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The Mystery of "The Da Vinci Code"

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Published June 14, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Want to play "The Da Vinci Code?" Sure, you probably wonder if the new game is any good. Not that it matters. With 59 million copies of the book in print across the globe, people will skip the usual quality inspection and drop 40 bucks to try it out simply because it's a game based on a wildly popular novel.

Just look at the new movie. Even though critics like to use words like "lame" and "flop" when trying to capture the special cinematic appeal of Ron Howard's big-screen adaptation, the ample derision heaped on the movie didn't slow the pileup of box-office receipts. The book was a smash, so the movie will do fine, even if it only diverts a fraction of fans curious about the adaptation. And who cares if it's a train wreck? For 10 bucks a head, we can rubberneck at that, too.

Gamers are used to this. The video-game aisles are littered with endless attempts to cash in on popular appeal imported from other media. Sometimes it works. The "King Kong" games were not a wonder of the gaming world. But they got the job done. Sometimes they don't. The big-budget "Enter the Matrix" got a science-fiction kung-fu drubbing from the critics, but probably sold as many, if not more, games than Kong.

Even when critical praise and popular appeal coincide, it usually happens so far from the scene of the licensing crime that it doesn't seem fair to call the result a spin-off. The "Lego Star Wars: The Video Game" picked up the viral Lucas thread after it wound its way through toys, then Legos and finally into games. Who would have guessed one of the best "Star Wars" games would let you play a stubby plastic Obi Wan smacking 'droids into little Lego pieces?

Video games have been so good at letting us pretend to pilot military jets, drive performance sports cars and administer entire cities, it shouldn't surprise us that they also promise to serve up the fantasy that your favorite book, movie or television show can keep going on and on.

But is "The Da Vinci Code" game any good?

If you've never read the book or seen the film, all the game does is underline the story's hokey premise and thin characterizations. Had the game predated the movie and book, people would point to it as an example of why video games dumb down narrative and pile on cliché.

If -- and this is where the whole business model of licensed derivate properties turns -- you're a fan of the original, then "The Da Vinci Code" game lets you participate in a plot that was never much more than a game in the first place. Exploring exotic locales and solving puzzles drove Dan Brown's book to the heights of publishing fame. And the same formula provides a spine for an entertaining interactive supplement to the puzzling success of the Da Vinci mystery.

Yeah, "The Da Vinci Code" game is OK.

Who's It For: If, after reading the book and watching the movie, and the premise of "The Da Vinci Code" has not grown thin, then the video-game version delivers an interesting, and often perplexing, journey through the sets and settings of both.

If You Like This, Try That: Games based on movies usually are just for the people who like the movie. However, the "Spider-Man" and "Godfather" games did a good job of bringing the style of the films into games that could stand alone if you've never seen the film.

Best Part: Wandering around famous places, such as the Louvre, provides an appreciation of the great, historical settings from Brown's novel.

Other New Game Titles

"The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II," X360, Electronic Arts.

"Moto," GP 2006, X360, THQ.

"Street Fighter Alpha Anthology," PS2, Capcom.

"Mega Man Battle Network 6 Cybeast Gregar," GBA, Capcom.

"Mega Man Battle Network 6 Cybeast Falzar," GBA, Capcom.

"Urban Chaos: Riot Response," Xbox & PS2, Eidos Interactive.

"Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure," GBA, Banpresto.

"Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War," PC, Midway.

"Armored Core: Last Raven," PS2, FromSoftware.

-- Source:

Top-Selling Console Games: April1.

"Kingdom Hearts II," PS2

2."Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter," Xbox 360

3."Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," Xbox 360

4"The Godfather: The Game," PS2

5."God of War," PS2

6."MLB '06: The Show," PS2

7."Major League Baseball 2K6," Xbox 360

8."Major League Baseball 2K6," PS2

9."Tourist Trophy: The Real Riding Simulator," PS2

10."Battlefield 2: Modern Kombat," Xbox 360

-- Source: NPD Group