Secret Files: Tunguska Wii Review
|Genre:||Point and Click Adventure|
|Release Date:||May 23rd, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (Sinna01)|
The Wii deserves more point-and-click adventure games. It has certainly proved itself adept at the more highly kinetic genres of FPS, RTS, and multifarious reflex based titles. There seems to be something of a gap between the ponderous, cerebral Brain Trainers and the explosive whistles and bells of MarioKart. Games that allow you to calmly drink a beer on the sofa whilst playing shouldn't necessarily have to include Sudoku. Tunguska: Secret Files fits beautifully into this slot, and it definitely gets a good deal of latitude from me despite its occasional foibles.
And the occasional bout of psychotic rage it will engender. And the little tufty patches of my hair that I tore out. And the voice acting. Oh, oh the voices.
Tunguska for those that don't know is a bit of the Russian hinterlands that are considered remote even by local standards. For centuries there has been nothing there but yaks, yak herding tribes, and the remains of interment camps that it's probably not nice to mention at ambassadorial parties. Much to local yak chagrin, when something finally did decide to happen in Tunguska on the 13th of July 1908, that something was a colossal explosion of mysterious origin that annihilated everything within a 2,000 km square radius. Theories of the origin of the explosion range from secret weapons testing, spontaneously generated exotic matter, interfacing parallel universes, and UFO's. The received wisdom is that it was actually a meteor, but next to the other wacky contenders this looks a bit pedestrian really. However, the one conclusion the international community can all come together behind is that the Tunguska event makes a fine plot McGuffin for a point and click adventure a century later.
Step into the shoes of Nina, daughter of Professor Kalenkov who in the tradition of many a paternal Russian scientist manages to get himself kidnapped before the title credit even pops up. The cops are completely uninterested, so its time to start pointing, clicking, gathering and combining utterly unrelated items, enlisting a sidekick/romantic interest and generally engaging on Tunguska: Quest for Dad. Prepare to thrill to international locations including artic tundra, ancestral castles, Russian torture dens, asylums and unfriendly Irish pubs.
The key strength of SF:T is that it has learnt from its predecessors in the genre, and keeps the menu and interface dirt simple and hardly ever falls into traditional pitfalls that have undercut even the best titles. Playing 'hunt the one pixel item' could have been crippling with a Wii remote, but on any screen a simple press of the '1' button will highlight anything that can be interacted with. The games exploreable area expands at a measured pace, preventing you from spending too much time in painstaking backtracking. The remote will even conveniently vibrate if you hold an operable item over the appropriate area, preventing you from having to listen to the same 'that doesn't work that way' speech forty times when you inevitably end up randomly trying to combine items.
The puzzles themselves are 98% straightforward yet rewarding enough to overcome that they jolly you along from chapter to chapter. There is a handy diary function that records all the pertinent clues and plot developments, and will give you a prod in the right direction should you feel completely directionless. The other 2% however are just brick wall, lunatic difficult that are either so obscure in their solution or actually seem to break from the established in-game methodology that they run the risk of stalling the player long enough for them to loose interest in going back in. After the first 3 hour utter confoundment that saw me in serious danger of undergoing a complete psychotic break I set myself an hour long deadline, after which I just made like all of life's winners and cheated with a FAQ.
Where SF:T does have a glaring weakness is in its plot and voice acting. In nearly any other genre this can be overlooked - no one really cared that much what the Master Chief actually sounded like, and MarioKart never suffered from not developing the whole Mario/Luigi fraternal dynamic. Adventure games rely on their plotting and characterisation more than any other type, and on the whole Tunguska is toe-curlingly bad.
The plot is pretty much all over the place with bad timing, variable dialogue, ludicrous characterisation, and all delivered in what I propose as the worst voice acting ensemble in the history of video entertainment. Initially I was prepared to hop aboard the Segue Scooter of post-modernism and accept that despite the Russian setting the characters tended to sound like they were from Detroit. It becomes clear fairly quickly, however, that the voices are less of a reflection of social realism, and more a reflection of what Bob from Shipping and Sue from Accounting or whoever happened to turn up to voice casting that morning sounded like. Of the whole cast of about two dozen speaking characters, only two or three randomly decide to go with the accents and acting, but the rest seem to be locals of Minsk via Brooklyn. Nina's own reactions are endlessly chipper and upbeat, completely regardless of the situation. Be it impeding death, the disappearance of her father, discovering ancient mysteries, or finding the remains of a man recently tortured to death, Nina remains completely unperturbed, suggesting either crappy writing or a complete psychotic break.
Secret Files: Tunguska borrows heavily from its predecessors in the genre, but scrounges from the best and learns from their mistakes. It will keep you engaged and entertained for about the ten hours of gameplay it offers, minus the complete blocks, and the free save feature means you can dip in and out over your morning coffee. If you can get over the voice acting and sub-B characters Tunguska works well on the Wii and a delivers good casual gaming.
- Avoids many of the traditional point n' click pitfalls
- Clean and simple interface
- Solid Wii conversion
Not so good stuff
- Exquisitely bad voice acting
- Hit and miss plot
- A couple of conspicuously flawed puzzles