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The Da Vinci Code

The mysteries of the PS2 videogame unravelled

Come on, admit it. You weren't really expecting this to be much cop at all. And to be honest, neither were we. After all, just how do you make a game out of the best-selling novel in the world, ever? Well, you do what developer The Collective has done and use the book as inspiration for the PS2 game and not the so-so big budget movie - and as you already know from sneaking a peek at the big number at the top of this page, it's a rather decent effort.

So in case you were wondering why the pallid, slightly wobbly features of Tom Hanks are nowhere to be seen, it's because the game isn't an official movie tie-in. It's more of a compliment to the original story, albeit with some all-new locations and a truckload of new puzzles to figure out - and it's all the better for it.

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The game takes many of its cues from another sedately paced, story-driven brain teaser, Broken Sword. A bloke called Charles Cecil was behind that game, and he's been heavily involved in adapting the riddles and conundrums of the novel to fit neatly into the digital version of The Da Vinci Code, too. He's also created a host of new clue trails and set-pieces especially for the game, and as a result much of the game is deep, challenging and rewarding.

NICE AND SLOW
Patience is definitely a virtue when playing The Da Vinci Code. Much of your time will be spent methodically searching for information and hints as to the next step you should take, and many pointers are easy to miss. Whenever something of interest is discovered, your character enters a first-person inspection mode, which allows an area to be looked at more closely and combed for information. Anything found is stored in a database so thorough it's intimidating wading through it at first, but it has to be done. As an example, many of the puzzles you'll have to solve require elaborate codes to be cracked, and the key to doing so is often hidden in the depths of your virtual encyclopaedia.

It's hard work reading through each entry, and some of the game feels like a chore. Sitting through the ridiculous amount of dialogue is a prime instance. It's all very well trying to deliver a huge plot, and we won't complain about a game being based on a decent story, but does it really have to be so tortuous? It's not the voice acting - that's generally decent (give or take some dodgy accents). It's the sheer amount of talking that goes on and the wooden character models that deliver the lines. Every time a cut-scene kicks in you'll be concentrating intently on the huge amount of information spouted, and at the end of a gaming session you'll feel as though you've been back at school.

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The Da Vinci Code isn't easy on the eyes either. The settings are very atmospheric (thanks to most of it being played in the dark) and it always feel foreboding. Some of the floors are nice and shiny too, but generally it looks pretty ropey. Sometimes the rough visuals are detrimental to the story-telling of the game, with characters twitching disturbingly and looking blankly into space or at a wall instead of whoever it is they're talking to. Just as you feel the narrative getting a grip on you, a technical shortcoming shatters the illusion, which is especially annoying considering how much effort you have to invest in concentrating on the plot and all the clues.

FITFUL FISTICUFFS
Spliced into the leisurely exploration and problem-solving is an inventive combat system. If you decide to engage a guard, a copper or an angry monk, a sequence of buttons appears at the bottom of the screen. You then have to enter these as quickly as possible to pull off an attacking move. If you're fast enough, your character will then launch into a set-piece attack, but if not you'll be on the receiving end of the pain. This is repeated a few times until either character bites the dust. To start with it's fairly straightforward, but as trickier enemies are encountered, the button combos become more complex, and fights are genuinely tense, if a tad clumsy.

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