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Secret Files: Tunguska is a strong contender for the point and click adventure game genre. It has all of the makings of a great adventure game, but I personally found that not all of these elements came together that well.
There is a feisty protagonist, who is almost like a female George Stobbart (from the Broken Sword series). There is witty dialogue and a selection of interesting, but as is typical in most adventure games, unlikely puzzles. Secret files includes an array of characters that all provide their unique perspective, and come into the plot in a meaningful way. The plot is a genuinely intriguing one, that whisks you off to far away lands.
However, there is something not entirely believable about Nina Kalenkov, the main character who you play in the game. She is certainly likeable, but something just doesn't gel with her voice acting, some of her lines and her apparently German roots. Some of the dialogue is genuinely amusing, and from what I have gathered, the game was originally in German, so the translation work has been done very well from the English version.
The plot focuses on a highly unusual event in the Tunguska region, and Nina's father is caught up in the mysterious goings on that surround this event. It will keep you guessing as to what is going on, and whilst playing I felt a real desire to find out what was going on. There is enough plot development during the game to keep you interested, so the game doesn't play out too slowly.
I think the game could have been improved on by giving more depth to the characters, and making them more believable. I found Max Gruber more convincing as a character, but I am not sure if this was just because of the voice acting. Overall this is a game that has had a lot of effort put into it and it shows. It has some nice extras too.
The music and atmosphere in this game is well thought out, and the main menu in particular really sets the scene for the game, with the musical score really setting the agenda.
As a great fan of the point and click adventure genre of PC games I was very excited to receive Secret Files: Tunguska as a present. The game installed very quickly and with great ease on Windows XP and I started playing immediately.
The game itself is designed beautifully, the backgrounds are stunning as are the various cutscenes featured throughout. The characters were also well designed and moved around realistically on the screen.
The story follows the main characters, Nina and Max as they try and track down Ninas father who mysteriously disappeared one night at work. Their adventure leads them to various countries (Russia, Cuba and Ireland to name but a few) and they explore an interesting set of locations (such as a mental institution, castle and some ancient caves). The puzzles, as is normal in most adventure games, are rather bizarre and unlikely, but they're highly enjoyable and humorous.
Like George Stobbart (Broken Sword), Nina and Max seem to have magical pockets and they find it no problem carrying swords or big bits of plank... Mary Poppins and her carpet bag must be very proud!.
I recommend Secret Files: Tunguska to any fans of the adventure genre, or people who are just looking for a relaxing escape from every day life in general. It's a highly enjoyable game and well worth the money!.
The release of Broken Sword 3 in 2003 seems to have sparked something of a renaissance in point and click adventure games, a genre that only a few years previously had seemed to have been killed off by game designers as being unforgivably old-fashioned. Point and click adventures have been around since the start of video gaming, and despite games getting progressively more violent and action-orientated over time, they have managed to survive and are still around now (albeit looking rather better than they used to). I used to be a big fan of old 2D adventure games such as the Monkey Island series, and personally I welcome the fact that new adventure titles are being designed with the all the benefits of modern graphics and sound behind them, and that a new generation of gamers are being introduced into what can be a very absorbing type of game to play. Riding this new wave of popularity comes Secret Files: Tunguska, a committed old-style title with not an action sequence or timed challenge in sight, that was released late in 2006. This game met a mixed reception, and by the January 2007 sales it was already being offered for a knock down price; but for a mere £8.99 I was willing to find out just how well modern point and click games were being designed.
The intriguing premise of Tunguska is that the plot is based around a real occurrence known as the Tunguska Event or Great Siberian Explosion. In the early morning of June 30th 1908, something exploded with the force of 2,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs in the remote Tunguska region of Siberia, felling millions of trees over an area of 6,000 square km. The explosion could be seen from 1,000km away and witnesses reported seeing a long object fall from the sky, which was illuminated in a blue-white light. Strangely, there was little scientific curiosity about the explosion at the time, and as a result there is still a good deal of mystery surrounding what actually happened. Did a meteoroid explode in the atmosphere? Was it a comet that crashed to earth? A black hole? A UFO crash site? A secret weapon test? German developers Fusionsphere have decided on their own explanation (hint: not one of the more rational ones) and put it at the core of this game.
Set against this historical backdrop comes our modern day heroine Nina Kalenkov, one of those beautiful-but-smart, strong-but-vulnerable types beloved of game developers (think Lara Croft in tight jeans). The story begins when Ninas father Vladimir Kalenkov, a Russian scientist living in Berlin, is visited at work by another gaming archetype, the mysterious hooded figure. He subsequently disappears, with his office left in shambles and the local police being less than helpful. Deciding to take matters into her own carefully manicured hands, Nina enlists the help of her fathers hunky colleague Max Gruber and begins investigating. In the style of all the best adventure games, money and real world practicality are no obstacle to plot, and we set off on a globetrotting storyline that provides some interesting locations (but leaves you feeling glad that game characters dont leave carbon footprints).
The plot manages (just) to remain interesting enough to keep you playing, although ventures over into being silly and tenuous at frequent intervals Nina will travel half way around the world on the flimsiest of evidence or keeps falling back on tired stereotypes such as sneaking into military installations and investigating spooky castles. With a little humour or imagination such settings could have worked well, but as it was they felt rather jaded. The characters also leave a lot to be desired. The combination of a young couple who obviously have feelings for each other was done first (and done better) in Broken Sword, and our heroes seem to have no personalities to speak of. Ninas defining characteristics are her tight jeans and worrying about her father. Max seems to be capable of nothing more complex than smiling a lot and liking Nina.
The gameplay is a classic third person point and click style design, with some nice touches added to it. Tunguska has nine locations that you reach sequentially by progressing through the game, with movie sequences feeding you more plot between each of the locations. Each location is typically made up of between two and four detailed static screens where your character can interact with objects, collect anything that isnt nailed down for their inventory, and speak to anyone who happens to be loitering about. You usually start each location with nothing in your inventory; each works as a self-contained level, thus eliminating the annoying backtracking across large numbers of locations (all accessible at the same time) that some older games favoured.
A good deal of thought also seems to have been put into the interface for Tunguska. One of the big failings of point and click games used to be that every time you entered a new location you would have to carefully sweep the screen with your cursor to find the hotspots you could interact with; it was often the case that you found yourself stuck for a long time because you had failed to find the 1 pixel wide key object that would enable you to progress hidden in the darkest part of the most obscure location, which could be incredibly frustrating. Tunguska has neatly sidestepped this problem by providing players with a magic search scene button. Click it, and all the hotspots and exits are magically lit up for you to investigate. This really helps you to progress smoothly through the game, as it ensures that it is very difficult to become stuck because you didnt find a certain object, room or puzzle. Of course, there will doubtless be some purists who will argue that this makes the game too easy, but personally I like my games to have a minimum of frustration in them.
All the action is controlled with the mouse in a well thought out and wonderfully simple to use manner. Hover the cursor over a hot spot and a little image of the mouse pops up on screen if the right button is highlighted, then you can right-click with your mouse to get a description of what Nina or Max is seeing; if the left is highlighted you can left-click to interact with or pick up the object, and if both are highlighted then you can both examine and interact with the hotspot. This technique is also applied to the myriad objects that the standard adventure game character can store in their very tight jeans: left-click to pick up an item from your inventory, then hover the object over hotspots and other items you have collected to see if the mouse icon lights up, and if it does, you can combine objects. This system means it is very quick and easy to see what can be combined or used on hotspots, but it also has a downside. As checking object combinations is so easy, it becomes tempting to just try everything with everything else to solve puzzles rather than thinking it through. Having said that, some of the puzzles encountered in this game are so bizarre, illogical and counter-intuitive that you would never think of them unaided. For example, to use a piece of rubber you have collected on a Y-shaped section of metal to make a catapult has a certain logic to it. But who would have thought that to use a bone on a vacuum cleaner would be a sensible way to proceed?
Another promising touch was the inclusion of the diary, where major plot points and clues are recorded for you to refer back to during the game. While most of the puzzles are solved with the use of inventory objects, there are a few harder ones doted through the game that the developers like to refer to (rather grandly) as riddles. The riddles are puzzles such as finding passwords to open safes, for instance. The diary has a special section that is intended to give you hints about the riddles, but the hints you get vary from being uselessly vague to giving you the answer outright, so I dont think this element worked as well as it could have done.
**Graphics and Sound**
Visually, it looks like as much care and attention has been taken on the backgrounds as on the interface. The designers have gone for a realistic graphic style, with plenty of detail, good lighting effects and some nice environmental animations in place. The 3D characters which themselves are not at all bad to look at blend in well with the scenery, although they do move slowly through it, and the interaction with the objects can be a bit ropey in places, with hands operating door handles that are at least 6 inches away in the game world, for instance. The facial expressions are supposed to be adapted to the speech when the characters talk, but this has limited success, largely because these facial expressions were designed for the original German dialogue. It is not very noticeable and doesnt really detract from the game, though, especially as I chose to follow the subtitles rather than listen to the speech for the most part. The cut scenes are impressive and enjoyable to watch, with many having a very cinematic feel to them.
The sound fares less well. Music is kept to a minimum, and where it was used, it was unimpressive and unmemorable. The absence of sound is compensated for in many of the outdoor locations, where ambient noises such as birdsong are a welcome addition to the atmosphere of the game. I wish that such touches had been used on the internal locations as well, as buildings are rarely completely quiet and a background soundtrack would have helped with the realism. It is the character voices that really bugged me with Tunguska, though. While I welcomed the chance to skip through irrelevant or slow speech (something frustratingly missing from too many games), the voice acting was poor. All characters, regardless of nationality, speak in drawling American accents which I could have lived with, had the delivery of lines not been so cringingly awful. The speech patterns were stilted, as if the actors were reading the script for the first time, with words often mispronounced or with the emphasis given to the wrong words in a sentence. Ninas voice was by far the worst, with her actor making her sound like a character from the O.C. (alright, we already got the fact she is sassy .). Her voice really grated after a while, and I mostly skipped through her lines. The translation from the original German was good (but not faultless); more noticeable were the errors that appeared in the subtitles, however, where spelling mistakes were evident with a depressing regularity.
Secret Files: Tunguska was a mixed package, and I think it is fair to sum it up by saying it was evidently the first adventure title by Fusionsphere. This was an apprentices work: sticking far too close to the work of the masters, emulating the good things well enough, but failing to show any inventiveness or imagination of its own. Still, there were some promising touches, such as the good interface and well-rendered graphics that gives me encouragement for future point and click games by this team. This was far from a masterpiece, but it certainly has the potential to entertain with some nice puzzles and an easy to use style that will probably appeal to newcomers to this genre. I doubt it will convert anyone who doesnt already like point and click adventures, but it is worth trying for any fans of this kind of game, although I would not recommend paying more than £10 for a copy in all honesty. A solid enough debut, but with plenty of room for improvement in future titles.
I bought my copy of Secret Files: Tunguska from Play.com for £8.99 in their January sale; they currently sell it for £13, which is still better than the £17.98 Amazon is asking for it at the time of writing. This game has a PEGI rating of age 12+, and carries a warning that the game features some bad language. There is no warning of violent content, and to be honest apart from a couple of punches being thrown, this game has pleasingly little aggressive content. The following PC specs are the recommended minimum, although I will add for the less technically minded that this ran with no problems on my aged four year old laptop, so you dont need a supercomputer to run it:
Windows 2000 / XP
Intel Pentium II 500MHz (or AMD equivalent)
16MB DirectX9 compatible video card
2GB free disk space
DirectX9 compatible soundcard
I bought this game for myself, to give me something to do during the day, whilst Im off work with my back. Its taken me a while to finish because Ive had to limit the amount of time I can play it in one session.
I bought it at Play.com for £12.99
Tunguska Secret Files is produced by Deep Silver, which is a division of Koch Media GmbH, Austria. The game is a PC DVD ROM and has a certificate of 12. There are no violent scenes, but there is the occasional use of language, hence the age certificate.
The minimum system requirements to run this game are;
Intel Pentium II 500MHz (or AMD® equivalent) Processor
16MB DirectX 9 compatible video card
The recommended system requirements to run this game are;
Intel Pentium IV 1GHz (or AMD® equivalent) Processor
64MB DirectX 9 compatible video card
Also required are;
2.0GB free disk space
DirectX 9 compatible soundcard
In 1908 there was a dreadful explosion in the region of Tunguska, situated in Central Siberia. Apparently the explosion had the combined energy of 2000 Hiroshima bombs. The explosion was heard as far away as 1000km. It felled over 6,000 square km of trees.
People claimed that they saw a long object fall from the sky and that a 20km high column of light was preceded by a black mushroom cloud.
Afterwards Vladimir Kalenkov went out to Tunguska to do some scientific research on the object. He published the Kalenkov report, but was stopped from doing any further research.
Now fast forward a number of years to where the game actually starts. Vladimir now lives in Berlin and works in a museum. He has a daughter called Nina. Unfortunately Vladimirs wife was killed in a tragic traffic accident, so now its just him and Nina.
Nina has arranged to meet her father in his office at the museum. She turns up at his office and finds it empty, but in complete chaos books over the floor, things smashed, filing cabinets emptied. Now Nina knows that her father is a bit untidy, but not even he could create this much mess.
She leaves her dads office and goes into the office next door, which is occupied by Max, a colleague of her fathers. He tells Nina to go home and wait for her dad and he will help her look for him.
Nina goes to her fathers house and this too has been ransacked. Concerned, she telephones the police, but they seem reluctant to help.
What has happened to Ninas father?
Has he been kidnapped?
Is he dead?
Does it have anything to do with what happened in Tunguska?
This game is your classic point and click adventure game, with a number of puzzles thrown in for good measure.
You dont use the keyboard at all to play this game everything you need to do can be done entirely with the mouse, which I think is good. I find there is nothing worse than playing an adventure game where you use the mouse and have to keep referring back to the manual as you are also required to use half the keyboard and cant remember which button does what.
What I also like is that the game is not based in one location. I find that games can get a bit boring sometimes if they are based in one location and you find yourself stuck on what to do next. Wandering around and around the same location if you are stuck can be really off putting.
Some of the locations visited during this game are; Berlin, Moscow, Siberia, Tunguska, Cuba, Ireland and the Himalayas. You also dont just complete one location and then move onto the next and then the next. You do a certain amount in one location, move to a different one and then move back again. Another nice touch is that they alter the weather for each location for example; Cuba sunshine, Ireland ran and Siberia snow. Its just a little something that adds to the level of enjoyment.
Another part of this game I like is that they occasionally give you the option to play as another character, which takes you to a different location with a different inventory.
The game play itself is extremely smooth. You click on somewhere for your character to move to and it happens straight away. Likewise with wanting to use an object you select to use it and it happens immediately. When you click to move to a new location it literally takes two seconds.
The graphics are amazing. A great deal of attention has been given to detail, from the shadows cast by the characters to the way the sunlight creates patterns on the ground. Even the leaves on the palm trees look realistic. You can actually forget that you were playing a game, and not watching a television programme.
You can find sometimes that many games pay attention to the main section of graphics and leave the background as being blurry. This game has given equal attention to both foreground and background graphics.
You get to meet a great variety of characters throughout this, and have to interact with certain ones to proceed further in the game.
The characters are very well defined and each has their own individual personality.
There are too many characters to name individually, but I consider the following three to be the main ones;
Nina The star of the game. It is her father who has disappeared and she is desperate to find him.
Max Works with Ninas father in the museum and has an office next door to him.
Oleg Knew Ninas father in the past and is trying to help find him now.
The sound is excellent, purely because there is none! What I mean is that the only sound you have is background noise. I find that some games which continuously has music playing very annoying. I think that it can drown out what is being said and make you miss valuable clues.
I liked this game because it only had background noise. For example one of the locations you visit is a beach. In the background you can hear the sea lapping against the shore and the occasional sound of seagulls.
The only time there is music continuously playing is when you go into the main menu. There is a wonderful piece of orchestral music playing, which is fantastic.
I think that it was a good idea to keep this piece of music to being played just in the menu screen, otherwise it would have been too much if it was played throughout.
The majority of the screen is where you view the game, apart from about an inch wide band that runs across the bottom of the screen, which is your inventory and menu bar. I thought that this was a very good way to manage this, as you can keep an eye on your game whilst examining objects in your inventory. This is so much better than other games in which you have to press a button to go to a completely screen to see what you are carrying, or the drop down menu which then blocks your view of the game.
You can examine all the items in you inventory bar, and select what you want to use, combine etc. On the right hand side of the bar are the icons to use to proceed through the game. These icons are;
Computer This takes you to your main menu, where you can save, load, continue or end the game. You can also go into the options menu from here and increase the music, sound, turn shadows and subtitles on or off, change the video quality to low or high and select game help to on or off.
Magnifying glass This will only work if you have game help switched on. If you click on this it briefly puts a magnifying glass on objects you can examine or interact with. It also briefly puts a red arrow on any exits. I found this very useful because sometimes I might miss an object that I needed to pick up and couldnt see. If I got stuck, I would use this and it would show me anything that I might have missed.
Diary Clicking on this allows you to read through any important information such as documents that you have picked up along the way. You will hear a sound like a typewriter being used when anything is added to the diary. I found this useful because I could re examine documents I had picked up to find clues. There is a section at the back of the diary called riddle clues. Throughout the games you have puzzles to complete. If you get stuck with these, you can look in the riddle clues section and it will give you some hints on solving the puzzle. I loved this idea. I find with many games I get stuck on some of the puzzles and end up looking on the internet to find out how to solve it, which spoils the fun. What I liked about riddle clues was that it didnt give you the solution, just pointed you in the right direction.
Occasionally under these three icons another one will appear. This will give you the option of playing as either Max or Nina. Sometimes only one of them can do certain things and this gives you option to toggle between the two.
HOW YOU PLAY
You control a blue arrow with your mouse and move it around the screen. When it moves over something you can examine, it changes to a computer mouse icon, with the right buttoned coloured green, with an eye next to it. Whilst examining, the mouse icons stays with the right button highlighted, but the eye changes to two arrows. Pressing the right mouse here allows you to skip through what is being said. This is useful if you have already examined something before, but if its the first time then you need to listen to what is being said, otherwise you could miss something important.
As you move the cursor around the screen, the mouse icon also comes up with both buttons highlighted, with an eye by the right hand a hand by the left. This means that as well as examining an object, you can pick it up, use it, or interact with another character.
Sometimes just the left button is highlighted with a hand. This means that you can exit your current location this way.
When interacting with characters you can ask questions about specific things. To do this you simply click on the pictures that have appeared in your inventory. When the conversation has finished you click on the red arrow.
To examine items in your inventory just move the cursor over it and the right mouse button allows you to examine it. I recommend you do this as sometimes the object you have picked up is just a cover for something else. The left mouse button allows you to use the selected item. Simply click and it will stick to your cursor. If there is nowhere for you to use it, the right mouse button will be highlighted green, with an arrow next to it. Clicking the button puts the item back in your inventory. If you can use it the left mouse button becomes highlighted.
Another thing which I think is a nice touch is the objects can be used more than once, so you need to pick an item back up once you have used it. A little bit sneaky this is, but it adds to the enjoyment of the game.
This in short is a brilliant game. It has to be the best game Ive played for quite a while. Ive played a lot of point and click games and this one is my favourite to date.
The graphics are superb. There is no flickering in the movement as you guide your character around. The objects that you pick up are very well defined. There is no looking at them, trying to work out what its supposed to be. The background is even well defined. You find that some games dont worry about the background too much as long as the main parts are ok. This game worries about everything looking excellent and this shows through when you play it. Clicking to move to a new location happens extremely quickly.
You could forget that this is only a game and not real television. They have even added in a series of outtakes at the end of the games, to add to the illusion that this is more than a game.
Even though there is no background music being played constantly throughout the game, it is a good thing. This game works better by having just background sounds, such as lightening. The silence helps you to concentrate and think about the puzzles, while also ensuring that you dont miss anything that is said.
The fact that they have designed the game so that it is controlled purely by the mouse is great and easy to understand. There is no fiddling around looking at the manual to try and remember what keys to press.
The screen layout works well with the fact that you can constantly see what items you have in your inventory.
The puzzles are good. They get you thinking, but are solvable if you sit down and think about it. The riddle clues section is an added bonus and I did use it for one of the puzzles.
The plot really flies along, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested. It draws you in and you really end up not knowing who to trust.
To be honest Im trying really hard to think of something bad to say about this game, but I cannot think of a single thing. I did feel genuinely disappointed when I finished this game that there was nothing left for me to do.
WOULD I RECOMMEND
Most definitely yes. It is a fabulous game and one that I would be more than happy to play again.
Thanks for taking the time to read my review, Cath. xx
The Tunguska Project is designed as a classic Point & Click Adventure with an intuitive interface. It draws its strength from the symbiosis of atmospheric graphics, logical puzzles and a gripping story. In the role of the keen Russian beauty Irina and the somewhat geeky bookworm Max, the player is taken into a world of myths and mystic, but also into real intrigues about money and power.