Secret Files: Tunguska (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
It was soon after the DS' release that it became apparent that the platform was perfect for the 'point and click' adventure genre and developers agreed, announcing a handful of such titles. Unfortunately after many delays and as many years, none of them have reached the shelves in your local gaming shop. For those of you who are completely in the dark regarding this genre, it was first popularized in the late 80s thanks mainly to LucasArts and its unique and humorous adventures, which feel every bit as cinematic as their big screen output. Later, UK developer Revolution entertained us with their Broken Sword series, one of which actually made it onto the GBA. Secret Files: Tunguska is actually a PC conversion and while this has brought mixed results in the past we can't wait to get sleuthing on it anyway.
In Secret Files you play the role of Nina Kalenkov who visits the museum where her father works, only to discover him missing. Without giving too many spoilers, the adventure then takes you around the world to a variety of locations, interacting with as many people both trustworthy and, let's say, less than law-abiding. The question is who's who and what does your father have to do with the secret file marked: Tunguska? From here, it's up to you and with a cleverly pitched learning curve you'll soon learn how to search areas and use items. This is achieved very effectively here by highlighting all the points of interest with a simple tap of the magnifying glass in the top right hand corner of the screen. This in turn shows you if you can simply view or interact with items or places. You can also combine various objects to make more complicated solutions, which later on in the game is essential.
The majority of the puzzles are very logical, fixing a puncture for example starts out with submerging the inner tube in water and marking the place where the hole is. This is simple enough: you have the inner tube, the water in a bucket but mysteriously nothing to mark it with although this doesn't appear to be a problem. Later on they get a lot more complicated and you may be forced to employ an element of trial and error especially for the more 'off the wall' problems that the writers have come up with. There's always help at hand though thanks to your journal, which is updated every time you are given a useful piece of information. There are even some puzzle classics embedded. Within hours of playing the game we came across a simple coin puzzle, where you must create a pattern where all lines are unique and the self-explanatory 'lights-out'. Saving is incredibly simple too as, rather than relying on save points, you can enter the options menu at any time (by pressing select) and save your progress at any one of the four slots.
While you can move around the environments and call up menus using the traditional controls, manipulation puzzles and objects really do require the touch-screen/stylus approach.
The static environments are truly beautiful and superbly detailed with the odd spot animation reminding you that you are in a living, breathing world. The animation is also top notch with the main players moving in such a realistic fashion that they appear to have been motion captured rather than traditionally animated. A mention must also go to the wonderful FMV sequences, which perfectly link a great deal of the location and push the story along nicely.
The background music is suitably atmospheric and changes depending on your location. There's also the odd bit of voice over work although not nearly enough due to cart size restrictions.
Given that the original was mouse driven, this DS version was always going to function better with the stylus and touch-screen. It's all pretty intuitive too leaving you to use your grey matter to actually solve the puzzles.
Until Revolution release their long awaited DS project (which we are assuming is a DS version of Broken Sword) this is just about as good as it gets for 'point and click' adventure fans. The whole thing looks and sounds great and, while most of the puzzles are very logical, it does occasionally wander off into trial and error land with some problems so far fetched you'll have to click everywhere and on everything to solve them. You get a lengthy gaming experience for your money too and this is mainly due to developers 10tacle who have expertly converted the PC original in its entire form to the DS. Obviously there were some compromises made due to the cart size but you'd never know. Overall, we can't recommend this enough whether you are an expert or novice at this kind of game. Secret Files is a welcome addition to the DS Library of games. Let's just hope they consider converting the sequel.
Pro: Looks and Sounds Wonderful. Great Script.
Con: The Odd Illogical Problem Requiring Trial and Error.
Final score: 8.5