In 1908, something happened in the remote Tunguska region of Siberia. Witnesses reported seeing an object falling from the sky, and the resulting impact generated the same amount of energy as 10-20 megatons of TNT, which is equivalent to the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated by the United States. But because the event happened in the middle of nowhere, and because technology was limited 100 years ago, nobody really knows what happened, although there have been a plethora of theories, including meteorites, anti-matter, and even alien spaceships.
Secret Files: Tunguska uses the Tunguska event as the starting point for an adventure. You play as Nina, the daughter of a Russian scientist named Kalenkov, who once led an expedition to the Tunguska region. One night when you go to a museum to visit your father, you find the place in disarray and your father missing, and witnesses report that strange beings in dark robes were sighted in the area. Worse, when the police finally get involved, the detective assigned to the case seems to have his own agenda, and so that leaves it to you to figure out what’s going on.
Secret Files: Tunguska has some good points and some bad points. On the good side, the engine used in the game is excellent. All the things you’d expect are there, and more. For example, not only does the mouse cursor change shape to show you what you can do, it also shows you which mouse button controls the action, which makes the interface very easy to use. There’s also a handy “search” feature that shows all of the hotspots in each location. I don’t know about anybody else, but my least favorite part of playing an adventure is pixel hunting for objects (if the only way you can add difficulty to your game is to hide objects in dark corners, then you shouldn’t be making adventures at all), and Secret Files: Tunguska removes that aspect completely -- for those who want it removed, because the “search” feature is optional.
The game also looks pretty good, with maybe 50 detailed locations, including a museum, a train station, and a remote Siberian research center. The voice acting is also generally well done (with Nina being especially effective), and high quality cinematic sequences are sprinkled throughout the story. Basically, everything about the engine speaks to a professional effort.
Where Secret Files: Tunguska has some problems is in the actual content of the game. To start off, the puzzles are really easy. The game is broken up into maybe a dozen adventurettes, where each adventurette contains about five rooms and ten objects and a handful of puzzles. Almost all of the puzzles are inventory-based, and with so few objects and rooms, you can figure them out through trial and error, even if they don’t make a lot of sense (and there are a few doozies in the game that don’t make any sense at all). The game also lets you start solving puzzles before you even know what the puzzles are, like at the train station where you learn that the conductor dropped a key into the sewer. That’s fine -- except that you can start working towards flushing the sewer line before even talking to him. Too often I was using inventory objects and partially solving puzzles without having any idea about why I was doing it.
The other problem with Secret Files: Tunguska has to do with plausibility. Basically, I didn’t believe anything that happened in the game at all, at any time, from start to finish. The game is supposed to be a political thriller about world-shaking events, but everything is nice and upbeat and na´ve, like when you meet a scientist who can only work when he has a jam sandwich. Or consider Nina’s voice. I already commented that Nina’s voice actress did a good job with her lines; the problem is that instead of sounding like the daughter of a Russian scientist, she sounds like a perky American coed. Every aspect of the game just rang false, and that made it difficult to care what happened to anybody, or even to keep playing.
Since Secret Files: Tunguska is an easy adventure, it might work for people who are interested in the genre but who haven’t tried it out yet. In fact, since the game is so friendly and upbeat, it might work as a family adventure, as long as you don’t mind a few sporadic instances of profanity. But for you dedicated adventure game players, there isn’t much to see here, and the game probably won’t present any sort of challenge for you.