The movie-to-video-game jinx rambles on, with the recent releases of "The Da Vinci Code" video game and "X-Men: The Official Game."
Neither rises much above mediocrity, the place where games based on movies seem to dwell. Movie games seem to be afterthoughts, as if they're just more play-action figures and bedsheets to sell for the movie studio.
"Da Vinci" is a maze of puzzles and fistfights, with no moments that make you say, "Wow."
Unless you're saying, "Wow, another dead end."
Symbology professor Robert Langdon and French Judicial Police cryptographer Sophie Neveu try to solve a murder mystery, clear Langdon's name and unlock the secrets of an ancient society.
If you haven't read the book, seen the movie, studied religion or learned about important figures in art and mythology, keep your favorite search engine close. Otherwise, you'll find yourself stumped often.
Too often, the world of "Da Vinci" is groaninducingly preposterous. With out explanation, police disappear from a crime scene for hours, leaving a corpse lying like a red herring.
None of the stars from the movie is on hand — Robert Langdon looks more like a David Duchovny lookalike than Tom Hanks — in a game that follows the book and movie but serves up minor additional scenes. The animation is stiff, the voice acting is wooden, and the puzzles range from frustrating to inconvenient; have paper and pencil handy to take notes. If a game needs paper and pencil as accessories, we've got problems. Besides, solving them all kills the game's replay value.
"X-Men: The Official Game" is a prequel to the movie "X-Men: The Last Stand." Fun to play but not graphically rich, it's a good rental. Help Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler return to the scene of their partner's death to recover pieces of a tracking and identification system. Each character has his own specialty: Wolverine is a brawler, Iceman shoots an Ice Beam from long range while riding through the air on a rail of frozen liquid, and Nightcrawler teleports into and out of the heat of battle.
You battle through each mission as one character or another. I was disappointed you couldn't switch among characters. Each hero has a limited number of combo moves, so you learn early on how best to beat the baddies, and after that it's button-mashing time.
Nightcrawler's missions have him hopping up and down different levels, platform-style.
He's easiest to handle; just teleport behind an enemy, and start whaling on him. Too easy and repetitive.
Iceman's missions combine skysurfing and shooting for some vertigo-inducing action. His games are the most fun. The story gets tangled in the end, and the graphics are a big letdown (The $60 Xbox 360 version looks barely better than the $40 Xbox version), but it's an entertaining rental.