The Da Vinci Mode: Rosslyn

By Brendan Caldwell on June 20th, 2011 at 1:58 pm.

Iron. Like lion. In Sion.
The Hivemind have told you I’m helping out this week. The truth is I’ve been kidnapped by Quinns in a hot air balloon. I don’t want to write about the Personal Computer games. I am being forced. Send help. They make me play games with lots of religious imagery, which my enfeebled mind finds impossible to resist. Games like Rosslyn: The Templar Mystery, which is essentially a first-person point and click, with a very holy escape-the-room vibe. The whole game is set in Rosslyn Chapel – wot was in that Da Vinci Code – where you have to leaf through your grandfather’s old diary to find the clues to solve 51 puzzles hidden in the statues, stonework and tombs. I like it quite a little. But then I would say that. Quinns is pointing a rusty bayonet at me.

No, he isn’t. Read more of my genuinely held impressions after the jump.

It can be quite a slow-burning game too. You walk around with usual FPS aplomb but constantly have to refer to the diary for help. Before you even get onto the first few puzzles you have to figure out how to navigate the book, using the smattering of notes left by Grandaddy Black. You know you’re in it for the long haul when the first puzzle is a contents page.

After you’ve consulted the diary, it’s usually a matter of finding the right bit of brickwork and pushing, pulling or twisting it the right way. Occasionally you’ll get a medallion or a coin, which hop into your inventory menu for use somewhere later on.

Nice columns.

The puzzles have a specific order and only the relevant bits and bobs around the chapel become active, so there’s no way you can solve multiple puzzles at once, or skip to a later one. Anyway that would be crazy because you’d need to be a high-functioning Tom Hanks to take in this many clues at once. In Rosslyn Chapel you begin to get that familiar sense of adventure game paranoia. Every tiny statuette, every stained-glass window, every beam of light and tiny pixellated symbol becomes meaningful. Which is a funny feeling and sometimes a frustrating one.

This explains the echoey musical soundtrack – a medieval hum which is probably designed to keep you calm. Or it’s just there to add a nice Roman Catholic atmosphere. Doesn’t matter. It does both. Even so, it isn’t something you could fire through on a single sitting. Thankfully, it notifies you and auto-saves after every solution. Perfect for popping in and out of for fifteen minutes on a dreary Sunday. Like mass.

Grandad kept all his other notes on etch-a-sketch.

It isn’t anywhere near as spooky as Amnesia. But it does develop a similarly uneasy feeling of being trapped in an unfamiliar place. It’s a slower, more chin-scratchy kind of fear. Not a fear of monsters, just a fear of being stupid. A lot of the game’s atmosphere is thanks to the book, with its scribbles and cryptic runic text. You always have to go back to reading. So proud are developers Ovine By Design that they’ve even made a PDF version of it available for download. “Ninety percent of archaeology is done in the library,” as a famous archaeologist once said. “The other ten percent is on PC.” That’s true. Word for word, that’s what he said.

Anyway. Go play and see already.

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24 Comments »

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  1. GraveyardJimmy says:

    Shame my AV gives a false positive when I try to play it.
    I’ll trust you this once RPS..

    Edit:
    I did the first few puzzles and I am hooked. I love point and click adventure games and figuring out puzzles, this is really good (although the camera seems quite jerky as I move around, maybe a refresh rate issue?)

  2. Ignorant Texan says:

    Slate ran a series of 5 articles about the ‘hidden code’ in the Rosslyn Chaplel back in May.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2294492/

  3. Jaste says:

    Proper chuffed this is on RPS because my old man did the music for this game :)
    Congrats to @stuovine and all the lads at Ovine

  4. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I would recommend people stay away from the real Rosslyn Chapel — I’m sure it was lovely ten years ago before Dan Brown came on the scene, but now it’s horribly overpriced, full of the kind of tourists who just want to check it off a list of things to do in Scotland, and so filled with heat lamps and cables that you can’t really appreciate the lovely stonework. There are better ornate chapels to go to — perhaps not as ornate as Rosslyn, but certainly easier to enjoy and appreciate.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I would agree, but also counter it by pointing out that there’s some nice walks around Rosslyn Chapel, with bits of ruined castle which are much more interesting than the chapel itself.

  5. stuovine says:

    Sorry about the false positives – out of our control. If you could submit the file to your antivirus vendor – that would be appreciated. no virus here :)

    Hope you guys enjoy it.

  6. Wang Tang says:

    Is it Colonel Caldwell? Inspector Caldwell? Just Mr. Caldwell?

    Anyway, tag is gold.

  7. johnpeat says:

    I was about to try this but the local Masonic Lodge came around en-force and told me that as “successors to the Templars” (LOL) they were here to stop me from revealing their innermost secrets.

    I simply shook their hands with my foot via my left earlobe whilst waving a wodge of cash from my left eyelid and they left – but when I returned to my PC, the demo was GONE and a strange screensaver was showing me a picture of a hammer and some caliperthings…

    I wondered why they carried those ‘fat’ briefcases – digital pikeys – I’m keying their cars later…

    Next week, Jehovahs Witnesses attempt to stop me playing a game where blood might hit me accidentally and I murder them all using only their own leaflets…

  8. Stardog says:

    I’m stuck at the “find the first puzzle” puzzle.

  9. Vexing Vision says:

    I like this Brendan person. You should keep him in your balloon.

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    Oozo says:

    I SEVERAL TIMES touched iron in Sion. True story. (No lions, though.)

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    tomeoftom says:

    Yay for Brendan! Always excreting nutritious and delicious word.

  12. CaspianRoach says:

    This game is pretty epic. A little confusing at first but then it flows naturally till the end. Very nice!

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    phlebas says:

    Looks promising! Are we missing a ‘free’ tag?

  14. jeremypeel says:

    This sounds an awful lot like wot those adventure games ought to be doing post-Penumbra. Yes, that sounds right. I’m right.

  15. treat says:

    I feel like I may have made a mistake adhering to mouse inversion for so many years, since I so often find that free games lack it as an option.

  16. Gabe McGrath says:

    Great to see this on RPS at last. :-)

    I did a big interview with the Ovine boys about Rosslyn, in which they talk inspirations, ‘feelies’ (paper things that used to come with games), Freescape, building puzzlers and the story behind the voiceover and soundtrack.

  17. Stephen Roberts says:

    Any game that makes me feel remotely like I’m playing Thief 2: Journal Consultation Edition is good news to me. I’m not being flippant! There’s a high chance I’ll complete this and enjoy myself in doing so. Music is nice too.

  18. DrBomb says:

    I’ve never been able to solve a 3×3 tile puzzle… I solved 4 in this game and i found out they’re not as ulgy as I thought, thats the most productive thing I’ve done today.

  19. thebigJ_A says:

    Am I supposed to be able to read the runes in the notebook? How do you know it came from your grandfather? I feel stupid.

  20. Faxmachinen says:

    A lovely game, especially for the price charged. Avoids one of my biggest gripes about “real 3D” puzzleventure games, which is invisible walls. For everyone else making those kind of games, just stick to pre-rendered stuff. Seriously, it just looks nicer and is much less annoying.

    Anyway, the soundtrack was nice, but it was repeated a few too many times. Perhaps a simple ambient track (outside wind, low choral hum, etc.) interspersed with the current soundtrack would be less straining.

    I think the FOV was a bit too low, which always gives me a headache.

    As for the puzzles, the solutions were completely arbitrary, and there were no hints anywhere, but the book told you exactly what to do. It was more like a list of chores than a series of puzzles, especially with the repeating puzzles. Having the irrelevant puzzles locked was a nice touch, but it didn’t really matter due to the book.