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Secret Files: Tunguska Review

Brad Gallaway's picture

My Catphone wants Salty Crust

Secret Files: Tunguska Screenshot

HIGH Interesting premise.

LOW Salty pizza crusts and cats with tape on them.

WTF I really can't take the grate off that aquarium?

While point-and-click adventure games are experiencing something of a minor resurgence at the moment, the successful ones are all irreverent or outright farcical. If you ask me, it's the humor that carries these titles (not the gameplay) and I'd also say that nostalgia is playing a role. With this in mind, it begs the question: is there a place for new adventure games that take a more serious slant?

Secret Files: Tunguska tells the story of Nina Kalenkov, a woman on the search for her scientist father who has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. In addition to locating her father, Nina must solve the overarching mystery of an unexplained catastrophe which happened a hundred years in the past, and the appearance of mysterious ghostly figures only add to the intrigue.

The game starts off well enough and I was interested in the story. I can appreciate adventure games when they're done well, and the potential for a good yarn was here. However, things quickly went south and only got worse the further I went.

One of my pet peeves with the genre is that they're probably the most frustrating and infuriating titles around when the developers get out of hand with absurd solutions to puzzles. It's not that I expect to press a button and win the game, but there are limits to the kind of esoteric thinking and bizarre logic that I can put up with. Secret Files: Tunguska crosses that line early and often.

I had a feeling there were going to be issues based on the opening scene, but when I got to the third location in the game I couldn't stand it any longer. An example? At the risk of spoiling potential players, there's a part when Nina needs to speak to a man who refuses to leave his house. Rather than taking any kind of sensible action, Nina instead notices that the man owns a cat.

To solve this puzzle, Nina must put a pizza crust (cats eat pizza?) in the animal's dish. However, the cat doesn't chow down until salt has been added. Apparently, plain pizza crust isn't tasty enough on its own. Once the cat is thirsty from the salt, Nina takes a cell phone and tapes it to the cat. Transformed into a mobile surveillance device, the thirsty cat is apparently supposed to eavesdrop on the man inside the house as it travels to its water dish, but before that can occur, the cat runs up a tree. Of course, something needs to be done to get the cat out of the tree, etc. etc. etc...

I think it's clear to see where this is going.

I understand that ridiculously elaborate solutions to what would otherwise be incredibly simple problems is part and parcel of the traditional adventure game design, but that sort of gameplay doesn't engage me without a sense of humor to go along with it. I mean, the tasks the player is asked to do are complete nonsense, so without a laugh to help things along, the experience is reduced to a series of frustrating, illogical roadblocks.

To be fair, I don't think that Secret Files: Tunguska is a particularly egregious example of the genre's eccentricities. In fact, the game throws a number of bones to the player--little touches like highlighting every item onscreen that can be looked at or interacted with, or putting items to be combined adjacent to each other in the inventory screen. The developers apparently mean well, but at the same time, they are guilty of creating a title which embraces an outdated genre wholeheartedly, warts and all.

If you ask me, I'd rather have adventure games with silly puzzles that make me laugh or ones with solutions to problems that actually make some sort of sense. Tunguska finds itself in an uncomfortable middle ground that offers too much frustration with too little payoff, and I bailed long before seeing credits. Players who enjoy the adventure genre in its most traditional format will likely be pleased with Secret Files: Tunguska, but my take is that this type of approach is simply past its time. Rating: 5.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Wii. Approximately 3.5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, mild suggestive themes, mild language, mild violence, and use of alcohol and tobacco. This game is obviously aimed at adults. Although I did not complete the title, the tone and mood of the characters and story are of a mature nature, and would not suit children.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You should be fine. The point-and-click nature of gameplay is extremely slow and methodical, and all dialogue is accompanied by subtitles. No problems here.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Wii   Nintendo DS  
Developer(s): Animation Arts   Keen  
Publisher: Deep Silver  
Genre(s): Adventure/Explore  
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Are adv games dead or should bad games just die?

Your gripe is a fairly reasonable one, although I don't think point n click adventure games are outdated or not welcome. it's just this kind of "Hint Book Puzzle" is just absurd and as lame as action games that stun your character while they go through an unpreventable pain train and really should stop.
The last Gabriel Knight game fell into this trap with insane puzzles that made no sense that strangely ALSO involved a cat. That doesn't mean the genre is bad, just they shouldn't DO that stuff.

For good serious adventure games, I'd like to recommend Still Life, Longest Journey, Heavy Rain and Hotel Dusk.

"One of my pet peeves with

"One of my pet peeves with the genre is that they're probably the most frustrating and infuriating titles around when the developers get out of hand with absurd solutions to puzzles."

I agree with you there Brad. I used to play a lot of these adventures in the 90s but nowdays i don't have the patience nor the time to play them. A few games have managed to really overcome this like Machinarium for which most of the time the puzzle is solved with items located in the same screen and with logical solutions. So it can be done by really skilled developers.

Mike (ToH) wrote:

For good serious adventure games, I'd like to recommend Still Life, Longest Journey, Heavy Rain and Hotel Dusk.

I really enjoyed Heavery Rain as well and while i also recommend Hotel Dusk it does an aweful lot of dialogue to go through.

That example is a great

That example is a great laugh. I "loved" Runaway for similar obscurities.

Interesting is that afair adventure fans liked that game, four years ago, when it was released for PC. Like they do with almost every adventure...

I think there is hardly any chance to satisfy the needs of professionals, the older, experienced fans, and also make it logic for "normal" gamers.

You know, I couldn't help

You know, I couldn't help but notice how most of your reviews have such few comments (with rare exceptions), and many have none at all. Why do you think this is? Let's see if we can piece this together, shall we? We all know for a fact that not a single negative comment is escaping moderation, and when I say negative comment I mean any comment that dares question the infallible word of the reviewer or any that offends the critic's delicate ego. With this in mind, and the dearth of comments, I'm led to believe that most comments being left are most likely negative and thus filtered out. I must say that, if you're looking to create a forum for open discussion, censoring or deleting almost every comment is probaby not the way to go, although it is the way you've all chosen to go.

Comments Moderation

Anonymous wrote:

You know, I couldn't help but notice how most of your reviews have such few comments (with rare exceptions), and many have none at all. Why do you think this is? Let's see if we can piece this together, shall we? We all know for a fact that not a single negative comment is escaping moderation, and when I say negative comment I mean any comment that dares question the infallible word of the reviewer or any that offends the critic's delicate ego. With this in mind, and the dearth of comments, I'm led to believe that most comments being left are most likely negative and thus filtered out. I must say that, if you're looking to create a forum for open discussion, censoring or deleting almost every comment is probaby not the way to go, although it is the way you've all chosen to go.

We probably approve around 95% of the comments that get submitted. Historically speaking, we actually had less comments when we didn't moderate them. It wasn't until we moderated our comments did people feel that our site was safe environment for worthwhile discussion.

We aren't IGN or Destructoid. The reality is our audience is very small relative to those sites and so we don't get as many comments as you might be accustomed to with larger sites, but we're happy to have higher quality civilized discussions than hate-filled flame wars. If you're interested in the former, please stick around and submit your comments whether you agree or disagree. If you feel this site should accomodate the latter, this isn't the site for you.

Chi, you are the master of

Chi, you are the master of restraint. I would've just said 'meow, baby' to that post.

I find it hilarious (and

I find it hilarious (and telling) that ever since we announced we were going to be filtering comments, we’ve received a ton of messages (mostly nasty ones) accusing us of all sorts of censorship and fascism.

As Chi said, we approve the vast majority of comments. The only ones that don't get through the filter are those that are outright hostile, overly profane, or posts that are only meant to incite flamewars.

The idea that we are filtering out ALL opinions that disagree with our views is completely ludicrous, and if you go back to read some of the other reviews, there are PLENTY of comments there that do not agree with us.

Some of you more paranoid folks need to chill out. As long as you maintain a civil tone and actually have a point, we will approve *any* comment whether it agrees with our views or not.

For realz, yo.

Hey man, I'm all for

Hey man, I'm all for filtering out comments that are just meant to be nasty or to antagonize. I have all the sympathy in the world for you guys having to wade through all the crap, the insults, and the inflammatory BS. I only bring this up in response to one of my comments being filtered unnecessarily. In response to Mr. Clarkson's review of Red Dead Redemption, I simply questioned his reviewing style (or lack thereof): no vulgarity, no profanity, no real spite or hatefulness intended. I think it's perfectly within the rights of a loyal reader to take issue with a critic's approach. After all, I come here to read reviews and because I respect the opinions of most everyone here (Clarkson notwithstanding); I don't really visit video game sites to read self-important, pseudo-philosophical wankfests.

More on Comment Moderation Policy

Anonymous wrote:

Hey man, I'm all for filtering out comments that are just meant to be nasty or to antagonize. I have all the sympathy in the world for you guys having to wade through all the crap, the insults, and the inflammatory BS. I only bring this up in response to one of my comments being filtered unnecessarily. In response to Mr. Clarkson's review of Red Dead Redemption, I simply questioned his reviewing style (or lack thereof): no vulgarity, no profanity, no real spite or hatefulness intended. I think it's perfectly within the rights of a loyal reader to take issue with a critic's approach. After all, I come here to read reviews and because I respect the opinions of most everyone here (Clarkson notwithstanding); I don't really visit video game sites to read self-important, pseudo-philosophical wankfests.

You were doing do well right up until the end (which I put in bold), but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

I don't recall the original comment you are referring to and I'm not going to make it habit of explaining and defending our moderation policy (which really requires no explanation), but I'll do it on this rare occasion since I opened the door.

The most common problem with those who express a differing view is they usually can't help, but include at least one thinly veiled cheapshot (usually in the end). If describing someone's work as being "self-important, pseudo-philosophical wankfests" isn't considered hateful/spiteful, I don't know what is. If you can't respectfully disagree (and saying you "respectfully disagree" doesn't count) with someone without resorting to passive aggressive/trollish type remarks, then don't submit your comment.

trolling 101: go after

trolling 101: go after established community member, stir up sh*t, then cite unfairness of site policies to moderators when they show up. It's a classic.

You know what...you're

You know what...you're right. I was in the wrong; what I wrote was petty and unnecessarily personal. I apologize.

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