You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s gazillion-selling novel which has spawned numerous “me too” books, a feature film, and now – you guessed it – a computer game.
Actually, there are two Da Vinci Code games; one is a big-budgeted adventure from 2K Games (for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC) while the other is a free-to-try, downloadable casual game from Sony Pictures Digital (from the same group of folks that brought us the feature film).
We’ll be unlocking the mystery of the latter game, of course.
The Da Vinci Code is a 3-in-a-row puzzle game, where players are presented with a board of tokens and must swap adjoining ones in order to make a vertical or horizontal row of three or more identical tokens; doing so clears them off the board, which causes new tokens to fall onto the board.
Sticking with its Da Vinci Code theme, the tokens in the game include ancient emblems, ankhs, gold coins and fleurs-de-lis.
Even more important, unlike other 3-in-a-row games, such as Bejeweled, Da Vinci Code adds four unique twists to the popular game-play formula:
For one, the game ships with a Da Vinci Code-inspired story loosely based on the book and film of the same name; a written introduction accompanies each new level that helps shed some light on the religious conspiracy (no, I won’t ruin the plot for you). And as you’ll see on a large map in between levels, players will travel through Europe to key cities in order to unlock the mystery and evade the authorities and other adversaries.
Another unique feature is the fact players travel through the game board from start to finish, which adds a new layer of strategy to the game. You are represented by a small icon and must clear your path by matching three or more tokens in the direction you need to go, which is more or less decided by the game though players will have a choice on later levels as they hit a fork in the path: yellow is for an easy way out, blue is for a harder path and red for a difficult one. Depending on the level, the board is completed when you reach the side or bottom. Fans of the story will also see familiar characters pop up on the board that may chase you throughout the level, such as the inspector, the police or the malevolent Silas (this adds some welcomed tension to the game as he nips at your tail!).
The Da Vinci Code offers a number of power-ups and special tokens to keep the game-play fresh. The first is a flashlight you can use to light up dark areas of the game board, but you need to power the device by matching special pieces on the board. What’s more, swapping glowing blue “triskeles” adds to your scramble meter which can be used to scramble the tokens when you need it, while swapping 5-pedal roses build up your hammer meter to smash pieces (such as the brick tokens). Or double-clicking on spiraling tokens destroy all tokens in a vertical or horizontal row. You get the idea.
The fourth and final feature is mini-games peppered throughout the 90 boards (spread over 10 chapters), such as tricky jigsaw puzzles or deciphering Cryptex riddles, a small locked device that requires you to select the correct alphabetic combination (the first one is to scramble the word SOER into ROSE). The orchestral music that plays in the background during these mini-games is also a nice touch.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much going into this game; if I had a dollar for every 3-in-a-row puzzle I’ve seen I’d be running Gamezebo instead of writing for them (zing!), but in this case I’m happy to eat my words. While it takes a while for the game to get challenging, it turned out to be a decent puzzler with enough new features to keep it interesting.
In short, this game is perfect for followers of the whole Da Vinci Code mythos, or 3-in-a-row fans looking for a new spin on a not-so-new game-play formula.