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How to Irritate an Adventure Game Fan – Case: Secret Files: Tunguska

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For the last couple of years one of my top choices of entertainment for my lunch hours have been point and click adventures for DS. My stash was running low and recently I asked for recommendations, but after receiving zero (0) hints I just picked up a batch of games pretty much at random, after a peek at their reviews. Now I’ve finished the first of that batch, Secret Files: Tunguska.

The first four fifts of the game was pretty enjoyable, but the last fifth and the ending left me feeling god damn violated. Why? Well, this has to do with a few pet peeves I have with adventure games in general nowadays (spoilers ahead):

1) If you have to make the puzzles ridiculously convoluted, at least give the player a clear goal why he should do all that illogical shit. If you really, positively HAVE to make a puzzle where the character has to thaw a hole in the ice using some salt (which is from a freight elevator that was brought down with a wad of linen soaked in whale oil) and then use a zippo as a bait for a fishing pole, so you can catch a fish and give it to the penguin and get the alien artifact it’s hatching, give the player some goddamn clear goal why he has to jump through all these hoops (oh, the alien artifact can somehow be used to repair the heating and water system of the base if you happen to try it – how utterly logical!). Better yet, make puzzles that make some goddamn sense and fit the storyline. Surreal and convoluted shit: ok for Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit, not so much for a game with a halfway serious plotline.

2) Rein in the humor. Are you making a comedy? No? A conspiracy thriller, you say? Then can the fucking bad wit on every goddamn line of internal dialogue the character has. Especially can the fucking toilet humour in game where the plot is trying to be even a bit dark and atmospheric.

3) Enough with the tacked on romances. It’s surprising, but there isn’t an actual law that says the sassy female protagonist (with a ponytail) has to fall in love with the slightly nerdy but outgoing male character, out of the blue.

For anyone agrees with the previous three points, Secret Files: Tunguska is a bit of a painful experience. It starts pretty all right, though, and most of the truly horrendous crap is in the end of the game. Tunguska has the most convoluted and illogical puzzles I’ve ever seen in an adventure game, which is saying a lot.

For the most part there is a kind of a weird point to what you are doing. Maybe I’m weird, but if I’m facing a problem where I’ll have to eavesdrop on someone, taping a cell phone on to his cat feels like an option that’s worth trying. The further the plot advances, the less clear the goals seem to get, until at the Antarctic base everything goes out of the window. At that point I gave up on even trying to figure out what to do and just started clicking every item on every hot spot, until something happened. Yay. Fucking fun.

This takes us to the humor. The attempted wit of the main characters’ dialogues was hit and miss (mostly a pretty harmless miss) but the ending of the game was a real farce. I mean, what the hell – did the developers fall into the gaping plot holes, hit their head and then figure out that a fucking blooper reel and embarassingly bad “what happened to the characters next” comedy feature would be a GREAT FUCKING WAY to end a conspiracy thriller. Very little of the game’s atmosphere survived the idiotic puzzles of the Antarctic and the ending really shat on their remains. It was like Doom – The Movie bad.

Then, the forced romance. Ho hum. Just ho hum.

I wouldn’t be this ranty unless the game had been halfway good for the most part. Although the genre is again on the rise, there still aren’t that many point and click adventures out there, especially on DS. Seeing the few we have get fucked up with really basic level game design mistakes really pisses me off.

In the storytelling side, the thing that irritates me the most is the “witty” humour. The adventures games seem to suffer from the same problem as scifi TV series: you have to have humor, or at least certain light heartedness in all of them. That’s why Battlestar Galactica was such a refreshing breath of fresh air in the genre: no humor and writing that’s feels like it’s aimed for adults. Pretty much the same vibe I got from the first Still Life and The Moment of Silence.

I have Still Life 2 on the laptop waiting for a suitably rainy cabin visit and right now I’m going through Unsolved Crimes on DS. I wonder if I should check out Secret Files 2?

For example, one early dilemma involves reading an inscription on the bottom of a child’s kart. To do this, you must attach a roller skate to the bottom of the kart (it’s missing one of its wheel, you see), roll it over a skylight in the floor, clean said portal with a makeshift mop you’ve created out of several completely unrelated odds-and-ends and then view the text from the deck below.

During this entire jaunt you have to conveniently ignore the fact that common sense would suggest it would be a damn sight easier to merely flip the kart over and read the inscription.
Pocket Gamer

…yeah.

PS. An another local view on the game, this time on Wii. Some of the same gripes, but a rather more positive outlook on the game.

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