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Secret Files: Tunguska - A Preview
Gorath, 2006-02-23

Unlike most adventure games, Secret Files: Tunguska doesnīt use a purely fictional background. The co-developers Fusionsphere Systems & Animation Arts and the publisher Deep Silver have opted to base their game on a real life incident, which happened almost a hundred years ago in Syberia. Hereīs the Wikipedia entry about the Tunguska event:

"The Tunguska event was a natural explosion that occurred at 60°55'N 101°57'E, near the Podkamennaya (Stony) Tunguska River in what is now Evenkia, Siberia, at 7:17 AM on June 30, 1908. Though not conclusively explained, the leading explanation in scientific circles for the explosion is the airburst of a meteor 6 to 10 kilometers above the Earth's surface. The size of the blast was later estimated to be between 10 and 15 megatons. It felled an estimated 60 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers. In recent history, the Tunguska event stands out as one of the rare large-scale demonstrations that a full doomsday event is a real possibility for the human race."


Display full imageNina Kalenkov is torn from her day-to-day routine when she finds out her father has disappeared without a trace. As the police cannot help her - or do not want to?! - , Nina sets off to look for clues about her father's whereabouts. She thereby meets Max Gruber, a young colleague of her father who spontaneously offers to help the attractive young lady and the two quickly find out that Nina's father had something to do with an expedition to the Tunguska site in Siberia. Nina and Max soon realize that the events back then must have something to do with her father's vanishing. The search leads Nina and Max to some of the most remote corners of the world, e.g. Moscow, Cuba, China and the Antarctic. It soon becomes clear powerful adversaries are also interested in her father's secret and that there is much more at stake than just the disappearance of an old man.


Tunguskaīs gameplay is typical point & click adventure fare, driven by the intention to deliver an entertaining and consistent gaming experience while avoiding all the smaller and bigger mistakes most contemporary adventures suffer from.

The game primarily uses inventory and location based quests. Slider and machine puzzles will only make it into the game if thereīs a comprehensible reason for it. Action elements will be as absent as are box moving puzzles, and of course, the main characters cannot die by mistake.

As in almost every other adventure the story will be linear. The developers are trying to make the planned 20-25 hours a bit more multifaceted, though, by adding alternative solutions to a few quests and by allowing the player to switch between Nina and Max. In at least one location both characters need to cooperate to advance further, á la Day of the Tentacle.

Each of the 40-50 NPCs will be integrated into the world with his own background, and some will get even more depth by optional side quests.

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Level of Difficulty

The developers want to make Tunguska challenging but never frustrating enough to revert to a walkthrough. To give inexperienced adventurers a quick sense of achievement the first few hours will be more on the easy side. Then the level of difficulty will increase slowly over the next 20 hours. The team is working hard to avoid confusing the player, like many other adventure games do. They promise carefully designed quests with logical solutions, no "double searching" to find important items and intelligent item management which eliminates misleading objects. You wonīt have a crowbar in your inventory, for instance, if the game wants you to find a key to get through a door because it would be hard to explain why you couldnīt simply break it.

Additional help will be provided by an in-game hint system. A diary chapter will be exclusively devoted to tips, especially for the few mechanic puzzles.


Display full imageSecret Files: Tunguska uses a standard point & click interface enhanced with a few comfort functions. Pixelhunting - for example - is no problem because thereīs a key to show all hotspots and exits. Furthermore the dynamic mouse cursor displays little icons, so the player doesnīt have to guess which actions are possible.

The inventory is always visible at the bottom of the screen. Itīs unlikely it will be overflowing with useless crap because the developers want to find convincing ways to clean it every now and then, without pulling a stunt like having items magically disappear after they have been used.


A lot could be said about all the technical gadgetry used to make Secret Files: Tunguska look spectacular, but Iīll leave it at a short list with brief explanations. 110 rendered 2D backgrounds, some of them bigger than one screen, are combined with impressive visual effects animated by a self-developed 3D engine. An example can be seen on the screen showing the Irish pub: the tempest unloads over the whole scenery, lightning strikes into the sea, raindrops hit different surfaces including the puddle in the foreground and the pubīs sign on the right moves in the wind. This scene is characteristic of all the locations I saw in the presentation - although that wasn't many, I have to admit. Each one was full of little details and at least some interactivity and not as static as most other adventures. They simply looked classy.

Other technical features include real-time light & shadows, facial animation for emotions and lip synchronous speech, 25 motion-captured 3D characters and cinematic widescreen full motion videos.


Display full imageLetīs recap what the developers want to create: a typical point & click adventure with a serious story, an optimized interface and a slick presentation. Their game should be more than 20 hours long, have well thought out quest and avoid playing for time like the plague.

Of course, there are still a lot of unknowns in the equation. We know that the developers are experienced - the official PR says they worked "in leading position" on several titles for Ascaron ( Patrician 2, On the Ball 4 - 03/04 Ed. and Port Royale 1+2) and Spellbound (Robin Hood, Chicago 1930). Furthermore, the historic background is interesting and fresh and the visuals are convincing. How theyīll flesh out the story remains to be seen. All we know about the quests so far is theoretical knowledge, which sounds good but has to be played to make a fair judgement.

Fusionsphere Systems & Animation Arts have a great concept in their hands. Iīm curious to find out if they get the actual implementation done in the quality the first pieces indicate. If they can, we can look forward to real highlight in Q2/2006.

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