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Secret Files: Tunguska Review (DS)

Release: June 22, 2010
Genre: Mystery, Point-and-click adventure
Developer: 10tacle Studios Mobile
Available Platforms: PC, Wii, DS
Players: 1
MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: Teen
Website: http://secretfiles.deepsilver.com/

The PC and Mac have always been the number one choice when it comes to point-and-click adventure games. I mean, of course they would; they were the only platform that could properly execute point-and-click at the time with the mouse as an input device. Jump ahead many years and games like Monkey Island are being re-released for the Xbox 360, a console that is not ideal for point-and-click, but it actually works. With that said, what about the consoles or handhelds that do have proper point-and-click input?

Well, if you are into point-and-click adventure games, you’ll likely know of a game called The Secret Files: Tunguska. Originally released on the PC in 2006, this point-and-click adventure has seen two new releases on both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS recently. These console and handheld versions are almost identical to the PC version but have some minor changes depending on the platform. In this review we take a look at the Nintendo DS version of the game.

For those unfamiliar with the game, The Secret Files: Tunguska is based on a true event but takes one conspiracy theory and builds a modern day sci-fi story around it. The event I’m referring to is the mysterious disaster that happened in the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908. The game’s story takes place about a hundred years later and involves the kidnapping of a scientist who investigated and studied the Tunguska region. His daughter, Nina Kalenkow is worried and immediately begins the search for her father with the help of his assistant Max. Along the way, Nina meets many characters, travels around the world and ends up discovering what exactly happened in 1908, at least, based on a sci-fi conspiracy theory that is.

Like all games in the genre, the gameplay consists of a lot of pointing and clicking to complete puzzles. By pressing the left or right shoulder buttons, a magnifying glass will pop up showing you all the interactive areas in each location locations. Once you click on a magnifying glass, another option is present which allows you to either look at the object/environment, which usually results in a witty comment, or you can pick up the object. Get used to this as you will be doing it A LOT.

The game is full of puzzles and each consists of many different things. Throughout your travels and, even right from the very beginning, you will come across people that need a certain task done before they will give you more information while other puzzles will require you to collect and possibly combine certain items and then use them with something in the environment. At first the task may seem easy and it usually is, but most of the time something far less obvious needs to be done before you can do it. Basically you will be trying to use every one of the objects with each other, whether it’s obvious or not, to see if they will combine or you will be trying to use every object on the environment to see if it triggers something. This is also where things get tricky. There is the use and view option. A lot the times I would be trying to use an item but all I needed to do was view the item first. If you get stuck, you can press the back button and read journal entries or brief summaries of the task at hand which will give clues as to what you should be doing. Again, using the view option really helps in this regard as well and it’s something I forgot to use often leaving me constantly frustrated.

Puzzles aside, as a whole, I really liked the story. While the point-and-click puzzle aspect really slows it down, you get right back into it with fully rendered and voiced cutscenes which look great on the DS. The PC and Wii versions of the game were fully voiced, but in the DS version, the voices are limited to just cutscenes. I don’t mind this though as reading what the character says is faster and easier. The music is well done and provides a mysterious yet action filled feeling to the game. Throughout the main game, you will hear a lot of ambient noise which really draws you into the environment you are exploring. The only time you really hear music is in the cutscenes and the menu. When you look at the overall presentation, the game is essentially set up like a movie aside from, again, the slow and lengthy puzzle elements.

My only real complaint is, and maybe it’s my lack of experience with the point-and-click genre but as I’ve said before, I found myself really frustrated with the objects and puzzles. You will pick up a lot of objects and interact with the environment which must be done in order to continue, but you are constantly left wondering what to do with an item. You can combine items together, use them on the environment, or give them to people, but most of the time this is not obvious. You’ll be using each item on just about everything until finally it works. When something works, you’ll sometimes think, really, it was that simple or, really, I had to do that first even though this task could have easily been done before that one as well? I guess another thing I found frustrating was the amount of backtracking. Most of the time it was obvious as you knew where you had to go in order to complete the puzzle but other times it was just by confusion of what to do next and by going back, another option was available because of something you just previously completed.

My overall thoughts:
In the end, and many times throughout the game, I had mixed opinions about The Secret Files: Tunguska. Most of the time I was so frustrated by the trial and error aspect associated with the point-and-click puzzles, but at the same time, completing a puzzle and continuing the story was rewarding. To be completely honest, I had to cheat a bit and use a walkthrough but only after trying a puzzle for sometimes an hour and giving up. After seeing what I had to do, I realized I could have avoided the walkthrough had I explored the level more and used the view option a lot more. So putting aside my lack of experience in the point-and-click adventure genre, the puzzles were cleverly thought out and challenging. The story progressed well and even had a few twists that I was not expecting. With that said, point-and-click fans will surely enjoy this game and even people like me who are new to the series and like a good mystery or conspiracy theory will enjoy this game.

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