Before venturing into the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, critics warned of a plot that followed the book too closely, of a movie that dragged, and of a would-be blockbuster that just sort of fizzled out. Good thing they didn’t get their hands on the videogame. If The Da Vinci Code movie is slow, the videogame must move in reverse. To its credit it does fill in some interesting “behind the scenes” plot points, but those points, like the rest of the by-the-book game, is far too dependent on CG cutscenes for its own good.
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you already know how this game starts, progresses and ends (locating and protecting the “holy grail”). The story is basically an adventure through and through, and accordingly, the videogame fits squarely into the adventure genre. This of course means the gameplay is focused primarily on breaking codes and solving puzzles, although there are also a few stealth missions and fighting sequences. Yes, fighting sequences. Since fighting wasn’t a key component of the original story, the developers have scattered a few extra missions throughout the 10-hour storyline, presumably both to spice things up and to give fans some extra content to explore. All the fighting really does, though, is stand out as having been forced into a plot where fighting just doesn’t seem appropriate.
Like the most PC adventure games, the puzzles in The Da Vinci Code are fairly challenging, particularly the code-breaking ones. This makes perfect sense, as The Da Vinci Code is generally a “thinking man’s” plot. But where the Da Vinci Code and other adventure titles differ is in their presentation: most adventure games flaunt their point-and-click nature, but The Da Vinci Code flits between CG cutscene and action, almost as if The Collective (the developer) wasn’t so sure it wanted to create an adventure game.
These movies do serve a purpose (to tell the story almost frame-by-frame with the movie), but The Collective’s reliance on them to break up the action is the game’s biggest flaw. Gamers have the option to skip each movie in the game, which is normally a Godsend for ADHD gamers. Where this is a problem in The Da Vinci Code is that most people who buy this game will be familiar with both the movie and the book, a familiarity that will compel them to skip the CG sequences they already know by heart. So where’s the problem with that? Well, many of the cutscenes reveal the player’s next objective, so skipping a scene can leave you completely clueless as to where you need to go or what you need to do to reach the next checkpoint. Guess you’ll have to trudge through those cutscenes just like the newbies.
When you’re actually playing rather than watching CG movies, you’re either using your brain to solve anagrams and puzzles, using your alchemist background to combine certain objects (the soap and GPS device, for example), or using your thumbs to smash face buttons in a specific order to complete certain tasks (punch an enemy, open a window, etc.). Individually these are OK activities, but they never quite gel. The Collective is a good developer, so it’s hard to figure out what went wrong. Maybe they felt too constrained by the story. After all, with all the CG movies, they obviously felt strongly about including the narrative.
But “not quite gelled” is pretty much the name of the game with The Da Vinci Code. From the over-reliance on cutscenes and combat that doesn’t quite fit, The Da Vinci Code is one of those properties that lives up to the reputation for bad movie-licensed games. Add some cardboard graphics and emotionless audio, and you’ve got a lemon. It’s difficult to say that, because you know the developers worked hard on it. But guys, this one just didn’t work. Apparently the curse of bad movie-licensed games is alive and well. Go read the book or see the movie instead. And no, we don’t mean the CG movies in this game.
- Gameplay: 5
- Nice and challenging puzzles, but way too much reliance on watching the CG movies, and the combat just feels forced.
- Graphics: 4
- Ouch. Really, there’s a reason we didn’t include screenshots with this review.
- Sound: 4
- The dialogue is good. Too bad the performance of said dialogue is horrid.
- Replay: 4
- There’s some unlockable concept art, but really, nothing that will compel most people to consider finishing the game.
- Overall: 4.5
- It just goes to show you: bad things happen to good movies and books.