Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Game Review: DaVinci Code for PS2

Since Justin over at Part Time Gamer is so busy with his new house, and he's in the middle of a Tourist Trophy Tournament anyway, I thought I'd do my bit for gamer kind and give you my take on The DaVinci Code for PS2.

First of all, I should tell you that I've neither read the book nor seen the movie, so I don't have many preconceived ideals with which to compare the experience of playing the game. I will say that, in theory, the book is naturally better suited to become a game than a film, if you're the type who'd rather be involved in the mystery than watch someone else solve it.

Yes, in the tradition of Soul Reaver and Escape from Monkey Island, this is your basic puzzle game. Just the kind of thing I enjoy. There's a great deal of exposition, though, and it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Fortunately, you can just press a button to skip conversations you feel are not important or have already heard. The Blockbuster box cover recommends reading the book to be more successful with the game. I say you can get by with just seeing the movie previews and reading a few film reviews online. You should know there's a lot of seek-and-find going on, collecting clues and bonus items. You cannot get past a level until you've found all the necessary clues. There's also some actual cryptography for you, but it's mostly just letter substitution. You can even press the circle button for hints. The most annoying part is the torch-lighting puzzle (underground grotto in the garden), in which you have to figure out the correct sequence for lighting all five fire pans without having them shut each other off. I was not able to solve this without consulting a walk-through. In fact, even the guy who wrote the walk-through couldn't solve it without spening 45 minutes running around lighting the fire pans. Fortunately, someone else solved it, and sent it in to him. I'll print it at the end of this post.

Apparently game designers feel a game is just not worth playing if you don't get to fight with somebody, and in accordance with that theory you will have to fight several cops, goons, and monks. I was afraid I'd be facing something reminscent of Street Fighter 2, and would be ill-equipped to get past the first stage. However, it turns out that combat is determined not by memorizing complicated combinations to obscure moves that would never happen in the real world. At the bottom of the screen you are given a series of buttons to push. You must push these in the order in which they appear in a timely manner. Simple hand-eye coordination. And if even the timely manner part is too much for you, you can easily pause the game (mid-fight, even), go to the options menu, and switch the combat setting to Easy.

Okay, problems. Since there's so much exposition, so many clues and historical information, you are provided with a sort of notebook (R2 button) that keeps track of all the info you've been given so far. The problem comes when this notebook begins to give you info that you've not yet come across: clues you haven't found yet, poems you aren't supposed to have read, whatever. This "jumping the gun" thing seems to be present in some of the dialogue as well. But, if you've already read the book or seen the movie, I suppose none of that matters anyway. One other notebook complaint: some mysterious glitch resulted in my notebook not storing info about the second cryptex, but skipping right to the third. And another thing: where were all these crypteces coming from, anyway? There weren't scenes explaining anything but the first one. Were they all inside each other, like some bizarre form of nesting dolls? A little explanation would have been nice.

The mystery wasn't such a big mystery after all. Even though, as I said, I'd never read the book or seen the film, I still figured out the twist before the ending actually got there. I tell you, it's all M. Night Shyamalan's fault, making you expect a twist at the end of everything. Now all the surprises are spoiled.

Overall impression: nice game and all, but not one that I could play over and over again. Honestly, if the point of a game is to solve a mystery, what's the point of solving it again? It took me two days to solve it, but I had lots of free time, being sick in bed. Someone working full time, I'd say you could reasonably expect to finish the whole thing by the time the game is due back at Blockbuster.

The Hint:
Imagine that as you walk into the grotto, with the door behind you, the fire pans/star points in front of you are clock points:
Find the torch, light it with fire from one of the smaller statues, and then light the fire pans in the following order:
This will ensure all five points are lit at the same time, providing you with your next clue and your exit.

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