Apparently, there is no escape from the Da Vinci Code phenomenon. Hack novels about ancient Christianity have been clogging bookstore shelves for a good three years now thanks to author Dan Brown, and this trend has now come to adventure gaming. Artematica Entertainment's take on yet another insidious Catholic conspiracy is Belief & Betrayal, a subpar point-and-click affair that somehow manages to spin a yarn even more ridiculous than one of Brown's potboilers. Absurd scripting, annoying voice acting, and nonstop nonsensical pixel hunts make it no surprise that this dire scheme has been kept under wraps for the better part of 2,000 years.
You play Jonathan Danter, a reporter for a magazine called the Manhattan Mirror who is dragged into the investigation of yet another Earth-shaking secret that the Catholics have been keeping from the world. Sooner than you can say "Knights Templar," the journalist and his newfound friends from a shadowy Vatican secret society called the Legacy are scouring Europe for clues. Their goal is a MacGuffin called the Imago Sanctissimus, a mysterious ancient artifact that can apparently answer all questions about everything like some kind of Magic 8-Ball.
Meet Jonathan Danter, the most unconvincing journalist in the history of adventure gaming.
Many plot points make no sense, beginning with the bizarre opening when Danter dumps a work assignment in Miami and immediately flies to London after a phone call from a Scotland Yard detective who tells him that his life may be in danger. Danter doesn't seem the slightest bit like a real character. He laughs off huge revelations like the news that his Uncle Frank didn't actually die 10 years ago, as his family always pretended, and that the not-dead guy was actually a spy for the Vatican who was recently murdered as part of a bizarre series of ritualistic serial killings. You would think that these sorts of surprises would prompt a few shocking gasps, but Danter just keeps loading on the quips and unloading his big catchphrase, "Cat's whiskers!" Yes, seriously.
Danter has to be one of the most irritating protagonists ever to grace an adventure game. He's obviously supposed to be some kind of a bad-boy reporter with an attitude, but he's characterized more like an obnoxious teen than a pro journalist who travels all over the world writing exposes. Horrific voice acting doesn't help; his lines are often read so quickly that you get the impression that the actor was late for a bus. The only saving grace is that you also occasionally get to take control of Danter's partners. Kat, a cool spy type, and Damien, a stereotypical computer nerd, are voiced extremely well. So they seem far more believable and far less grating, even if they're swimming upstream against the overall absurdity of the plot.