Secret Files: Tunguska is a point-and-click adventure game in which players follow the story of Nina Kalenkov, daughter of a famous scientist. The tale begins with the scientist's unexplained disappearance, following the "Great Siberian Explosion" that took place near Russia's remote Lake Baikal on the morning of June 30, 1908. Believed by many to have been the result of a comet or meteorite that blew up in mid-air -- in part due to eyewitness accounts of a column of light that preceded the estimated 15-megaton blast -- much mystery yet surrounds the cataclysmic event (even 100 years later). Some have speculated that the explosion instead was related to a radioactive volcano near the devastated region, while others have pondered such causes as miniature black holes, antimatter bombardment, and even alien visitors from outer space. In the role of Nina, adventure gamers have an opportunity to investigate for themselves.
There was a time when point-and-click games were all the rage, with Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Broken Sword and Grim Fandango all receiving critical acclaim. Unfortunately this genre has been largely ignored by the industry since the inception of 3D graphics, yet as the aforementioned titles have shown, point-and-click adventure games provide the most effective basis for a strong story; something often lacking in today's games.
Setting the scene
Secret Files: Tunguska is the latest point-and-click adventure game to be released on the PC. It's a modern day adventure tied to a mysterious event in the Tunguska region of Siberia that took place way back in 1908; An unknown object was seen falling from the sky, followed by an explosion with the force approximately 2,000 times the force of the atomic bomb that struck Hiroshima in World War II.
The lead character is a young Russian woman called Nina Kalenkow, who could be described as a red-haired Lara Croft with a body of more realistic proportions. She discovers her father, a scientist, has mysteriously disappeared and sets off to find out what has happened. This begins at her father's museum, where she meets Max Gruber, another main character you get to control later in the game. Despite being Russian Nina speaks with a slightly too enthusiastic western accent, which can at times be a bit too much. Generally speaking the dialogue is quite convincing though conversations could flow a little more smoothly. Just don't expect it to be razor sharp like watching a good film as games are some way behind in that regard. Conversation between other characters is supported by subtitles, so you could read them quickly and skip the spoken words should you want to. Nina is a likable character once you get used to her.
Just point and click
As is standard with point-and-click games you can walk between rooms and examine various items. There is an inventory bar along the bottom with nice big icons, which can be combined by clicking them in turn. The controls are intuitive and well thought-out, and are suited to the use of a mouse.
When you find an item or object that you can interact with, the cursor changes to a mini two-buttoned mouse with one or both buttons highlighted green. Left clicking will attempt to use or pick up and right clicking will inspect the item. You will quickly feel comfortable with this logical setup. Nina tends to walk quite slowly however you can make a quick exit from the room by double clicking on an exit, so you do have quite a lot of control. You can travel instantly between locations by climbing on Nina's motorbike. Each room features a number of clickable objects, accompanied by at least one line of descriptive commentary from Nina; humor is sometimes present but don't expect lavish Monkey Island style comedy moments.
One problem point-and-click games have is their reliance on the player to have an eagle eye in order to not miss any important items. Here the graphics are crisp enough so that you can generally spot everything, but a nice feature is the inspect option on the menu that highlights areas of interest. Although it's possible to walk into a room and activate it straight away, you should only use it after fully searching a room yourself, as it's intended as a tool to use in case you get stuck. It's good to have this option as it suits all types of players - impatient ones who want to breeze through the searching and dedicated gamers who like to take their time.
As is customary in point-and-click games, progression requires you to make use the various items you've picked up, often in unobvious ways. Nina must have never ending pockets to fit in all of the junk she's happy to pick up. There's definitely a hint of McGuyver here and you will find it difficult to skip through the game without a lot of thought. This is what makes it an interesting and fun challenge that should appeal to older gamers. But be warned that you might find yourself wandering around for ages trying to figure out how to progress to the next area, so it does help if there's someone you can play it through with.
When it comes to sound most scenes have the subtle background noises of your environment, from passing cars to birds tweeting. There's also an intermittent classical score that accompanies parts of the game. The characters' voices are always well spoken and audible.
The first thing you will notice is the high-quality graphics. Nina and the other characters have detailed, believable 3D models and are smoothly animated in a realistic manner. Each scene is composed of a detailed pre-rendered backdrop, giving the perfect impression of a three-dimensional space, which looks far nicer than a 3D rendered environment. As the camera is largely fixed with a small amount of horizontal movement the levels are always presented from the optimal angle, something that is rarely the case in fully 3D games. Despite the environments being pre-rendered there are some nice animated touches, from leaves blowing in the breeze to the screensaver on a desktop computer.
If your computer isn't ancient try turning up the anti-aliasing and enable V-sync for the best visual experience. The game also supports dynamic lighting and shadows, subtly implemented to give the impression of realism. The buildings, rooms and landscapes have an incredible attention to detail; the artists have done a wonderful job. Occasionally the action is interspersed with solidly done CGI sequences. These are more functional than awe inspiring, but give us a different perspective to the usual side-on camera angle. These sequences helps break the game up into manageable portions as you progress between different areas in the game.
This is a perfect example of a game engine that looks great and suits the intended task perfectly. You won't need a monster PC to run it and you can alt-tab back to the desktop without any delay. It's quite an achievement. Secret Files: Tunguska is an entertaining game worthy of your time and will challenge your thought processes.
We can only hope more point-and-click games of this quality are on the way, for this is a genre that still has great potential.
People who downloaded Secret Files: Tunguska have also downloaded:
Secrets of Atlantis, The: The Sacred Legacy, Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game, Syberia II, Scratches, Still Life, Shadow of Destiny (a.k.a. Shadow of Memories), Syberia, NiBiRu: Age of Secrets
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