I’m not one of the reviewers who believes that the adventure genre is dead. I’m not sure where this idea came from and, frankly, I don’t care to find out. If you don’t enjoy a genre, don’t play the games. Otherwise, stop complaining about it. I’ve seen numerous articles and reviews calling for a major reform of the genre, and, while I welcome new and innovative ideas, I find myself satisfied with the “old” standard adventure game, which is exactly what Secret Files: Tunguska is. If you aren’t a fan of these types of games then I wouldn’t recommend this game to you. However, if you’re like me and enjoy them, Tunguska is a solid adventure game, with great graphics and an intriguing storyline.
The game begins with a cut scene on the Tunguska event, which really did occur ninety-eight years ago. Witnesses observed a bright light speeding across the sky, almost as bright as the sun. The explosions that followed, thought to be caused by an asteroid or comet, were later estimated to be the equivalent of 10-20 megatons of TNT. The blast knocked out trees 830 square miles from the point of impact, knocking people off their feet and shattering windows hundreds of miles away. In 1958, Vladimir, Nina’s father, was assigned to go on a secret scientific expedition to do research on the plants in the area, and it’s not too far into the game that she realizes his past work might be the reason he is missing.
Tunguska is a third-person point-and-click adventure game that will be very familiar to anyone that’s played another such game before. You have an easy-to-use inventory and will collect several different objects along the way. The primary negative for this game is that you have to be a regular MacGyver to figure out how to use some of these items. Often, you’ll need to combine several different items to create a new object that will be used in an area that you’re stuck in. For example, toward the beginning when you’re still at the museum, you’ll have to replace the stones of a diadem (crown) and hold it in front of a light to get something to appear on a map on the opposite wall. To get the correct gem colors in the diadem you’ll have to find objects such as a red glass bead and make putty to glue the bead into it for one of the stones. Also, combining a glass shard with sunglasses to create a green shimmer for the diadem is not only confusing but just plain hard to figure out. This was one of the more absurd puzzles, but there are others that are difficult and seem to defy all logic. I wouldn’t be surprised if you resort to a walkthrough to figure out some of the puzzles in this game. Before doing that, though, be sure to use the game help icon and the journal help system. The icon is represented with a magnifying glass at the bottom right-hand side of the screen. It highlights all of the possible important things that you will need to use or observe. The journal help system, which is only available for some of the puzzles, will appear at the end of Nina’s diary. You will be notified when one of these clues is available by a flashing diary/question mark icon in addition to some typewriter sounds.
"The primary negative for this game is that you have to be a regular MacGyver..."
You’ll actually switch between playing as Nina and a younger co-worker of Vladimir’s named Max. In some locations, such as the Russian hospital, you’ll need to switch between them quite a bit in order to progress. Other times, you’ll be separated from each other and meet later. Their relationship grows quite a bit, to the point where they set the plane home to autopilot at the end of the game.
Tunguska’s storyline is pretty good. One of the reasons I enjoy adventure games as much as I do is the fact that the games of the genre almost always have a decent storyline, something I find particularly lacking in other genres. It’s not exactly the most realistic story but it’s not too bad, and the plot crescendo is one of the important elements to this game.
The game’s graphics are what really stand out. I was impressed by the environments, which actually vary quite a bit. You’ll travel from Berlin to Moscow, Ireland, Cuba, the Himalayas, and even Antarctica. Within each of these locations you’ll also travel to different areas, which really helps to give the game that adventure feeling. Pay attention to the little environment details: the windmill and clouds in the German countryside, the Russian flag blowing in the background, the thunderstorm in Ireland, the snow in Antarctica, etc. The environments are perfect. Another plus for the graphics consists of the high-resolution cut scenes. They really enhance the game, and there are quite a few of them. The only visual downside is that the character animations appear a bit stiff.
"The environments are perfect."
Also on the subject of environments, the atmospheric sounds that are paired with them seem equally convincing. On the other hand, the voice acting definitely gets rather corny at times, which is also true of the storyline. It isn’t that bad but it could definitely be improved.
In conclusion, I think Secret Files: Tunguska is a solid adventure game that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre. Of course, if you’re one of those people who think the genre is dead and can’t appreciate a standard adventure title, then stay away. Some of the puzzles are a little strange and very difficult, so don’t feel ashamed to glance at a walkthrough every once and a while. Tunguska will take you to strange and exotic places, put up a good challenge, and probably keep you guessing until the end.
If you enjoy the game as much as I did, fear not: a sequel is on the way and is scheduled for a 2008 release. If Animation Arts and Fusionsphere can improve upon the weaknesses in this game, they’ll surely have an adventure blockbuster on their hands.
Note: I played this game after installing the latest v1.02 patch.