The Da Vinci Code

Never mind that the ideal official Da Vinci Code game ... would fall in the "alternate reality" genre, à la Perplex City or the A.I. promotional campaign: instead of tying the players to a console, it would have sent them looking for clues in real-world websites, phony classified ads, and dusty reference libraries, to convince them that the conspiracy is everywhere and only their decryption skills will reveal it. Instead, the Da Vinci empire settled for an action-adventure formula that tries to offer something for everyone—and only half of it works.

The dramatic cutscenes, crisp graphics, and satisfying, comics-page-style puzzles barely save the "action" side of the game, which is littered with trivial challenges: Do you dare open a window? Can you click a button fast enough to shove a bed two feet to the right? And the fight scenes employ a Byzantine control scheme so ugly that it almost ruins the game. You'll wind up avoiding every enemy you can, and wishing they'd leave you alone to work on your anagrams.

Beyond the game: The writers didn't skimp on content: you can listen to hours of narration on everything from Greek mythology to all 14 stations of the cross. Unfortunately, the film's stars couldn't be persuaded to come in and do the lecturing.

Worth playing for: The fog-laced, shadowy European settings immerse you in the world of crazy monks and spunky cryptographers. Plus, you get to slug Frenchmen and shove Audrey Tautou's character into an air vent.

Frustration sets in when: The combat mechanism is an abomination. Every time you get in a fight, you have to match a pattern of buttons to throw a good punch or block an attack. Presumably, this was meant to help non-action-gamers get through combat, but even your grandmother would rather mash buttons than deal with this painful interface.

Final judgment: As it tries to please a broad audience, The Da Vinci Code offers too many failed ideas instead of sticking with the areas it gets right.