Thursday, August 24, 2017

Looking for Leo.

I enjoy puzzle games and escape games, on the phone or computer. I love to curse and threaten violence when they frustrate me. One of the reasons I dislike board games is that fellow players react poorly when you curse at them and threaten violence.

Just to briefly mention my bona fides, I have been through all five Myst games, I have escaped just about everything Mild Escape has to offer, I have tested my mettle against all the Glitch Games (Forever Lost, all three parts, being a trial) and Fireproof Games (all three Rooms). I have battled out of Darkmoor Manor (creepy!) and Facility 47 (apocalyptic!), courtesy of InertiaSoft. I have gone nuts over Hozumi's works, and am currently up to date on the updated-monthly Les Vacances de Monsieur 3939 (that date being Friday). I am well acquainted with Escape Man. Tomatea has no game I have not cracked.

But one of the very best games I have ever cursed and threatened my way through is The House of Da Vinci, by Blue Brain Games.


The plot is pretty sketchy -- your master, Leonardo da Vinci, has disappeared, having run afoul of his patron, and left behind clues for you to follow him through several extraordinarily complex rooms of his home. The puzzles are largely based on Leonardo's real sketches and plans for various machines, and, like all the art, they are gorgeously rendered. The whole thing is an atmospheric feast for the eyes.

You get two lenses that can help. The first is a viewer to operate mechanisms from outside machines for some puzzles, which functions much the way a similar device did in Fireproof's third Room game. There's also another lens that sometimes enables you to see into the past, to get a sketchy view of movements that give you necessary clues. But really, since you can't progress without these two lenses, they aren't so much helpers as yet more complications to keep things interesting.

As for the puzzles, they are absolute killers. According to the game's plot, you are supposed to act quickly because Leonardo is being hunted by his angry patron. In reality, you'd have to hope the patron would be extremely lazy and out of town at an evil masters' conference, because you would be stuck for weeks in each room, trying to solve one complex puzzle in order to get one tiny widget that would enable you to confront the next complex puzzle. Better bring lunch.

I'm not saying that the puzzles are unfair. But they're difficult. Sometimes the problem isn't even a matter of logic or deduction, just searching -- that tiny key you have to find may be hidden behind a false bracket on a table or in the frame of a painting or even in another item already in your inventory. Happy trails! If you were really in this house you'd wind up having to pee in a corner, because even if you found the bathroom, opening the toilet would be the equivalent of cracking a bank vault.

Fortunately there is a hint feature that doesn't cut you off after X number of hints, or demand extra money beyond the price of the game. Not that it's always helpful. Sometimes it will suggest you try something you have been trying for an hour. I find that's a good time for the cursing.

Before I sound too grumpy, let me add that solving each puzzle makes you feel like a genius for a moment. Some are fairly simple -- but most will test your mad puzl skilz. And there are puzzles and mysteries every step of the way. Apparently your boss Leonardo can't make a sandwich without encoding the bread. If all else fails, the ever helpful App Unwrapper has a complete walkthrough.

I really have only two genuine complaints for this game. First, I played it on the iPhone, and some of these puzzles were not appropriate for that format. For example, take this bloody thing:

You need to be able to see various bits of it that are barely visible with the phone, as there was no way to zoom in. It was a genuine problem that required App Unwrapper.

The other thing is that the game creators made the same error as that idiot Dan Brown -- Leonardo's family name is NOT Da Vinci. "Da Vinci" is just a descriptor. It's like being introduced to Joe from Cleveland at a conference and calling him Mr. From Cleveland all night. When referring to the Renaissance man upon whom this game is based, just call him Leonardo. No one ever makes this mistake with Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni.

Anyway, I got through it, and was frustrated but happy to see that it's set up for a sequel. If you like puzzle games, room escape games, or just being mad as hell, you'll enjoy the House of Da Vinci. It's $4.99 on the App Store, and you'll get plenty of cursing for your money.

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