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1 Reviews

The Da Vinci Code

Can the videogame capture the thrill of the novel?

Tom Hanks as a videogame star? Nah. Can't see it, especially not at the age he is now. Fleshy jowls are appearing where his cheekbones used to be, and the kids probably wouldn't go for it. Frankly neither would we. Great actor, but digital hero? Pull the other one.

That's probably exactly what developer The Collective thought, because Hanks' likeness as the reluctant hero, university symbologist Robert Langdon, is nowhere to be seen. Some aspects of the movie have crept into the game, such as a couple of the locations, but The Da Vinci Code is more of a companion to the original paper incarnation of the story rather than the celluloid one (actually, the movie's been filmed entirely digitally, but you get the point). Unfortunately, it also means the gorgeous Audrey Tautou, who plays Sophie Neveu (another '-ologist' of old stuff) in the movie doesn't get a look in.

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Funnily enough, given all the hoo-hah surrounding the book's originality, the game instantly feels strangely familiar. The deliberate pacing, the leisurely approach to exploration, the string of complex puzzles... Come to think of it, it's all reminiscent of another languid mystery adventure, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. So has The Da Vinci Code been sneakily nicking all its ideas, like some lazy videogame tea-leaf? Well, no, not really. Broken Sword's creator, Charles Cecil, was responsible for many of The Da Vinci Code's new puzzles, hence the huge sense of déjà vu. Even some of the conundrums described in the book have been reworked to better fit the game.

And it's the puzzles that really make it. They occur frequently - as in the novel - as Langdon and Neveu try to discover the secrets of the code, and they provide a hefty challenge. But while you may find yourself having to break out the Panadol every now and again to stop your head pounding, the plot's next twists and turns lie tantalisingly beyond a tricky lock or encrypted message. And the game at least provides you with all the information you need to overcome them; thing is, you've got to figure out which bits to use.

Every bit of significant information you come across during the course of the game is logged, and before long there's an almost bewildering library of facts and trivia, which can be called up by pressing the White button. Finding a crucial piece of info can be almost as difficult as the puzzle you're trying to solve because you need to wade through a series of lists and links, but at least the solutions aren't handed out on a plate.

Some of the set-pieces aren't quite so taxing, involving more obvious solutions such as warding off snarling guard dogs by throwing chunks of meat to them. The mental test offered by The Da Vinci Code is deep and varied, and passing each one and getting closer to the game's climax is very satisfying.

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The Collective always said it would stay true to the spirit of the original story, and to a large extent it has. The game has a rich atmosphere, helped by being set in lots of big moody cathedrals and art museums with rubbish lighting, but unfortunately it's certainly not a looker. Character models are on the basic side, moving jerkily and looking unnervingly vacant even when in conversation, and it's a shame that just as the plot begins to get a grip on you, you're stopped from becoming too absorbed by the game's visual shortcomings.

Then there's the way the plot itself is delivered. All the story exposition business is handled through conversations, and we must warn you: they don't half drag on. The central characters talk so much there's a real risk you could end up trying to stuff rolled-up socks into your telly's speakers in a desperate attempt to shut them up. Luckily, you can skip through all the chatty bits if you want, and you will want to. The danger is that by doing that you'll probably miss a vital clue (although you can always retrieve it using that White button function).

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