Tuesday, 31 March 2009

PC Game Review - Secret Files: Tunguska

Secret Files: Tunguska is an adventure game based on a mystery centred around the Tunguska phenomena of 1908 - a huge, unexplained explosive force that flattened a large are of Siberia. You play as Nina Kalenkov, the daughter of a scientist involved in the original research into Tunguska, and occasionally as her friend / love interest Max, who works in the museum with her father. The game starts when Nina goes to visit her father in the museum one night to find that he has been kidnapped...

The Good

The graphics in this game are superb. The backgrounds look gorgeous and have plenty of little details that stop if from looking too static, and the characters are well designed and well animated. The quality of the graphics is admittedly not entirely consistent throughout the game - some scenes look a little less impressive - but overall it's a big positive point for the game.

Another good thing about this game is the interface - in fact, I found it almost perfect. The cursor onscreen is a computer mouse, with the left and right mouse showing up in green if that action is possible on the item (left =interact, right = examine). This works for the inventory items too, which show along the bottom of the screen, which makes it very easy to quickly find out what items can be combined. Additionally there is a "Search Location" function which shows up all the hotspots on a screen. What a fantastic idea - no more pixel-hunting! There is also a diary where interesting and useful information is recorded, plus a hints section for some of the puzzles.

The puzzles where, generally, a positive thing about the game. Most were very or at least tolerably logical, and the difficulty was about right for you to be able to keep moving forward without it being too easy. Hardened adventure gamers may find it a little too easy, but for most of us it's about right.

The plot was also good, overall. The ending was a little disappointing in some ways but it tied things in quite neatly. When you've completed the game there is some commentary on what happened to some of the characters, some of which are quite amusing, and some "outtakes"...

The Bad

... which were, frankly, pretty awful. Not that it was a big problem!

However, what really was a big problem - a huge one in fact - was the voice acting. It's terrible. (Whether this is true of the original German release I don't know.) The volume fluctuates indiscriminately, sometimes hall effect is added for no discernable reason (sometimes this turns on and off within the same dialogue too!), and the quality of the voice acting itself is bad. There are pauses in the wrong places, stress placed on inconsequential words instead of important ones, strange choices in inflexion in many places... It sounds like an inexperienced reader struggling with a book they're unfamiliar with.

In addition the game is set in Germany / Siberia / Ireland and elsewhere, yet all of the characters have American accents. This really detracts from the atmosphere of the game (which is set up so well by the excellent graphics). Additionally the voice of Nina, which is inevitably the voice you hear most often, is extremely annoying. I would suspect that a teenage American girl's voice would grate on almost anyone's nerves in the end - especially when it's supposed to be a Russian girl in the first place! The voice acting for Max is awful, as is the voicing for some of the other characters.

The dialogue, which sometimes comes across as a rather bad translation, and often seems rather pointless, doesn't help. Despite the plot being quite good the characters themselves just aren't very interesting, which again doesn't help create much atmosphere to the game.


There are some excellent things about this game, and also some awful ones. This adds up to a game that is much less enjoyable than it should be, though I still did enjoy playing it overall. If you like adventure games and think you could put up with an annoying American girl trying to sound hip and a script that often tries to be funny that doesn't, the actual game in here is very solid adventure gaming fun.

It just saddens me that this could have been a really fantastic game... instead of which it feels like a reasonable Broken Sword wannabe.

(There is a sequel to this game, but I'm undecided as to whether it'll end up on my PC... depends on how cheap it ends up being!)

System Specs

OS: Windows 2000/XP (works fine on Vista)
RAM: 128Mb (256Mb+ Recommended)
CPU: Pentium II 500MHz (Pentium IV 1GHz+ recommended)
VDU: 16Mb card (64Mb+ card recommended)
HDD Space: 2Gb
DirectX: 9.0

Tested on: Packard Bell iPower X9810

Age Rating (PEGI): 12+ for language (there are some swear words slipped into the plot, mostly it seems just for the sake of it - another poor design choice).

See also:

My Top Ten Commercial Adventure Games

The Broken Sword series:

Broken Sword 1: The Shadow of the Templars
Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror
Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon
Broken Sword 4: The Angel of Death

I still think the first game has one of the best plots of any adventure game ever, and the second is one of my all-time favourite adventure games.

Other Adventure Games reviewed on this blog:

More Adventure Game Reviews

Google+ Followers