Game Reviews

Secret Files Tunguska

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| Secret Files: Tunguska
Secret Files Tunguska
| Secret Files: Tunguska

Let me make this clear from the off. Secret Files Tunguska is not an amazing game.

It's not going to show up in the history books of important and critically-acclaimed point-and-click adventures alongside Gabriel Knight, Broken Sword, and Grim Fandango. You'll probably forget all about it as soon as the credits roll.

For starters the dialogue is stilted and unnatural. That might be a symptom of converting everything from German to English, or maybe the translators just didn't have much to work with in the first place.

This is, after all, a rather paint-by-numbers storyline about overthrowing corrupt corporations and uncovering secret conspiracies (this time, it's got something to do with the mysterious real-world Tunguska explosion of 1908).

We get bland generic gal hero Nina who teams up with bland generic guy hero Max to defeat scenery-chewing villain types. And there's only a smidgen of humour to lighten the mood.

Tell no one

Secret Files Tunguska feels like a half-hearted attempt to ape Broken Sword, but without the wit, charm, or grand sense of adventure seen in Revolution's iconic point-and-click.

The two games do share a love of travel, though. As you play through Tunguska you'll visit a castle in Ireland, an asylum in Cuba, the icy depths of Antarctica, and loads more besides. As soon as you get bored of one locale you're whisked off to another.

And each place is packed to the gills with puzzles. Every situation calls for a new brain teaser. Nina is constantly stuffing items into her hip-hugging jeans. And every obstacle requires a convoluted five-step plan to overcome.

In some games this might feel like an annoying barrier to the narrative, but as the plot and characters in Secret Files aren't particularly exciting, Tunguska works best when it's burying you with logical conundrums.

Most of them are pretty good, with the game subtly telegraphing the solutions through Nina's observations. And they often feel grounded: an early puzzle to fix a bike's inner tube reflects what you'd do if you got a puncture in the real world.

But others can be utterly bizarre - like sellotaping a phone to a cat to record a secret conversation.

Every now and then you'll get the sort of illogical and goofy puzzles we thought we left behind when Gabriel Knight 4 asked us to make a fake moustache from a handful of cat hair and a dollop of syrup.

Lips are sealed

But a good interface makes it effortless to try out your bizarre solutions. You can find hotspots by running your finger over the screen, or just tap a button to highlight all the objects you can interact with.

Plus Nina (and Max - sometimes you'll get to control both) will run to items of interest instead of slowly sauntering over. And they often keep useful notes on puzzles in a diary.

The only real issues come from the subtitles - you can't turn them off, they're peppered with grammatical flubs, and they sometimes don't match up with the voices at all.

Speaking of voices, you'll have to get over the fact that Nina Kalenkov - Berlin-born and of Russian descent - speaks with a perfect American accent.

You can change the language for the voices and subtitles independently. The game's got seven languages which is admirable, but it bloats the file size to a staggering 2.3GB.

All in all, Secret Files Tunguska is a pleasant if not terribly memorable game. It takes you on a globe-trotting adventure, and asks you to solve hundreds of puzzles - some smart, others a bit harebrained.

But with some stodgy and unimaginative writing, and a cast of bland characters, it won't be joining the adventure game hall of fame anytime soon.

Secret Files Tunguska

Secret Files Tunguska is an enjoyable adventure with some good puzzles and lots of locations. It's just not imaginative or exciting enough for a full reccomendation
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown is editor at large of Pocket Gamer