The last suffer.
Even before I began playing The Da Vinci Code, the mysteries were piling up. Why would such a non-game-like book and film be adapted into a game? Why were my editors grinning like a bunch of self-satisfied Mona Lisas when they tossed me the copy? What new secret could lie behind the Da Vinci programming code?
The clue, I thought, must be in the title itself. THE DA VINCI CODE. An obvious anagram, but what could be the solution? By rearranging the letters of the title, I was led on a twisting, suspenseful journey into the deepest and darkest of places. All of the possible solutions to the anagram pointed to one unassailable fact: this game sucks.
[image1]The most obvious anagram, surely, is OI DAD, CHIC EVENT. The event of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel and its subsequent film certainly was très chic, and its translation to game code marks the one of the first times a bestseller has been thus adapted. The suspiciously successful novel blended historical speculation with suspenseful puzzles and riddles. The game recreates most of the major plot points from the book, following symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they chase a trail of clues drawn from Da Vinci’s famous works. From the Louvre to various chapels to airport hangars, Robert and Sophie work as a team, solving puzzles, unlocking doors, and getting to the bottom of the conspiracy. Not surprisingly, the game’s story is its strong point. But that’s a lonely point indeed.
Why OI DAD, though? Because the game is meant for parents? Yet the more sexual themes of the novel have been suppressed! OI might have baffled us forever…until we remembered that the game mostly appeals to fans of the book, and that that audience is mainly Christian. So is The Da Vinci Code game intended for Jewish gamers? Possibly, possibly.
Besides, such a clue might explain why the game is so preachy, as Robert often explains Christian history in long-winded detail. We might have predicted this from the enigmatic solution DIDACTIC OVEN HE. Robert often acts like a didactic oven, heating up the debate over Jesus, history, and religion with his interminable opinions. Some of the verbiage is necessary to solve puzzles and some stories are even interesting in a History Channel kind of way, but it’s all as dry as an overcooked meatloaf.
Still, you will find yourself re-reading most of the stories in order to solve the hundreds of anagrams, crytograms, tile-puzzles, and passwords that constitute the bulk of the gameplay. Puzzles range in difficulty and are clever in their use of the historical information that Robert constantly spouts. All of the puzzles are new to the game, and while maintaining the spirit of the book, have different answers. A few of the puzzles even have solutions that do not fit the clues, making them difficult since the “hint” function seems sporadic in its usefulness. Perhaps the link between funding for the game and adequate clue-making is the answer to the question. Why else would the title spell THE ADVICE COIN?
[image2]If I had an advice coin, I’d give it to 2K and tell them to fire their testers. The multitude of glitches and unintuitive programming missteps are so plentiful that the game might have been called ODD TIC HAVE I? NICE! Odd tics include the game freezing when you try to use certain weapons, an essential clue being invisible and the inability to go through doors or interact with objects when you are carrying something. Nice!
DOVE IN THE ACID, on the other hand, seems to refer to what the programmers did before they designed the control scheme. Both Robert and Sophie move with the right stick, sneak with the left trigger, and interact with objects with a single button. While the simplicity seems hard to screw up, your companion will nearly always get in your way, sometimes crowding you into corners. Robert and Sophie’s relationship often feels trapped…literally.
Little features like dragging bodies into shadows and distracting opponents with thrown objects are useless. Robert is unable to drag a body for more than a foot before putting the body down again. It seems like a function that might have been a good idea before the acid diving began.
Not that it matters much. The enemy A.I. is as forgetful as the anagrammed title EVIDENT COCA HI seems to indicate. Enemies will follow you until you enter a shadow, at which point they will forget all about you. One thing you didn’t know about Robert Langdon: he’s a Jedi Ninja.
With the skills to prove it, as combat is ridiculously easy and boring. When you engage an enemy, you can choose to hit them, push them, or throw them. Depending on your choice, you must follow different button prompts at the bottom of the screen; successfully tapping them in the right order will yield a “cinematic” fight experience. Robert and Sophie are unstoppable together and the ease of combat obviates any of the broken stealth functions. Is this the solution to the mysterious phrase hidden in the game’s title: I’D EVEN HIT DA COC? Ouch!
[image3]Although it appears I have filleted the game like a dead fish, the title does ask me to VINDICATE THE COD. The combat, stealth, and action may suck, but the game does introduce some decent interactive design. For one, when you “examine” an area, say a desk or a pile of trash, the game switches to a first-person view with a cursor. By clicking on various objects you can search the area for items. It’s not particularly challenging, but at least it isn’t broken.
And while the graphics are most often choppy, they actually shine in the reproductions of the paintings. Each looks almost photorealistic, and you can even zoom in via the “examine” mechanic. Strolling through the Louvre is actually kind of cool.
Further, the ambient music is properly tense and sets the mood when not engaged in brain-numbingly dull combat. But is the music what is referred to in the tantalizingly cryptic arrangement VIDEO ICE CHANT? Might the ice chant not also refer to the chillingly bad voice-acting? Tom Hanks, his pseudo-mullet, and Audrey Tatou are nowhere to be seen in the game. While Robert’s voice is bearable, Sophie has a mysteriously fake French accent. Why would she fake it? Something tells me there’s a conspiracy at work.
And now we’re in a position to at last solve the puzzle of The Da Vinci Code game. Except for a few clever puzzles, a strong story, and a handful of pretty pictures, this licensed mess is mostly a failure. But at least this foray into the interactive has yielded the real title of the franchise, and the damning secret it conceals: TV, HE DID COCAINE. That also explains why Da Vinci was into Steely Dan, though that’s another story entirely.