Secret Files: Tunguska comes close to being an excellent game, but it just misses the mark. It’s a shame because there is a lot to recommend about it. Secret Files: Tunguska is a third person point and click game fueled by inventory puzzles, which has outstanding and innovative technical and graphic qualities and professional quality production values. And perhaps because of these outstanding features, we expect a bit more than we get from the plot and puzzles.
An interesting historical phenomenon forms the backdrop for Secret Files: Tunguska. Tunguska is a region in Siberia where, in 1908, there was an unexplained gigantic explosion, shockwave and fire. The firestorm was so tremendous and so devastating that, over the following few nights, people all over Europe could read their newspapers by its light. The cause of the explosion has never been positively identified. The prevailing theories are either a meteor storm or a methane gas explosion. But, could it really have been a UFO landing…?
You are playing the role of Nina, a young woman in present-day Berlin, who visits her scientist-father at his office at the Natural History Museum and discovers him missing under mysterious and, apparently, nefarious circumstances. She is aided by Max, a young colleague of her father’s, and, in some instances you are playing the game from Max’s perspective. Nina and Max travel all over the globe to track down Nina’s father as they become swept up in a dangerous and sinister plot involving Nina’s father’s secret research in Tunguska.
The varieties of locales, including Germany, Ireland, Cuba, China and Russia, are all rendered with wonderful detail and style, and they are a pleasure to look at. In addition to new locales, new characters emerge periodically to keep your interest. Although a few characters, such as the drunken Irish fisherman and the Cuban dance-crazy sex-pot, are a bit clichéd, they are nevertheless entertaining. At the end of the game, there are some very funny “out-takes.” These are examples of the sense of humor that keeps Secret Files: Tunguska from taking itself too seriously.
There is one technical innovation that I just loved. Secret Files: Tunguska has a fail-safe in case one misses finding all the “hot-spots” on the screen where the inventory items are hidden. A simple click on the menu or the space bar shows you the location of all the “hot-spots” and the exits. What a blessing! Nina also keeps a journal that contains helpful information about the abstract puzzles, but not, alas, about the inventory puzzles.
Although I’m sure that there are many inventory puzzle lovers, I found them endless and non-intuitive. They all involve combining the various inventory pieces in ways even MacGyver wouldn’t have considered. In the terrific game, Return to Mysterious Island, http://www.adventurecompanygames.com/tac/mysterious island there are many inventory puzzles, but there are reference books and hints explaining ways in which the pieces can be used and combined. They would have come in handy in Secret Files: Tunguska. But, remember: there is no shame in using walkthroughs; games are supposed to be fun.
All the characters in Secret Files: Tunguska are well voiced and well acted, though at times Nina’s dialogue made her sound more like a caricature of a super hero rather than the daring and attractive young woman she is supposed to be. The characters’ movements are amazingly lifelike. For example, Nina and the Cuban sex-pot bend, flex and move their bodies with fluidity and naturalness. There are many cut scenes and they are all sophisticatedly prepared. The musical score is another plus.
The game could use a bit more drama, excitement and twists in the plot, however. Secret Files: Tunguska is largely the story of Nina’s journey around the world from one dangerous incident to another in order to find her father. And the outcome never seems in doubt.
Already plans are in the works for a sequel starring Nina and Max. A teaser/trailer, which can be downloaded from http://www.secretfiles-game.com left me looking forward to playing the sequel. If the sequel were to combine the great graphics, production values, technical innovations and sense of humor of Secret Files: Tunguska with a faster-moving plot and more varied puzzles, it would be winner.
One final note, it is necessary to download a patch to Secret Files: Tunguska in order for the game to work properly. http://www.adventurecompanygames.com/tac/support/pc/patches/tunguska.php