The House of Da Vinci is an Adventure Puzzle game from Blue Brain Games. Having not played any games of this kind for many years, I was looking forward to feeling some nostalgia for the likes of Myst or even Space Quest.
I started playing The House of Da Vinci on my laptop, using a touchpad rather than a mouse. I thought that for this kind of game this shouldn't be too much of a handicap. And in fairness, I found it was ok. Annoying, but no more so than in any other mouse driven game. I played for an hour or so before I had to finish up and I was left thinking that if not for the slight controller issues I'd have quite enjoyed the story and starting puzzles. The game ran well enough too.
So when I came back to the game a week or so later I fired up my gaming desktop to do it justice. Oh boy. Mouse control is abysmal.
It is immediately obvious that this game has been designed for touch devices. The mouse cursor just replaces finger touches. On my laptop's touchpad, the touchpad to mouse cursor translation was a little annoying, as it always is, but at least the gestures I was making worked with the game pretty intuitively once I got past that. But with a mouse, I could control the cursor with the accuracy you would expect after years of FPS training, but none of the gestures felt right. We've had literally decades of double clicks, mouse wheel scrolling, right click, etc. Put a mouse in my hand, I expect it to work how it's always worked everywhere for years. Not how my finger on my phone works. I mean dragging a document up to scroll down? I have a mouse wheel! Literally click-dragging a seal off a scroll, then click-dragging the scroll open, then clicking it to read it? Just let me double click the thing once! Want to zoom in on an object? Double click it. Well done you've zoomed one level. Double it again now just because why not. Oh sorry one more level. Great now you're there, now click-drag the key into the lock. Yeah now you have to actually click-drag-rotate it, no it doesn't do it automatically when you put it in and no you can't just activate it with double-click don't be silly think of the immersion.
And to top it all off, I had to replay the start of the game, because it doesn't seem to sync the save files in Steam. So that made it extra special for me.
Now I've got all of that out of my system, I'll do my best to review some other elements of the game too.
Some of the puzzles seemed quite inventive, and I had fun solving them. There was a very pleasant learning curve. You might be presented with a simple puzzle with simple rules to start, then a similar one with slightly different rules, then a puzzle combining what you'd just learnt from those two. With all of these kinds of puzzles I was helped with clues just enough to solve them and feel pleased with myself, but not so much that I felt patronised. This is a fine line that the game trod well.
But some of the other "puzzles", between these well designed ones, were little more than clicking and combining fairly random objects in your inventory or in the environment. When I needed to do this to progress I relied on the in-game hint popup about 50% of the time. I think with touch control it might be a little less irritating.
The story seemed fairly interesting and I actually was quite intrigued to find out what was going on. It's mostly told through text on scrolls, which is fine for this kind of game, but I really wish they'd chosen another font. Either use an easier to read font, or actually get someone to write it out if you want it to look hand written.
Graphics were good enough. Some of the 3d models must have been fun to make, with their hinged parts, cogs and wheels etc.
All in all I spent about 5 hours in The House of Da Vinci before I just became too frustrated to continue. Trying to give an objective assessment of this game, without the control issues, I think it might get a 6/10. It has some pretty good reviews on Steam so maybe it's right up your street and you have a touch enabled PC. In fairness it does list "ENJOY INTUITIVE TOUCH CONTROL" as a key feature on its Steam page. But even so, I struggle to see who would pay £17.99. Maybe £9.99 without the control issues.
However, my subjective review, having played it? My personal enjoyment rating?
Overall Score 2/10.
If you love this genre and have a touch enabled PC, or little to no mouse use muscle memory : might be worth a shot if you have the cash to burn.
Everyone else : not at this price. Maybe at £5.
Developer: Blue Brain Games
Publisher: Blue Brain Games
Release Date: 24th November 2017