Britain.... Really, all you need now is a nifty sidekick (surprise! one) and the game basically designs itself.
The Da Vinci Code is in development by The Collective and is scheduled for release this May to coincide with the opening of the motion picture also based on the book. It's a third-person action-adventure that plays out the same events from the novel using a variety of standard gameplay mechanics. Sneaking down quiet hallways, car chases through Rome, labyrinthine hedge mazes, melee fighting psychotic monks--if Vatican priests in ancient Rome did it, chances are it's in this game.
The player will assume the role of Robert Langdon, the novel's dashing protagonist. He's a Harvard professor and the world's leading symbologist (someone who interprets codes and cryptographs). Langdon is played by lovable everyman Tom Hanks in the movie, though it's not yet certain whether Hanks' likeness will be in the game. (Naturally, we're hoping at least his laughably feathery hairdo will be represented.) You'll also play as Langdon's cohort, Sophie Neveu (played in the movie by Amelie cutie Audrey Tautou). Cordy Rierson, producer on the game, describes the two characters as "stylistically and behaviorally different, providing the player a variety of experiences, including stealth, adventure, and combat." Each character will have his or her own strengths and weaknesses, too. "Sophie's petite stature, physical speed, agility, and law enforcement skills" will be her primary assets, says Rierson, while Langdon will utilize his "knowledge, physical capabilities, and prowess."
In other words, this won't be a point and click adventure tale full of arcane puzzles and other such dull fare that might be more familiar to the people who haven't played any games but CSI or Myst. "There is so much diversity offered to the player in this game," says Rierson, "whether it's stealth play through dark corridors, creating diversions for a quick getaway, or facing the fire going toe-to-toe with a mercenary monk while fighting for your life." So, while the book may have been targeted at the geriatric set, the game sounds like it's aimed directly at today's action gamers.
The movie is being directed by Ron Howard, who's come a long, long way since The Burbs. Recently, he's executive produced several TV series that are hits with the gamer crowd (Arrested Development, 24), and his record with movies (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man) is impeccable. So if Steven Spielberg is getting involved in making games with Electronic Arts and Peter Jackson's all about Kong, we wondered if Ron Howard would be wanting to get in on this game action. "Ron Howard has provided some key creative suggestions that have helped us stay true to the movie's spirit and touch on the major themes," says Rierson. That said, the game will offer something new even to someone who's read the book and seen the movie. "The game expands The Da Vinci Code universe and allows the player to explore locations not visited in the book or the film," says Rierson.
These early screens give no clear indication of how the game will play. But if even one out of 10 of the grannies who loved the book decides to pick this game up, it'll still stand a pretty good chance of outselling artsy fare such as Beyond Good and Evil.
I think you've heard of this one. The book, the movie, they've been pretty hard to miss. Controversial to a fault, the story behind The Da Vinci code is one that's been criticized and praised by more people than I care to count. You may not like the book or film, but fortunately, a story like this is great fodder for an adventure game. When you consider that The Da Vinci Code story is essentially a detective yarn relying heavily on cryptography and religious history, it's like Dan Brown (the author) wrote this story to turn it into a video game. Had the execution been as successful as the film, I might not have been disappointed.
Once you've sat through the introductory cutscenes, you've got three different types of gameplay to deal with. The first, and in my opinion most fun, is clue gathering and cryptography. Many of the puzzles presented as cryptography actually aren't, but those that are involve substitution ciphers and a few other terms that I'm totally unfamiliar with. The Fibonacci sequence plays a big part in the game.
In between the puzzles, you'll have to stealth, and when that fails, fight using a button combination mini-game. The problem with the fighting is that it gets very tedious and difficult. Although it looks good when you're fighting, getting into a fight with more than one person is a quick route to getting your butt kicked. I found it much easier to sneak up behind people and do stealth attacks throughout the game. When you do this, the enemies provide no challenge.
As for what you'd normally expect from an adventure title, this game's presentation does stand out from the norm. While the gameplay isn't great, the interface that backs it up is top notch, well designed. The game environments are finely crafted, with some really stunningly detailed architecture. Given that you get to see a beautiful cathedral, and among other things, The Louvre, the quality and detail of this game is important. Finally, the character models are better detailed than most, and the combat gameplay shows off some interesting fight choreography.
My final opinion is that this game is a good rental. It looks nice, plays well if you can avoid combat, and has enough puzzles to keep you intrigued for a while. If it were better, it'd be worth picking up, but this game just isn't what I'd call top notch. To criticize, the developers of this game need to learn two important lessons. Reloading isn't fun, and button mashing should not immediately precede or follow fine button manipulation.