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Undercover: Operation Wintersun Review

Undercover: Operation Wintersun pack shot
Developer:Sproing
Publisher:Lighthouse Interactive
Genre:Point and Click Adventure
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.undercover-game.com
Release Date:September 13th, 2007 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

Winter, 1943, the Nazi advance across Europe continues without pause, it seems as if the war will last forever. Governments across the world scramble to create a weapon capable of ending the war, a weapon so terrible that it would only be used in anger once, an atomic bomb.

In our world, the first country to develop atomic weapons was the US, but in the world of Undercover, the Nazi's beat them to it, and they aren't afraid of using them to finish off the allies before their advance is finally stopped.

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This is where Dr. John Russell comes into the story, a renowned physicist, and fluent in German, he is quickly recruited by MI6 and dispatched to Germany, to track down and destroy the Nazi's secret weapon before it is too late, sound exciting? Then this is the game for you.

Undercover is another adventure game release from publisher Lighthouse interactive. Having tasted a number of their previous titles in this genre - which being honest hasn't produced any classics for many a year - I was not expecting anything mind-blowingly good, however Undercover is one of the better point and click adventures I've played in recent times.

Beginning in London, a blank screen greets you as a phone conversation is heard, Dr Russell, who's posh voice matches his profession, is called by MI6 and asked to come in for a meeting by a much more blue-blood voice, the kind of voice that wouldn't be out of place in early 50's war films, the kind that yells 'Tally-ho' before charging into the 'Hun'. And then you overhear a conversation between the MI6 man and Russell, who is confused as to what his role is to be in the pending mission, and is then told to wait outside.

The screen clears, and a dreary London backyard appears, a crow sits on a branch, rubbish bins are stacked in the corner and smoke rises from a grate in the floor. Russell, who has just stepped out of the door in his brown trousers and winter jacket remarks that he would like to be able to hear what is going on inside, and then points out the open window above him.

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And so the adventure begins, like a lot of point and click adventure games, it's really a case of combining A to B to get C to open/unlock/explode D, and this one isn't really all that different, the only difference is that Russell, despite being a professor of Nuclear Physics, is an inventive genius and super spy to boot, though he would furiously deny it.

Take the first scene, after a rummage around in the rubbish bins (always a good place to start) you discover a whole potato, which is a big waste with wartime rationing, Russell remarks. And a quick search with the mouse leads to a discovery that the floor grate has a loose bar, which conveniently fits into Russell's enormous pockets, but is too short to reach the window. Examining the branch, Russell remarks that it is sturdy and long, but then refuses to scare the crow away.

This is where things start to get a little silly, combine metal bar with crow 'I don't want to hurt the crow' remarks Russell, combine potato with crow 'Why would I do that?' he says, glibly. Combine pocket-knife with crow 'No' Russel says, folding his arms across his chest. And then, the pixel search begins, what the heck are you supposed to do with a potato, a metal bar, and a wimpy professor who won't even scare away a crow. Several minutes of mouse-scanning later you discover that a patch of the floor is marked as 'floor patch,' combine potato with floor patch. The crow, cawing madly, swoops down on the potato, allowing Russell to break off the branch, attach the bar to it, and push the window open.

The whole game is full of these slightly odd and often unnecessarily complicated moments of genius, like another Doctor of the gaming world, Russell is clever, quick witted, and has pockets capable of holding everything from a small chemistry set to a toilet plunger, without any noticeable bulges.

Undercover: Operation Wintersun screenshot 9 Undercover: Operation Wintersun screenshot 10 Undercover: Operation Wintersun screenshot 11 Undercover: Operation Wintersun screenshot 12

The challenges presented by the game have him doing everything from using the toilet plunger to remove a pane of glass, to using a length of telephone wire to electrocute a guard by connecting a socket with the metal door knob, to mixing any one of five different concoctions to solve different problems, including hydrochloric acid, which can be used to melt a door lock, but conveniently can't be combined with a soldier to blind/kill him.

The game also presents several mini-games and 'stealth' sections, most of which are a little unimpressive, but a few of them can be quite fun, such as where you have to piece together a pieces of a ripped up letter to get a code off it, or use a lighting fuse box to help a fellow agent cross a library filled with patrolling guards.

So, down to the brass tacks: firstly, the game seems to be missing an autorun, putting in the CD leads to the setup menu popping up every time, a little odd for this day and age. Graphically, it's not bad; some of the textures look a little rough around the edges, but the shadow effects are nice and the facial animations fairly good.

The interface is pretty standard, but I particularly like the inventory, which can be accessed simply by moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen, causing the contents of Russell's enormous pockets to pop up, making combining items easy and fast. Also, double clicking anywhere on the screen will make Russell run to that location, so no more waiting for your character to cross a huge screen walking slowly.

The voice acting, however, is awful. Russell's blue blood voice makes you want to punch him, (or combine a knife with a stick to spear him somehow.) And the NPC's aren't much better, your fellow agents reminiscent of bad actors trying to sound like Steed and co from the Avengers. The Germans are even worse, imagine German accents from Blackadder, then make them ten times more stereotypical, and you're getting close, it's just funny when the guards say "Two lights are off, I am going to investigate" and walk away jerkily to have a look at the conveniently dark spot where you've hidden another guard-knocking-out contraption.

Summary

All in all, not a bad game, the story is fun to follow, and if you can ignore the awful voice acting, the game is a fairly rounded experience, just make sure you have your tongue firmly set in your cheek.

The bottom line
6.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Interesting story
  • Challenging point and click puzzles

Not so good stuff

  • Awful voice acting
  • Some of the puzzles make no sense
  • Russell is a coward who can't scare away a crow by waving his arms.


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