Back in 2016 the first The House of Da Vinci was released on mobile devices and was received warmly by critics and myself alike. In 2019 a sequel was released, once again on mobile devices, and despite my enjoyment of the first entry I completely missed The House of Da Vinci 2. Now in 2020, The House of Da Vinci 2 has been released on PC and has proven to be another solid entry in the series, mixing both very creative and frustratingly obtuse puzzles with a largely forgettable story.
To be completely candid here, I found the story of The House of Da Vinci 2 to be entirely forgettable and mostly an obstacle that got in the way of solving cool puzzles. I understand that you need some connective tissue to grant some sort of motivating factor or narrative thread, but it never managed to engage me at all. The story seemed fine overall, but it just was so far from the reason I was playing, that for the rest of this review it won’t really be a talking point.
With that said, you start The House of Da Vinci 2 off by escaping a prison cell and the sewers that run beneath it. You learn the basics of interacting with the world along with how to manage your inventory and how to use a special magic orb that you eventually come across.
The orb in question can be twisted open to reveal two lenses inside that both allow you to see hidden things in the environment, and also see through time. The first lens let’s you see hidden mechanisms that are obscured by walls or inside of another object, and it allows you to interact with them. So you might not be able to see the lock on a door, but with this orb you can see the mechanism for it, and mess around with it.
The second lens allows you to see through time and travel to a past version of the level. These are highly scripted events and not something you can just do whenever you like. In certain parts of the level, if you open up the orb you’ll be greeted by a static swirling portal that you can walk through and enter the past. For example, in an early level I was in a Gazebo that only had one entrance in it, but opposite me in the distance was a very large door that seemed like where I had to go. I popped open the orb and was transported to a past version of the gazebo that had two exits, allowing me to progress further and solve other puzzles before returning to the portal and climbing through into the future.
One of the things that jumped out to me immediately was how clearly The House of Da Vinci 2, just like its predecessor, is a mobile game first. From the menus to just navigating and interacting with the world was crafted with a mobile user in mind and ultimately feels clunky in spots on other platforms. That’s not a bad thing if you’re playing on a mobile device, but considering I was playing it on PC I found some of the movement and interaction stuff to be a little tedious.
The entire game is mouse driven, allowing to you look around by clicking and dragging the mouse which works without any issue. The problem is that in order to move around or zoom in on a puzzle so you can interact with it, you have to double click the area or object, and sometimes those things can be a little closer to each other than you’d like. There were plenty of times in levels where I would try to interact with an object, and suddenly find myself gliding across the floor to another section of the level. It’s not game breaking or anything like that, just a minor annoyance that I kept running into.
The puzzles themselves run the entire gamut from really interesting, to straightforward, and to completely obtuse nonsense that doesn’t make any sense and you just so happened to luck your way into solving. There are so many puzzles that are either really cool or just not noteworthy whatsoever, so you just kind of breeze past them thinking you’re the smartest person in the world. Then you get to a puzzle that mentally breaks you, occupies an hour of your time as you start to question how you ever even made it through school, and then eventually realize you didn’t fully move a switch or something. Standard puzzle game stuff.
Luckily there’s a pretty good hint system in place that will give you increasingly more descriptive tips depending on how long you’ve lingered in a section without advancing a little. To better explain it, there will be a room filled with puzzle boxes and panels that all tie into each other in some fashion, but they usually have some chronological order for you to tackle them in. So the hint system starts some timer depending on how long you’ve gone without any progress, and gives you the first and most vague hint before starting the timer again and issuing a more descriptive one. It’s a good system that unfortunately doesn’t offer much for when you’ve exhausted all the hints and still don’t know what to do.
The House of Da Vinci 2 is also a pretty long game for what it is, clocking in around six hours for me which was a welcome surprise for me. The beauty of The House of Da Vinci 2 is that there’s very little to no repetition in the puzzles, and for the few times there was a similar puzzle, it was just different enough to feel fresh. The levels themselves are visually interesting, but usually boil down to little more than a cool new backdrop for you to play with a few objects inside of. The levels do a good job providing something that’s new and visually interesting, without being overly distracting.
Lastly, I should mention that while the game looks and runs well on PC it also comes with an inflated price tag if you choose the non-mobile approach. On phones it’s just five dollars, whereas the price on Steam is twenty. I don’t say that as a value judgement, just something for potential player to consider if they’re interested. Aside from playing on a larger screen with better graphical fidelity, there’s no real difference between the versions.
The House of Da Vinci 2 isn’t going to change your life or the way you think about puzzle games or anything like that. The truth is that it’s a solid puzzler that’s good for a few hours of fun. Maybe you’ll find the story to be engaging and thought provoking, but judging it solely on the strength of its puzzles, The House of Da Vinci 2 is pretty good.