The Da Vinci Code Review (Xbox)

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this game exists. Considering the hit status of The Da Vinci Code both the novel and on the big screen itís only natural that this story should translate to the little screen of gaming. It seems the in thing to do, and at least half the time I find myself wishing that wasnít the case. The other half the time I tend to like the video game more than the movie, but thatís entirely beside the point. Part of the problem with franchise related games is that the timing on them is critical to release with the movie, book, whatever, and that often shaves off precious development time that would have made for a better gaming experience, but possibly brought in fewer big bucks.

The cryptex!!!
The rose line comes up several times in the game, represented by a brass line through the streets of Paris

In the case of The Da Vinci Code what worked well in the book and the movie doesnít translate so well to console or PC, creating a game that is mediocre at best. There are some amusing moments, and a few puzzles that are worth the mental effort, but I never found myself blown away by what I was experiencing, or chomping at the bit to get right back in there when I took a break.

The overview of the story, which follows the book and movie fairly faithfully, deals with the death of a museum curator and the mystery surrounding it. The game gives you control of the principle characters of Sophie Neveu, police cryptologist, and Robert Langdon, symbologist and amateur theologian. These two then work their way through various locations, museums, tombs and the streets of Paris and England in an effort to solve the clues to the mystery, including the secrets of the long sought after Holy Grail, while staying a step ahead of the church and the police. I wonít get into too much further detail, since the story unfolds through the puzzle solutions and telling too much of one provides the others, but you get the general jest. If youíve read the book, you pretty much know where the game is going and if not, Iíll save the surprise.

Graphically donít expect this game to blow you away. The character models only superficially resemble their movie counterparts, and while you can control both you donít get to decide when you play who, and there arenít real advantages of one over the other. There are a few nice backgrounds more or less, and you donít get flickers that are epilepsy worthy or feel like youíre back in the days of 8 bit games, but thereís nothing thatís really a surprise or particularly nice to look at. Your graphics card wonít be straining, thatís for sure. The character movement is slow and rather jerky with some distinct problems when it comes to collision detection. I walked through walls a few times, which is something that should be reserved for Kitty Pryde, not Sophie Neveu.

Because brawling with police officers is a good idea?
More than one way to open a door

The music and sound effects for The Da Vinci Code were, in my opinion, the best feature of the game. The music is appropriately eerie without being either over or understated, appropriate to the mood of the game. The timing of musical rise and fall also worked well without taking away from the action or storyline.

The gameplay of this game is a mixed bag of tricks. There are really two major gameplay aspects that you have to deal with, the first being puzzles and the second combat.

The puzzle aspect of the game is, appropriately, the majority of the game dealing with codes and symbol combinations as well as item combination and usage. Most of the puzzles are, admittedly, straight forward and there is generally very little backtracking necessary. When you have a puzzle to solve the methods or items for solving it are generally close at hand. I found this both a good and a bad thing. It made the puzzle work straight forward, but sometimes too easy. There were moments I wanted more of a challenge from my puzzles, and they seemed to be nearly handed to me instead.

The combat aspect of the game is likely the weakest part of the game, which was a pity for as much as it came up. When you get into combat you can decide to be offensive or defensive, but it doesnít make much difference since you generally stand there and exchange blows and take damage anyway. The actual combat interface is a simon says kind of experience to press the buttons in the sequence that youíre given without error. This type of combat is designed for one-on-one encounters and isnít a bad way to play Ėif- you are in a one-on-one encounter. The problem with The Da Vinci Code is that more often than not itís not one opponent youíre facing but multiples. If your sequence is interrupted by a second bad guy deciding to beat on you then you have to start over again and you have to go through the sequence for each combatant. This gets very frustrating very quickly since thereís just no way to get through the encounters quickly without being interrupted. As well this gives no room for real world interruptions. If you start a combat there is no time for looking away from the screen unless you resign yourself to being pummeled. I did my best just to avoid combat all together, which is possible in many instances, but sooner or later youíll find yourself key mashing to try to keep up and stay in the game.

Not exactly Tom Hanks
I actually like this background. The use of the light through the windows above is a nice touch

Over all playing The Da Vinci Code wasnít a complete loss. Fans of the book or movie will find a very faithful following of plot and device in this game, but there are a few additional secrets tossed in there too. No, Iím not going to tell you what they are, then they wouldnít be secrets anymore. The full game requires about ten hours to play and isnít a terrible ten hours, but there is very little motivation to return and play more than once. The puzzles only have one solution and the plot only one resolution, very little in place to encourage follow up games, but the first ride is generally amusing for the cost of admission.

Top Gaming Moment:
Iím a fan of the cryptex. I was in the book and I find it amusing to play with virtually as well. Maybe Iíll have to ask for one for Christmas.