Review by charlottenoyen
"So if I combine this cat with the tape and stick a cellphone there..."
Let me begin by saying that I really wanted to like this game. As a dedicated fan of the adventure genre it pains me to see these games struggle and, more often than not silently disappear amongst more action-oriented titles. I did not expect The Secret Files: Tunguska to single-handedly breathe new life in the dying adventure genre, but I was all set to have some relaxed point-and-click (or rather point-and-tap) puzzle fun. It was not to be.
It starts out promising enough. When a scientist is kidnapped by a strange hooded figure, his daughter Nina, the protagonist for this game, steps in and decides to puzzle the pieces of the mystery together and save her lost father, with the help of his colleague Max.
This is where the trouble starts. The whole story is supposed to be driven purely by Nina's desire to find her missing father. She does not, however, seem to be genuinely concerned about the poor man. While witty remarks and quips are a staple of the adventure genre, Nina's poor attempts at humor are mostly out of place. And if even his own daughter doesn't seem to care about the scientist's fate, how is the player supposed to? Also, I still haven't figured out why Max decided to hop on the mystery wagon, apart from a poorly-presented infatuation with Nina which frankly had me grinding my teeth every time it was mentioned.
The antagonists on the other hand are even worse, lacking even a semblance of motive for their evil deeds. The main villain and his scheme would be cheesy even in a Bond movie and the different groups of villains and their motives are never fully explored. Which is a shame, because they looked mysterious enough to spark my curiosity.
Poorly developed characters (and most of the people in this game are staggeringly two-dimensional) are a big problem in any adventure game, but most players are willing to overlook this if the story is good enough. Tunguska fails to deliver here as well. Once the story kicks off and Nina and Max get their research on, the story grinds to a halt. Throughout the game you'll do little more than your typical combining/using of items without seeing any plot progression. Only in the final chapter do all the pieces fall together and without giving anything away; the big revelation is stupidly far-fetched and very unsatisfying. Sort of the adventure game equivalent of 'A wizard did it'.
This game uses the classic point-and-click interface. Luckily the game uses a tool to help you find items and usable tools on the screen, so we're at least spared the bother of pixel-hunting the hours away. The action happens on the touch screen while the upper screen is used for displaying dialogue. This works well enough, but you'll sometimes miss actions that take place on the bottom screen while you're reading the text above it, or accidentally skip whole cutscenes by tapping the touch screen.
The inventory is a bar on the bottom of the touch screen and this is where you store and combine items. This works up to a point, but when you're lugging about 20 items around, trying stuff out (and you'll do a lot of that) can become a drag really fast.
Speaking of these items, how are they used in this game? Very, very strangely. Through the course of the game you'll find yourself taping cellphones to cats, ice-fishing with a lighter as bait and doing frustrating and illogical things in a torture chamber. While this may sound like jolly good Runaway-esque fun, it makes no freaking sense and very little hints are given. I found myself reaching for a walkthrough in frustration every half hour or so.
The cutscenes in this game look nice enough, as do the static backdrops the characters interact with and while there is no actual music in the game, the ambient sound does a decent job of setting the mood. The chapter in Ireland particularly looked and sounded very good. (It also had the only character that actually made me laugh, although many attempts at humour are made) The characters themselves look a little blocky and move awkwardly while exploring and move veeeerrrrryyyyy sloooowwwwly. Mercifully, the game let's you double-tap to instantly enter and exit areas, so this doesn't become too big a problem. Voice acting during the cutscenes is a nice touch and the voice actors do a decent enough job. Again, the villain sounds like a Bond reject, but there you have it.
Only rent or dig out of a bargain bin if you're a dedicated fan of the genre. If you like adventure games it will keep you entertained for a couple of hours on a slow afternoon. I wouldn't recommend buying it. Replay value is practically nil and you certainly won't come back for the story or characters (despite what the closing credits claim).
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/18/08
Game Release: Secret Files: Tunguska (EU, 05/23/08)
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