Won't knock your shoes off

Nine times out of 10, videogames based on a blockbuster movie and timed for the film's release are rush jobs targeted mainly at reaping profits, with quality taking a back seat.

da vinci disk 88 (photo credit: )
da vinci disk 88
(photo credit: )
The Da Vinci Code, a DVD-ROM in English by 2K and The Collective for Columbia Pictures, distributed with a 26-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a Pentium IV PC, for ages 16 through adult, NIS 219. - Rating: *** Nine times out of 10, videogames based on a blockbuster movie and timed for the film's release are rush jobs targeted mainly at reaping profits, with quality taking a back seat. Unfortunately, The Da Vinci Code game - based on Dan Brown's incredibly popular novel and Ron Howard's just-released movie of the same name - is not an exception to the rule. The book has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and the movie, panned by many critics, will nevertheless probably attract large audiences, but the game does not stand on its own merits. For those who live in the far reaches of the Arctic or Antarctica and have not heard of the plot despite the media hype, it revolves around fictional Harvard symbologist (now at the American University in Paris) Robert Langdon and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu. The game begins when the curator of the Louvre, Monsieur Sauniere - who is also Sophie's grandfather - is found inside the famous museum murdered by gunshot. Before dying, the curator strips himself naked, folds his clothes neatly, lies in a crucifixion-like pose, his own blood spelling out strange symbols on the marble floor and on his abdomen in the form of a pentacle, a five-pointed star often held to have magical or mystical significance. By this odd presentation, the curator seems to have left hints about his murderer. Langdon, who was supposed to have a meeting with Sauniere later that day, is called in by police who - he learns from Sophie - regard him as the main suspect. Together, Robert and Sophie evade the cops while trying to clear his name and decipher the mystery surrounding the death that uncovers alleged facts about the Holy Grail and "descendants" of Jesus: The claim is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children whose descendants are alive today, with the arch-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei depicted as a villainous and power-crazed group. But the game starts with a bad mark against it - the faces and voices of the movie's protagonists, Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, are completely missing from the game, and the characters' dialogue is voiced completely apathetically by anonymous voice actors. Toiling for about 12 hours until the end of the game, players must tediously punch, slam and otherwise battle their way through. At the same time, they must solve puzzles and use their wits. A pulldown menu allows you to use, combine or examine objects. For example, when Robert realizes the police planted a GPS transmitter on him and Sophie informs him in the men's toilet that he is the main suspect, you have to find a way to avoid the police and allow him to escape. The only visible, movable object in the room is a bar of soap: Examine the soap, combine it with the transmitter and use it by throwing them out the window on the roof of a passing car, and then get Robert out of there. It is too easy, and many of the other puzzles - such as the anagram that spells out "The Mona Lisa" - also are. Thus playing at any level below "hard" will probably bore the socks off you. Although it's nice to view the masterpieces inside the Louvre and famous sites in European capitals, the graphics are not outstanding and the computer mouse-powered characters move so jerkily that sensitive stomachs will be upset. The soundtrack is only passable, but the musical background is excellent. While the minimum age is set at 16, the lack of written dialogue on the bottom of the screen and the indifferent but rapid-fire discourse make it very difficult for Israelis who are not fluent in English to understand what's going on and what they have to do. The developers would have better written the repartee on the bottom of the screen, dumped the brawling and replaced it with high-level intellectual puzzle solving.