The original House of Da Vinci was a bit of a sleeper hit, combining a novel Renaissance setting with familiar escape room gameplay. Giving the player free rein to pull, push, prod and manipulate an assortment of 3D gewgaws and widgets whilst staying true to the fifteenth century setting made for an enjoyable and challenging experience. Can developers Blue Brains repeat the success with the sequel? Or is this game going to wipe the smile from the Mona Lisa’s face?
You play as Giacomo, a gifted and promising individual who begins the game in less than desirable circumstances. Waking up in a cell with bare walls and filthy hands, you’re seemingly set to see out your days in solitary confinement. This is a very familiar opening in gaming terms and typically it isn’t long before an opportunity to escape presents itself. A mysterious note and helpful key is dropped into your cell and so the game begins. You go on to be enlisted by Cesare Borgia to spy on Leonardo Da Vinci himself, but must prove yourself to the renowned inventor before you can become his apprentice.
Unlike traditional hidden object or point and click games, where there is a simple logic between finding and using items, House of Da Vinci 2 fits into the escape room genre. You will still need find items and then often need to examine them closely or combine them with others to make something usable, but gone are the static inventories of many incongruent things. Instead, you will be challenged to scan your surroundings in the first person viewpoint to spot anything that looks out of place that can be pressed, slid, opened, or pulled. To begin with, these interactive aspects are out in the open but, as the game progresses, you’ll be painstakingly checking over every surface to try and find the next step.
The game takes you through an assortment of authentic locations, from Da Vinci’s workshop to a secret library hidden in an abbey. These all contain a variety of mechanical puzzles that have a complexity that may seem out of place with the period, but the developers have done well to still capture the technology of the time so everything is achieved through clockwork, levers, and pulleys. The storyline deviates from this sense of authenticity through a ludicrous sidestep into time travel, though this does open up a new approach to puzzles.
The time manipulation is enabled through the mysterious Oculus Perpetua, providing some extra dimensions to the game. Some areas must be affected in the past before you can progress in the present, while other puzzles require you to use the Oculus to reveal their inner workings. These extra elements are welcome and it is always worth checking the Oculus if you reach what you feel is a dead end.
The game looks good, with the backgrounds having a nice sense of historical authenticity, mechanisms that are clear to see and objects with enough detail to make out the many hidden switches and buttons. The mobile origins are clear though, and this certainly won’t be blowing anybody away (although there are reports of a Vsync issue causing temperature spikes in some PC builds). Character and facial models are fine, but certainly not cutting edge, and this comes alongside functional voice acting and an inoffensive background music. Fortunately, this is all window dressing to the main star of the show, the puzzles.
Those mobile origins of the game are also quite obvious when it comes to manipulating the various mechanisms as you will need to pull, drag and press. This proved a little cumbersome with the mouse and some wheel turning parts proved awkward.
It’s also a surprise that the PC version receives a substantial price hike from the app, despite their being no evidence of extra content or remastering. This is a shame and the price will likely put many off. I certainly wouldn’t recommend paying the extra to play on PC if you have a device capable of running the app version.