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

August 11, 2009 · Posted in Gaming · Comment 

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


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.


Rainbows, Kittens, Spiders and Bovines

August 6, 2009 · Posted in Cabin & countryside, Geocaching · Comment 

Last weekend was the first in a long long time I got to spend at the cabin almost by myself. The Friday was full of irritating hassle, which included getting our old big ass table from the house Susi, Jori, Riikka and I had been living earlier. The table was over two meters long and made of proper wood, so it was both heavy and unwieldy. I ended up calling a cab for it, which I had the pleasure of waiting for outside in a steadily worsening thunderstorm. As soon as I got it loaded up and heading for the downtown, I was off for the countryside myself.

The trip itself was very much suitable to end a week of grumpiness. The thunder was rolling, the lightning flashed, the heavy rain hit the windshield like a torrent of gravel and the soundtrack was Viikate played loud enough.

At the cabin site I holed up in the smaller cabin and got out my novel project, which has been on a writers’ blockish hiatus for a year or so. Surrounded by the gray light of a late evening, the patter of rain and a blessful absence of all distractions I got the text flowing again.

The next couple of days I spent rowing on the lake, photographing the nature, searching for geocaches, eating and saunaing. Susi arrived at the cabin site on Saturday, probably lured by the four month old kitten that Susi’s mother had got. I like other peoples’ kids and cats, and the kitten made me go into a kitty psychosis, which manifests as babbling inanely and being unable not to pet & play with the kitty even though you are bloody allergic to it.

(The Full Flickr Photoset)


Someone else's kids and cats rock, and someone else's four month old kittens rock even more!

I started the Saturday by retrieving a geocache I had placed on a rock wall in one of the islands in the lake. The cache had been found floating on the shoreline a couple of islands away by some girl scouts. Luckily their scout leader happened to be an avid geocacher, who had logged my cache in the wintertime and remembered it. It’s improbable that the cache had fallen out by itself, so either it was crows or magpies, or some moron with an IQ of a bird. I guess we’ll see how long the cache stays up this time.

In the evening there was a massive rain storm with the most impressive rainbow I’ve ever seen. The wind blew the storm over the lake, with the sun still painting the treeline on the opposing shore and islands golden yellow. You could see the rain front advancing and churning the lake into dark greenish gray. The incoming wind carried raindrops with it and almost pushed me down from my unsteady perch on the shoreline rocks. Then, a massively bright double rainbow going from one end of the cabin bay to another.


There was a sudden rain storm that blew over the lake. You could see the lake surface turning dark grayish green as the wall of rain came in. The wind pushed the rain ahead of it and churned the tops of the waves white. Then, a massively bright double rainbow.


I spent a big part of the Sunday looking for a couple of geocaches. The day was mostly sunny and swelteringly hot and humid. There was a constant rumble of thunder and dark clouds here and there in the horizon. I love that kind of weather when I’m out in the countryside. The combination of sunshine and distant thunder makes the world glow, it stops the clocks and makes everything around you hyper focused, alive, active and beautiful.


The first cache was next to a radio beacon used by aircrafts, but the second one got quite interesting. It was in a small grove in middle of a large field where cows were grazing. The grove was reserved for flying squirrels, but apparently the bovines used it as a shade from the sun. I trekked over other peoples’ orchards and fields, copses and barbed wire fences, until I reached the GPS zero point – which was full of young bulls.


When I found the GPS location for the cache, I had company. Company, who was very curious about what I was doing and lacked all sense of personal space.

Well, I think they were young bulls, but I didn’t lift any tails to check it out conclusively. The thing is that the bovines were friendly, curious and had no sense of personal place. I wasn’t sure how safe crouching around teenage oxen would be, plus there were only so many friendly cow noses and tongues you could deal with, so I decided to come back later and try again.


Umm, that's close enough with the nose, thank you.


Personal bubble, personal bubble!

On my way back I alleviated my disappontment by gorging on wild raspberries, that are ridiculously abundant this year.


I had to give up with trying to find the cache, since there's only so much bovine attention you can take. I comforted myself with raspberries, which were - to put it mildly - abundant this year.

In spite of certain unfortunate hassles I had to deal with, and which trashed certain other plans for Saturday, this weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Peace, quiet and nature. And, also, too much food and A KITTY!


Susi with the kitty scarf.


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