Secret Files: Tunguska Wii Review
It seems risky to wait four years between a PC release of a game and the Wii port of it. It seems even riskier to port a hardcore point-and-click adventure game to a console aimed mainly at casual gamers. Publisher Deep Silver apparently likes to live on the edge though, and is betting that its 2006 PC adventure, Secret Files: Tunguska can withstand both the tests of time and translation.
Tunguska tells the story of young Nina Kalenkov, a Russian girl living in Berlin. One day she goes to the museum her scientist father works in, only to find he's vanished. Her instincts tell her something's amiss, but the only hint she has regarding her dad's whereabouts comes from the museum's panicky, alcoholic janitor who claims to have seen mysterious figures in black gliding through the museum the night he disappeared. Doubting the reliability of this gin-soaked testimony, but knowing something's definitely gone wrong, Nina—with the help of Max Gruber, her father's handsome young colleague—sets out to find her father and rescue him.
Some PC games can't survive the transition to console, but Tunguska does so seamlessly. Classic adventure gaming requires three things—the ability to examine objects and the ability to interact with these items and talk to people. You do these things in Tunguska by pressing the Z-A-A buttons respectively, access your inventory with the directional buttons and open your journal with the minus button. You're meant to use the nunchuck to move the character, but this isn't necessary 95% of the time thanks to the good ol' point-and-click mechanic which remains intact from the PC version. The Wii controls are intuitive and easy, and after a few minutes become automatic enough to forget about them entirely and immerse yourself in the story.
Despite appearing on console, Tunguska remains a polished old-school adventure game. You spend a lot of time rummaging through various environments for items, using items in conjunction with other items and talking to people—the latter of which is often funny, and not always intentionally. For the most part, the localization is really good and the English-speaking cast does a good job of bringing the dialog to life. Occasionally though, you get some weird translations and even a few “wtf” moments when imprecise verbiage interferes with puzzle solving. (For instance, does anyone know what the hell a “brailer” is?) Even so, this minor misstep is really the only one Tunguska makes and it's a mere blip on the radar of this intricate, well-crafted game.
At first, it seems Tunguska is destined to be a fairly small-scope title. Then the hours tick by and as you keep moving from one location to another—from Berlin to Moscow to Siberia to Cuba to Ireland to the Himalayas and farther—you realize it's much bigger and more absorbing than you'd originally thought. The game is full of clever, interesting situational puzzles that in many cases really make you think, and that often introduce a good dose of humor (all that needs to be said about this is “sexy dancing nurse”). The best bits of gameplay come from the cooperative sequences where you get to play both Nina and Max, alternating between the two in order to share information and/or items.
In addition to some really fun classic adventuring, the storyline, (which embraces the famous Tunguska mystery of 1908 wherein a huge swath of Siberia was flattened by an enormous explosion of unknown origin) is extremely engaging and the writing grabs you and holds your attention to the very end. Add to that a likable main character (Nina) and some stunning graphics, and you just can't go wrong. The environments are gorgeous and with a series of full-on cinematic cutscenes, the game has much higher production values than the majority of traditional adventure games.
Secret Files: Tunguska is a strong PC adventure game that's made a very successful transition to the Wii. It looks great on the big screen, the controls are intuitive and easy to use and its strong female lead should appeal to the many female Wii owners out there. Tunguska just may be the Wii adventure that wins over some brand new adventure game fans.