Game Reviews

Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis

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Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis

The world is heading towards an environmental disaster of epic proportions; we've got global warming, unacceptable levels of pollution and overpopulation to contend with. No wonder the soothsayers are having a field day.

It's all rather depressing, so you can understand why Nina Kalenkov - the red-haired leading lady of the Secret Files series - has decided to take a leisurely cruise in order to get away from such gloomy predictions.

However, in Kalenkov's case, things are going to get much worse. Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis is set in a world where natural disasters are becoming ever more commonplace, but the root cause isn't people leaving their TVs on standby or refusing to recycle their plastic bottles - it's more nefarious than that.

A shadowy religious cult - the Puritas Cordis of the title - is attempting to bring about the apocalypse to cleanse the world. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are on the rise, and Kalenkov has her own personal problems. She's recently separated from long-term squeeze Max; who also starred in the original DS game in the series Secret Files: Tunguska.

Drama and intrigue follow Kalenkov like a bad smell and even before she boards her ship she finds herself bumping into - quite literally - an elderly gentleman who seconds later has a similar coming-together with a truck, only with markedly less pleasant results.

When she eventually gets onto the cruiser, she discovers that her suitcase has been switched for that of the freshly-deceased man and certain people wish to obtain it. Once again, our sassy heroine has become embroiled in all sorts of adventure-type mischief.

The plot may contain more twists and turns than a spaghetti junction but Secret Files 2 is still a very traditional point-and-click escapade at heart. By that, we mean it features brain-busting puzzles so extraordinarily outlandish they could only exist in such a game.

For example, one early dilemma involves reading an inscription on the bottom of a child's kart. To do this, you must attach a roller skate to the bottom of the kart (it's missing one of its wheel, you see), roll it over a skylight in the floor, clean said portal with a makeshift mop you've created out of several completely unrelated odds-and-ends and then view the text from the deck below.

During this entire jaunt you have to conveniently ignore the fact that common sense would suggest it would be a damn sight easier to merely flip the kart over and read the inscription.

Mercifully, not every puzzle is afflicted with such bizarre and unhinged logic; some of the conundrums are refreshingly straightforward, and consequently solving them is much more gratifying because you're able to assemble the solution in your head rather than resorting to the tiresome blindly try everything method that is unfortunately required for the more obtuse puzzles.

But while many of the brainteasers contained with Secret Files 2 are maddening in their reasoning, thankfully the game's interface is pleasantly streamlined and wonderfully intuitive.

Everything is driven by the stylus. Tapping an object opens up an on-screen menu; more often than not, you're given two choices: to inspect the item in question (cannily represented by an eyeball) or use it, which either means interacting with it or picking it up and adding it to your inventory. The delectable Miss Kalenkov may look like she hasn't eaten anything larger than a peanut since the age of 12 but she sure does have accommodatingly large pockets. During the adventure she'll accumulate dozens of different items, many of which must be fused together in order to create solutions.

As the adventure unfolds and the reprehensible scheme of the Puritas Cordis is unraveled, you'll travel the globe and get to play as other characters - Kalenkov's aforementioned ex being one of them.

In case you weren't aware, the game actually made its debut on the PC before being ported to both the DS and Wii consoles. While the PC original was notable for showcasing some lovely high-res visuals, this portable version has obviously taken a massive hit in terms of graphical quality.

The in-game characters are 3D models but they lack detail and look a little angular. The backgrounds are pre-rendered and display limited amounts of animation, but the storage limitations of the DS cartridge format mean they're pretty drab looking. Space issues also mean that DS owners are spared the truly dire voice acting of the PC iteration.

Sadly, the weak script - probably a by-product of the game being translated from its native German - remains however. For the most part the dialogue is acceptable, but some of the attempts at cutting satire fall down faster than a drunkard on a unicycle.

Still, despite its myriad shortcomings Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis manages to amuse for a short while. Point-and-click adventures are intrinsically engaging because they rely so much on problem-solving that the satisfaction of hitting the solution remains considerable.

Sadly though, the game contains too many illogical roadblocks and this severely impacts on the overall enjoyment. And when placed alongside the likes similar titles such as Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - Director's Cut, the difference in quality becomes even more apparent.

Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis

A dodgy script and some absurd puzzles dent the appeal of Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis. Fans of the original game will lap this up, but everyone else should look elsewhere for their point-and-click fix
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.