Secret Files: Tunguska is a 3D point-and-click adventure made by the German developers Fusionsphere Systems Ltd (See addendum at the bottom of the post for correction). From what I can tell, this company does not exist anymore since their website is down, and the fact that they haven’t made anything since 2013. It’s a real shame too, going by this title at least, but as things go in this industry, either you produce constant hits or you are out the door fairly quick – unless you are BioWare.
You play Nina Kalenkov, which father is a retired infamous scientist/adventurer that now works as a director for a museum. One day when Nina is to visit her father at his workplace, she notices that something is off – his office has been ransacked, and after a search, her father is nowhere to be found. It looks like he has been kidnapped, and this eventually leads to Nina taking on the job of looking for her now missing father – with the help of her father’s assistant, Max (which you also get to play).
As it turns out – what Nina wasn’t aware of, is that her father was deeply involved in the mysterious Tunguska incident, when a huge explosion devastated the region of Tunguska in 1908. And I don’t mean involved in the actual incident, but in a search for something mysterious related to this occurrence. This is the start of your grand adventure that will take you all over the world to interesting and peculiar locations.
The story evolves as you play on, and I got to say, even if a bit silly at times – it did have me glued. It’s not the best-told story of all time, but it does have stuff that I really enjoy. Like conspiracies, occultism, and weird phenomena all under the umbrella of a clandestine atmosphere. Secret Files is incredibly funny too, yet, it still maintains a generally serious tone throughout the game. What makes it so funny is the characters, especially Nina. It’s her comments and general mannerism that gets me, plus the fact that writing in the early days of the year 2000 just had a different charm to it – particularly European-made games. The voice acting helps too. I wouldn’t say it’s professional in any matter, it does sound fine, but not what you expect nowadays. The somewhat amateurish approach to the voice-acting just adds to the charm of the game, in my opinion.
Visually, the game looks great. I usually prefer my point-and-click to be pixel art, but this style is absolutely fine too. It’s a nice mix of fairly detailed 3D characters, and painted backgrounds, and what I think makes it stand out is the fantastic composition of colors for the background art. Many locations have this “homey” feel to them, especially Nina’s father’s house. There is a lot of detail in the art too, and lots of small things to notice, which adds a lot of realism to the different settings. Not to forget, Secret Files also have plenty of fun and cool-looking cut-scenes between major events in the game. Surprising, considering the genre, but it sure added to the immersion and general experience of playing.
There isn’t too much music in the game from what I can remember, but what was there I would say worked. It seems the developers had a bigger focus on ambiance because every location is shock full of weird background noise. Some are better than others, and some are just outright hilarious. Like in one location, if you spend enough time outside a certain house, you will hear a car suddenly start drifting and eventually shooting away at full speed. I’m thinking it must be intentional since several locations seem to have one or two oddities. I did enjoy the sound effects, but the looping for the ambiance wasn’t the best, though. You can hear it clearly cut out and in, but it’s a minor issue.
So, what about gameplay? Well, it’s your standard point and clicker. Search every nook and cranny, pick up everything, and try every combination known to man. This will get you past most of the stuff, and I can’t say it was too hard, nor too easy. The game felt just right in this regard. I had to look up one thing – a thing that involved a cat. I got a bit stumped there, but otherwise, the puzzles and problems to be solved felt rewarded with a minimum of frustration. Later on in the game, you get to control both Nina and Max, which has you trading items between the two. This will increase the difficulty somewhat, but the same principles remain – methodical trial and error get you results! The puzzles are mostly logical ones, but if you combine two items before you have actually encountered the problem requiring the item, it can get a bit confusing – at least from a narrative viewpoint. The characters seem to play a lot in this, though, like making remarks about why they are even combining these two items together. Another thing that just adds to the charm, I think.
Do I recommend it? Yes! It’s a great point-and-click adventure with very charming characters, with charming writing overall. Just don’t expect a super serious tone, but you can thank your Gods that it isn’t sarcastic Marvel humor, because that stuff is just dreadful. Secret Files have two sequels, and from what I have read, the first sequel is supposed to be like this one, while the second one was rushed and not as good. You can be sure that I will play and review the first sequel, at least!
Thanks for reading.
It has come to my attention that the actual developers for the game are very much alive, and they are called Animation Arts, also out of Germany. Fusionsphere Systems Ltd was involved in the making of the game, but its contribution was limited to creating the engine. As it also turns out, they are working on a new game: Monolith.