Videogame Reviews

'Code' Dread

Paul Katz and J.P. Mangalindan review the game versions of ''Da Vinci Code'' and ''X-Men''

IN THE LOUVRE, WITH THE... You'll suspect the ''Da Vinci'' game makers didn't have a clue
IN THE LOUVRE, WITH THE... You'll suspect the ''Da Vinci'' game makers didn't have a clue

Game versions of ''Da Vinci'' and ''X-Men''

THE DA VINCI CODE
(2K Games; Teen; PS2, Xbox, PC)
Don't expect a joke about Tom Hanks' Da Vinci Code hair in this review. It's a cheap shot, and I'm better than that. Which means we can move on to mocking this strange hybrid of book, film, and some wacky new bits concocted by the game creators. But by no means should anyone expect any substantive changes: The novel's relentless and seemingly inescapable plot — if you aren't familiar with it, you need to get out of your cave more often — is the engine that drives this game. Which means Professor Langdon and Sophie (Hanks and Audrey Tautou played them in the movie, you play both in the game) must flit about Europe, uncovering clues they hope will lead them to the Holy Grail. And while you may be overwhelmed by the animated expository clips, they're still a lot more interesting than the few ''challenges'' — many lifted right from the book. Mostly, I found The Da Vinci Code game akin to sharing the Sunday edition of the New York Times — a familiar mix of foreign phrases, word jumbles, and occasional hand-to-hand combat. The end result is a slightly clunky and unwieldy game, remarkable only as a sometimes amusing oddity. Kinda like the wig Hanks sports in the movie. Huh. Seems I'm not better than that, after all. C–Paul Katz

X-MEN: THE OFFICIAL GAME
(Activision; Teen; Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, GameCube and PC)
Film-to-game adaptations are tricky propositions that more often than not result in forgettable dreck (see above) rather than gaming nirvana (King Kong). X-Men: The Official Game (which fills in the gap between X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand) offers nothing to refute that sad rule of thumb — it's a thoroughly unimaginative title destined to quickly vanish in a sea of me-too button-mashers. Character selection is the first tip-off that things have gone awry. The recent X-Men: Legends II hosted 16-plus characters; X-Men: The Official Game features a paltry three: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Iceman. Whether this was a conscious decision made to focus gameplay or simply due to time constraints, I can't be sure. But the glaring omission of a varied playable mutant roster (where are the women?) hurts X-Men and brings its flaws to unflattering attention.

Detailed character models with distinct animations captivate — Nightcrawler's teleportation attacks are faithful to X2's sensational acrobatics — but levels more often than not repeat themselves corridor after corridor. And in the case of the Xbox 360 version, the graphics are amazingly...drab and ordinary. Gameplay features little variation beyond three or four combos; bizarre character inaccuracies (since when did Nightcrawler and Iceman develop regenerative abilities?!) are jarring. With a lobotomized A.I., nearly static ''cutscenes'' illustrating a garbled plot, and piddling sound-alikes for Storm and Jean Grey, what we have with X-Men: The Official Game is an official disappointment. C-J.P. Mangalindan

Originally posted May 26, 2006
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