Jul 032010

In 1908, a wave of super heated air hit the ground in an isolated area of Russia known as Tunguska. It was 1000 times more explosive than the Little Boy atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, and was destructive enough to either completely incinerate or knock over 80 million trees. To this day, scientists are unsure exactly what the cause of this disaster was: some say it was a comet, some say a meteorite. Those who maintain an aluminum foil hat in their wardrobe think is was from a UFO incinerating in Earth’s atmosphere. Secret Files: Tunguska is a point-and-click game that is very loosely centered around the confusion, controversy, and rumor surrounding this event and the tale of a scientist’s daughter to unravel the mystery around her father’s disappearance.

If you’re old enough to have played Myst or any of the Sierra adventure games, then you already have an idea of how Secret Files: Tunguska plays. You use the Wii remote or the Wii remote with the Nunchuck to control the main protagonist Nina Kalenkov as she searches pre-rendered environments for junk she can stuff into her seemingly bottomless pockets. By pressing the 1 button on the remote you can highlight all of the items in the scene that you can examine or interact with, which takes out part of the guess work that usually comes with this style of game. Throughout your quest to find your daddy (as she refers to him), you must combine the seemingly random items that Nina the kleptomaniac has collected to form a new random item which will help you past an obstacle in the game. Usually these combinations are completely nonsensical, and you will only figure them out through a lucky guess or trial and error. For example, about halfway through the game you must combine castor oil, orange juice, honey, and dried fruit to make “laxative jelly” which you then combine with a piece of white bread. Giving this item to an NPC sends him off to the bathroom which clears your path through the area. Secret Files: Tunguska relies heavily on these types of inventory puzzles, each one seeming to be more nonsensical than the last. This particular game mechanic was getting stale in 2006, and now it serves only to take people down a video game memory lane.

How does Nina carry so much stuff with her? In the pockets of those skin-tight jeans?

Graphically, this game was probably a cut above the rest when it was first released for PC in 2006. However, by 2010’s standards, it falls short. Character models look okay, except for that there is so little detail in their faces you can’t tell if someone is talking or not.  Environmental effects like shadows and lighting are present, but rendered in a rudimentary way.  Also, anything that is moving in the background like a ceiling fan or windmill looks like someone took a video of that object with a cell phone, pasted it into the background image and set it to loop endlessly. These factors all add up to create a visual experience that never manages to break away from the look that is a stereotype for PC games in this genre.

The sound in Secret Files: Tunguska is an area where the game almost excels. There is little to no background music except for especially tense moments, which gives the feel of an old action or mystery movie. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that the music is highly dramatic and heavily orchestrated, and it pops up out of nowhere at just the right moment. Unfortunately, the game’s sub-par voice acting cast counterbalances any goodness brought to the table by the soundtrack. Dialog between any two characters is incredibly weak, and sounds as if the two actors may have been in the studio on completely separate days when recording their lines. All characters have what seem to be fake or over-the-top American accents, which is especially strange considering the characters are, for the most part, Russian or German, and the development companies are both based in Germany.

This is one of the game's best looking environments.

As a whole, Secret Files: Tunguska seems more like an exhibit in a video game museum than an actual game. Bad voice acting aside, it has all the key elements of a point-and-click adventure game: lots of items to collect, hokey dialogue to wade through, head-scratching puzzles, and more plot twists than you can shake a stick at. It is just unfortunate that such a long time has passed since the game was first released, because since 2006 the Wii has seen better and more innovative point-and-click titles like Zak & Wikki. If you’re looking for a game that can take you back to the yesteryear of computer gaming, then go ahead and drop the $20 you’ll need to spend to grab Secret Files: Tunguska. However, if you’re looking for an adventure game that will be truly challenging rather than a wild goose chase spent stealing and combining items in unfathomable ways, your attention would be best spent on a different game.

Secret Fliles: Tunguska

Great nostalgia factor for former players of Myst or other point-and-click adventure games, soundtrack really sets the mood, story angle is just complicated enough to be interestingThe solutions to the overly abundant inventory puzzles (find some trash you can combine with other trash to create the piece of trash you need to solve the puzzle) are absurd and nonsensical, the game offers little to no direction about what you should be doing next, scripting and dialog are awful -- perhaps due to poor localization
VerdictIf you are a fan of the quickly dying point-and-click adventure genre with $20 to spend, pick up this game. If you aren't a fan of these types of games, your money is better spent elsewhere.

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