The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review

Posted by: Tracy

The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/08/06 12:06 PM

Hi everyone. Well I finally got my review written (I had posted about struggling with it the other day) and now that I'm finished I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed the game. smile

Review:

Before playing this game, I honestly knew nothing about Leonardo DaVinci, except that he was a famous painter. Like alot of people I recognized his works and thought they were gorgeous, but beyond that I never thought much about the man. Now that I've had a taste of what his life in France might have been like via "Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript", I find that I want to learn more about him....I also want to climb into my computer screen and live in his beautiful mansion!

Since I've obviously fallen in love with his home, let's start with the graphics. Graphics are almost always my favorite part of any adventure game. Getting to explore any environment I want without having to leave my comfy computer chair always makes me happy, and in this case, the exploration was not disappointing. The mansion that rises up to meet you as you arrive is one of the most beautiful creations I've ever seen in a computer game. The colors alone are dizzying...beautiful blues for the roof mixed with shaded reds and browns for the bricks make for a creation that is truly worthy of the master himself. Just for fun I sat here staring at the mansion for ages before even beginning game play just so I could imagine myself as mistress of the manor. But as much as I loved the outdoor glimpse of the DaVinci's old home, the interior was every bit as enticing. Wandering from room to room my eye was caught by the soft flickering of candlelight from the many candles sitting about, and the gentle blaze of firelight kept the darker rooms from being too gloomy. Upstairs in the bedroom there were vivid red bedclothes and shelves of colored books just begging to be plucked and touched. In the study there are images of DaVinci's works, all in perfect detail, all capable of stirring the heart of any art lover and making them wish they could time travel so as to watch their maker in the middle of their creation.

Moving outdoors there are thunderous, moody clouds above the estate, evoking a mood of intrigue and desolation, a mystery to be solved. While at the same time, a full, white moon shines balefully over the manor, trying in vain to bring light to the gray evening in which the player finds himself. Everything is lovingly created, and although I don't know very much about the 1500's, the setting of the home, the objects, clothing of the other characters, seems genuine for that time period. The graphics in this game were for me, pure sensuous pleasure, and I'd have to give that part of the game an A.

Onto the story...you are Valdo, the former apprentice of Francesco Melzi, who in turn was a student of Leonardo DaVinci himself. A secret benefactor has decided to place you in his employ in order to search the estate for a secret document. There is a hitch however...the manor is no longer empty. A woman named Babou de la Bourdaisiere is now living under DaVinci's former roof, and you must provide a believable reason for being there. Your story is that you are Melzi's apprentice and you are interested in examining Leonardo's artwork and inventions. Perfectly plausible, considering Melzi's connection to the great man. But as you wander about secretly searching for the manuscript, you must actually find and use the inventions that surround you, solving puzzles as you do so. You must also interact with various characters along the way, choosing different conversation options which will have more of an effect on your game than you may realize at first. You may lie, wheedle and scheme, or play the perfect angel, but either way your choices will be recorded as the game plays on.

There is a system, an "angel/devil" system if you will, where you can see your own progress. If you are honest, do not steal and generally behave yourself, the angel side of the system will rise. If on the other hand you are a bold-faced liar, take things that don't belong to you, and make a total pest of yourself, the devil side will rise. Each side looks a bit like a thermomenter with red for evil (of course) and white for good. While each side may not seem to make a big difference in your general game play, you will be able to see the results of your actions at the end of the game. There are four separate endings and the one you reach will depend on whether you were angelic or devilish during your journey. Which one did I get? Well...I guess I can tell you...after all, it's just between us, right? I have to admit, I was unable to make myself be "bad" during this game. Although part of me wanted to, my conscience (real and imagined) kept getting in my way and so I had a "good" ending with the lovely Babou wanting to leave the manor to be with me as I flew off into the sunset. Now that I've finished the game, I'm seriously thinking about playing it again so that I can see what a "bad" ending would look like. Maybe in the end I'll get to tell the fair maiden that she's just not my type (after all, I'm a woman and married at that!) and then I'll jump into Leonardo's flying machine and give her the big kiss-off. Sounds like fun doesn't it?

My grade for the storyline of this delightful game would have to be an A.

Gameplay is non-linear and you can meander about wherever you want, for the most part, without having to use certain items or have certain conversations before the next portion opens up to you. This was a real relief to me because I have found it frustrating in other games to have to dance to the game creator's tune before being rewarded by the next level or stage. In "Secrets" you are for the most part free....granted, some doors are locked until you find their key and certain secrets, documents and objects aren't available until you fix DaVinci's old inventions, but to me that's just fun gameplay. Solving puzzles is one of my favorite things about adventure games, and in this, the game succeeds. The puzzles aren't too difficult and they make sense. Granted, some of the inventions and objects aren't familiar to us today given that they were created back in 1522 or earlier, but most of them are common sense and not very hard to figure out. I was personally amazed that Leonardo DaVinci created so many varied and beautiful creations! I never knew that he did anything beyond painting, and so this was not just a game for me, but a lesson in history as well.

Movement in the game is done using point and click, and the cursor is a pretty, gold fleur-de-lis that bounces gently forward when you click on it. It's lovely and very easy to use, plus there is panning that allows the player to slowly circle the room and take in everything in his or her own time. Some games have panning that's too fast--they tend to give me whiplash and make me a little queasy (lol), but the panning was just right for me in this game and I think alot of other players will enjoy this aspect as well.

Using objects is very easy...you move the cursor over the object, for example a drawer, and a small picture of gears comes up. If you can open the drawer, the gears will be turning, if not, they will be still and crossed out. Viola. Very simple and very easy to use. Another feature of the gameplay that was helpful was the diary. You can save up to five pages of objects that you collect along your journey, plus, record the manuscripts you've picked up as well as conversations with other characters. Everything you've seen and done as Valdo is saved and so at any point in the game you can go back and recall where you've been and what's occurred. I really enjoyed this feature and used it alot...my only quibble was that there were SO many pages of objects, it was sometimes time-consuming to scroll through all of the pages to get to the object I needed. Honestly though, this wasn't a huge problem. And the graphics of the diary are so beautiful I didn't mind coming briefly out of the gameworld to stare at them while I searched for my items.

My grade for the gameplay portion of this game is a definite A.

Now onto the sounds. The music was (for me) suitably "medieval" sounding. Occasionally jounty, oftentimes moody, it suited the time frame of the game perfectly. I could just picture maidens dancing in a circle while bearded men in gold and red suits played the obo. The voices too were good...better that many games I've played recently, and I especially liked Babou's voice. Sultry, with a French accent, she sounded like a combination of a courtesan and a "lady of the evening". Saturnin, a guardian of sorts, sounded a little like a British stage actor trying for a French voice, but the King of France's voice was fairly good. Along with the voices, there were occasional sounds like water dripping, doors shutting, inventions turning, and each had the ring of authenticity. The creators did a very nice job with this game's sounds and I'd have to give them an A for effort!

For me the most important aspect of a game is entertainment value. Am I going to love it? Lose myself in it? Actually become the character I'm playing and care about the world and its people? These are things I think most gamers feel, especially when it come to adventure games, and I think that in general, they'll be pleased with this aspect of "Secrets". This game was not your garden-variety adventure, and so the entertainment was different than with say a "Syberia-Kate Walker" kind of character. In this game, it was more about intrigue. Let's play detective and see if we can't get caught. Let's sneak around where we aren't supposed to be and see what we can discover. Oh yes, and lets take things, many things, that don't belong to us....aren't they pretty and wouldn't they be fun to keep? Oh yes, I felt entertained alright. The pure fun of just getting to see Leonardo DaVinci's home some 500 years after his death was enough for me, but then to get to sneak around and "live" in this world....well it was more than I expected and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

I had a wonderful time pretending to be a medieval snoop, and I think that other gamers will too. While this is not a game I'd replay over and over again, it was a great deal of fun. More intellectual than emotional, certainly, but fun nonetheless. Now that I've safely escaped the manor with my mission accomplished, I'd have to give this game a resounding A!
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/08/06 12:46 PM

Thanks Catbelly--I was already looking forward to playing this one, and now even more so! wave
Posted by: BrownEyedTigre

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/08/06 06:51 PM

Very good review Catbelly. bravo I have the game in front of me ready to install and now I'm looking forward to it even more. thumbsup

Ana wave
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/08/06 09:36 PM

Thanks Looney and BrownEyedTigre! I appreciate your responses and I hope you enjoy the game! smile

Cat
Posted by: Bruce Fielder

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/09/06 08:46 AM

Cat, thanks for the excellent review. It has whetted my appetite for this game so now I'll have to watch for it at the stores next week.
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/09/06 09:57 AM

Oh thanks Bruce! I'm really glad you enjoyed it and I hope you have fun with the game when you get it! smile

Cat
Posted by: chrissie

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/10/06 08:13 AM

IMO this is one of the best games I've played this year and love your review! bravo
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/10/06 09:17 AM

Thanks Chrissie!! smile

Cat
Posted by: Becky

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/10/06 12:25 PM

A lovely review! It makes me want to take my turn as a "medieval snoop." laugh

The game arrived yesterday, and is sitting right next to me on the computer desk....
Posted by: DoreenS

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/10/06 09:14 PM

What a great review catbelly. thumbsup Makes me want to go out and buy the game. I think I will look tomorrow or Monday and see if its in any of the local stores.

Now I'm loooking forward to playing it. wave
Posted by: auntiegram

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/12/06 02:20 PM

thumbsup Great review! Can't wait to find the game and play it.

wave
Nan
Posted by: dragonuk44

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/13/06 03:20 AM

Hello I was nt to sure about this one but I think I will give it a try .Also keep getting a little confused as there is more than one and hope fully I get the right one lol
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/16/06 10:29 AM

Thanks so much everyone for your sweet words about my review! I'm so glad you liked it, AND that it whetted your appetites for playing the game! smile

I've been out of town since the 10th and just got to check email today (16th) and it was nice to see all of these wonderful responses to my review when I logged on! smile

Cat
Posted by: maggie57

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/16/06 11:24 PM

Catbelly- laugh

A really nice review and enjoyed reading all of it. I am so glad that I bought the game and your review makes me want to put it on right away.

Thanks so much

Maggie bravo bravo bravo bravo
Posted by: Long Live Sierra

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/17/06 01:35 PM

Great review. I must buy this game.
Posted by: tigger

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/19/06 01:30 PM

Having just finished the game, it gets a thumbs up from me too!! The storyline isn't as strong as say GK2 and you don't get much interaction with the other people around but just enough to keep the story flowing. All the teenagers who have visited and seen me playing are stunned by the quality of the graphics - they are comparing with such as World of Warcraft and guild Wars. if it makes em adventurers, its worth it!!

What I did like is that each of the characters has a bit of good and bad in them, making them more realistic, rather than being squeaky clean like some we come across.

I only had a couple of Duh moments when I got stuck, but it was usually a stupid oversight on my part wink there is a sound puzzle in the game, but as we had a houseful at the time, I did it cold and still managed it with a little trial and error. There is also a colour based puzzle, but I'm sure the shades of grey to a visually challenged individual will give the right tones. If not, ask for help, don't dismiss the game because of one puzzle!!

One for a replay definately!!!
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 06/21/06 10:13 AM

Thanks so much Maggie and Long Live Sierra. I hope you guys enjoy the game and I appreciate your kind words about the review! smile

Cat
Posted by: Jhart320

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 07/26/06 07:15 PM

Great review. I just ordered it and put one of the screen shots on my desktop...love the room~
Thank you so much~
Joy
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 07/30/06 11:13 PM

Thanks Joy! And I know what you mean---what a beautiful, beautiful game!

Cat
Posted by: Advpuzlov

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/09/06 12:16 AM

Well, with all that praise, I am tempted myself to get the game. However, I won't be able to play it for some time since I am all "tied up" in correlating the over 2200 photographs I took during the month in Turkey with my notes.

For those of you who have played the game BYZANTINE, one of my projects while in Istanbul was to find the sites used in the game. I had quite good success. Also, prior to that I visited the Library of Celsus in Ephesus (remember that scene?) and I am going to go back over the game again and take HyperSnaps of scenes which are the closest to what I took actual real-life photographs of while in Istanbul. For those interested I will make both sets of photographs available for your own comparison.
Posted by: Becky

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/10/06 12:18 PM

Hi Advpuzlov -- I've always wondered what it would be like to visit a city after gaming in it! I'm curious to see what the real-life places look like.
Posted by: Darleen03

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/29/06 02:04 PM

Wonderful Review

This game is on my Great list.....I loved the mixing & the Boiling.It was a pleasure to play it.
Posted by: sierramindy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/30/06 09:38 AM

Hi catbelly36,
I want to add my thanks for a wonderful review of this game. I very much enjoyed reading about your reactions to it and sharing through this review your delight in the game as I will not be playing it myself. Seeing it with your eyes is my choice as I long ago decided that this game was not for me. Even knowing already that it was not my kind of game, I was nevertheless curious about it seeing as how many gamers liked it. Thanks much for satisfying that curiosity!
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/30/06 10:39 AM

Sierra, I'm curious as to which elements make you not want to play it? I find it fascinating that our tastes are all so different. wave
Posted by: sierramindy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/30/06 08:40 PM

Hi looney4labs,
I think maybe I'm too simple minded for the game and I'm also prejudiced against anything DaVinci. I'm really not interested in learning anything about him or about that time or place. History and Geography were both subjects I hated at school, maybe it is some kind of carryover from those days? But I did enjoy reading the review very much! One can't do everything or be everywhere, so I like to see the world through other eyes and in that sharing of their vision I add to my own enjoyment of life. I don't really know how to explain all this, it's just something I feel.
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/30/06 10:07 PM

I think you explained yourself very well. It's a fact that no one game is going to make us all happy.

I personally don't care for games that make me use math--unless there is a cheat for it, that is lol
Posted by: sierramindy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 08/31/06 10:40 AM

Talk about math, there is a game (Voyage?) where one had to solve a math puzzle using an alien numbering system. The game tried to explain the symbols and how they were used, so did the walkthrough and after hours of trying this and that I accidentally got it right and I have no idea what I did. Surprised me no end.
Posted by: dogpenny

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 09/04/06 03:34 PM

Changing the subject for a minute Byzantine sounds interesting is it a 95 game or XP game? I have XP so need to know if I have to play it in compatibility mode. Thanks
Posted by: Becky

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 09/04/06 04:12 PM

Hi Dutch --

My impression is that others have played this in XP. You can look at Inferno\'s XP setup here. Look down below the "General Drill" to the specifics about Byzantine. It seems to run in Compatibility Mode with little other tweaking, though apparently it might not like auto notification (Inferno tells you how to disable that if you wish).
Posted by: Redhed

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 01/19/07 03:39 PM

What a beautiful review!

I might play again for a different ending.
Posted by: chrissie

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 01/28/07 01:11 PM

Hi Cat, I don't know how I missed reading your wonderful review of this game back in last June! I really loved the game & you have described it so accurately & with so much passion! I completely agree with everything you have said! thumbsup praise
Posted by: Tracy

Re: The Secrets of DaVinci: The Forbidden Manuscript Review - 02/22/07 02:55 PM

Oh thanks Chrissie! I appreciate that so much. I just found your response today and it was nice to see that you found my review from last summer and enjoyed it. I really did LOVE this game---and to be honest it was the graphics more than anything that knocked my socks off. It was just such a beautiful game I wanted to go live in that manor home myself. (If only we could climb into the games and do that---wouldn't that be neat? SIGH!) smile

Anyway, I'm tickled that you found my old reviews and that you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for giving my little writer's heart a boost today!

Cat