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Video Game / Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript

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Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript is a PC adventure game from Kheops Studios. You play Valdo, an apprentice artist in the Middle Ages, who has been hired by a mysterious individual to infiltrate Cloux Manor in the French countryside. There, he is to charm the lady of the manor, Marie Babou, allegedly the mistress of the King of France. This is to distract her from Valdo's real mission — to locate a lost book of writings by Leonardo da Vinci, who spent his final years in the manor. But all is not as it seems, and soon Valdo realizes that finding da Vinci's manuscript is necessary not just to collect his payoff, but to save his own life. Everyone around him, from Babou to the King of France himself, has their own hidden agenda, and there's more at stake than he ever imagined.

Forbidden Manuscript is a puzzle-based game, where you must use clues and objects around you to slowly piece together the reality of what's happening in the manor. The building is full of secrets to be uncovered.

This video game contains examples of:

  • Adventure Game
  • Artistic License History: Present in a few places, but mostly averted; the game is largely historically faithful.
  • Bamboo Technology: Remember Leonardo's famous flying machine? It's in the basement. You can fix it using the right combination of items found around the manor.
  • Bookcase Passage: From Leonardo's room to the one that was occupied by his lover.
  • Brainy Brunette: Babou is no dummy.
  • Broken Bridge: One of the earliest means of pleasing Babou is to fix the one leading to the dovecote.
  • Bury Your Gays: da Vinci, who was historically homosexual, has died prior to the game. It is only briefly mentioned that Salai, his lover, was male.
  • Character Portrait: On the inventory screen is a portrait of Valdo; you can make him put on or take off various pieces of clothing and equipment by taking them from the inventory and putting them on his portrait. After he meets Babou, she also appears in the portrait, and the proximity of the characters to each other is determined by their relationship.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Your course of action later in the game is partly determined by whether or not you gave milk to the cat on your first night.
  • Clear My Name: Valdo goes from being on a simple mission for an unknown employer to being suspected of treason.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Saturnin, whose actual role in the story is unclear for most of the game.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: There are a few instances where you can be captured and put to death, either through execution or torture; this is illustrated in sketch form. You are then returned to the last save point to try again.
  • Deus ex Machina: The ending scene, where the King of France shows up to save Valdo from being murdered.
  • Door to Before: The passage from Leonardo's bookcase leads to your own room - but it's a one-way trip. You can only go back the same way by solving yet another puzzle, and that puzzle is only made available to you in a particular set of circumstances.
  • Elemental Crafting: In the smithy, you have to smelt pewter and copper to make bronze. You can also melt gold to manufacture coins to purchase needed items from Saturnin, although this is not strictly required (since you have some gold to start).
  • Evil Is Easy: You can, in fact, take the evil way out of just about every scenario if you want.
  • Flashback Effects: Completing different stages of the game triggers Valdo to have psychic flashbacks to Leonardo's life, which are presented in sepia-tone.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Babou's shown wardrobe consists of a whole two of these.
  • Grid Inventory: Everything you pick up is stored in one of these; however, there are four full 'pages' of these grids, which give you much more storage space than you will ever need.
  • Hartman Hips: Subverted. Babou has them, but given the time period of the game, she has her corset to thank.
  • Historical Domain Character: Leonardo da Vinci and the King of France are both in here.
  • Hot Drink Cure: When Babou loses her voice after singing for Valdo, he prepares a hot tincture of honey and lemon to ease her pain.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: Valdo's voice directs you throughout the game.
  • Karma Meter: Red and white bars on the inventory screen indicate your diabolical and angelic levels. Good actions increase your angelic level; bad (or rather, naughty) ones increase your diabolical level. If one or the other is too high, it restricts your options as to which actions are available to perform.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Briefly, and optionally. Apart from the fact that you can put all sorts of things into your inventory that you might never even use, there are a few things that need to be purchased from Saturnin (see Money for Nothing, below). But there comes a point in the game when he's not around and his cabinet is open, and if you feel like raising your diabolical level, you can help yourself to what you want instead of paying for it.
  • Last-Name Basis: Marie Babou prefers to have people address her as "Babou." Somewhat subverted in that it's not her true last name (see Overly Long Name, below), but it's generally treated as though it is.
  • Life Embellished: The mystery itself may not have been real, but much about the game is based on the actual life and death of da Vinci.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: Several.
  • Meaningful Name: The cat's name is Alkahest. Alkahest is more commonly known as the philosopher's stone. This is important, eventually.
  • The Mistress: Babou is allegedly this to the King of France. In one of the endings, however, she runs away with Valdo instead.
  • Money for Nothing: In a manner of speaking. In da Vinci's bedroom, Valdo will find equipment he can use to manufacture gold coins in the smithy. These can be used to purchase items from Saturnin, the cranky handyman. However, he starts the game with enough gold coins (real ones) to buy the only items that will actually be required to complete the game, so the coin manufacturing is technically optional. It only becomes necessary if the player spends the coins on the other items. (All of the items Saturnin will sell are needed to finish the game, but some of them can be acquired through other means - and as noted above, you can even steal them from him at one point.) If you make the coins and don't spend them, well, it's this trope.
  • Multiple Endings: There really is only one ending, but certain details about it depend on your earlier actions.
  • Never Learned to Read: Valdo, at one point, finds a letter which seems to implicate Saturnin the caretaker. However, when he confronts the man, Saturnin replies that the letter can't possibly be for him because of this trope.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: See Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, above.
  • Opening Narration/Voiceover Letter: The game begins with Valdo reading the letter he received from his mysterious employer, with a voice-over reading it out loud for the player.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter: You don't have to get Babou to sleep with you, but it helps. The actual encounter isn't shown, but Valdo includes a drawing of himself and Babou in bed together in his diary.
  • Only One Name: Valdo is only ever called Valdo. It's never clarified if this is his first name or his last name.
  • Overly Long Name: Babou's full name, which is almost never mentioned, is Marie Babou de la Bourdaisiere.
  • Paper Key-Retrieval Trick: If Valdo is captured while moving around the manor on the final in-game day, he needs to use this in order to escape from his locked bedroom. Don't worry - if he doesn't have a sheet of paper in his inventory already, there's one in the room with him.
  • Plot Coupon: The sun and moon symbols and the philosopher's stone.
  • Posthumous Character: Leonardo da Vinci has been dead for a few years when the game begins, but he still appears in flashbacks.
  • Red Herring: A few of the clues you find are actually incorrect, something that you can't possibly know until you receive the correct ones from another character.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: A scepter and the King's signet ring are both significant to solving the mystery.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The character who turns out to be out to get you is treated to a rather fitting end.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The game's subtitles contain a really weird typo, which indicates that one character knew da Vinci "three hundred years ago." da Vinci died three years before the events of the game, but there's no logical reason why that hundred sneaked in there.
  • Scenery Porn: Limited, but it's there; the whole game takes place on the grounds of the actual manor house in France where da Vinci died.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: One of these is heavily involved with the plot to destroy Valdo.
  • Secret Path: Babou has an underground one that connects her manor to one of the King's residences, in order to facilitate their alleged affair. Valdo must use it in order to overhear necessary details that will save him from the executioner's block.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Some of the puzzles around the manor are logical to the plot - for example, repairing the Broken Bridge or preparing the tincture that will ease Babou's sore throat. Others fall squarely into this trope, though the game tries to justify them with all the secrecy and treachery.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: You have to use a cannon at one point.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: When preparing the Hot Drink Cure for Babou's sore throat, Valdo can optionally add a few drops of sleeping potion to knock her out for a while. (It doesn't hurt her; she comments upon waking that she feels remarkably refreshed.)
  • Tap on the Head: One option for the final day is to do this to one of the guards, and then steal his uniform, so that from a distance the other guards think you're one of them. Doing so raises your diabolical meter.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: You will render the game unwinnable if you use the ladder as a makeshift bridge from the dovecote to the smithy and forget to take it with you when you leave; when you return later in a boat, you will be unable to move forward, and you don't have the option of going back and removing it.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Valdo accepts the job from his unknown employer because he's broke and slightly desperate. He's got no idea that it's part of a complicated plot which is supposed to end with him either dead or in prison.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: You can't solve the bookcase puzzle in Leonardo's room until after Babou has told you about Salai, Leonardo's lover, even if you already know his name.