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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: Tunguska


The Secret Files: Tunguska (Game release date: 2006)
Serviceable but overly formulaic graphic adventure.

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Highlights: Smooth interface, nice graphics Lowlights: Clumsy writing, stupid inventory puzzles, linear plot

There's not that much to say about Tunguska. It's an absolutely average title in the point-and-click adventure genre, distinguishing itself in no way either good or especially bad. Nothing here stands out: the characters have little personality, the mystery is suspenseless, the gameplay is rigidly linear and the 'puzzles' are mostly boring combinations of inventory items. On the positive side, the interface is very nice and wastes a lot less of your time than some graphic adventures do, and the graphics are above-average. On the negative, the script is particularly bad and the humor falls especially flat (the incessant poop jokes and clumsy attempts at juvenile sexual innuendo are by far the most cringeworthy part.) For the most part, Tunguska was just there. I didn't dislike playing it, but it did nothing to capture my imagination at all.

Style: Tunguska is a third-person puzzle-adventure game with a point-and-click interface. You control a single character for most of the adventure, a bland young woman named Nina, though you do get to switch back and forth between her and her even blander partner Max at some points in the game. The plot is a mysterious conspiracy and there are supernatural and science-fiction themes. The game is untimed and no manual dexterity is required. Combat and leveling are not elements.

Series: Secret Files: Tunguska is not yet part of a series, though the game designers say they are at work on a sequel.

Finding Tunguska: This is a relatively recent game and can still be found in some software stores. Here it is for sale online at Amazon. If you're a fan of graphic adventure games in general, this is one of the games included on the Adventure Collection DVD, so you could pick up five decent-quality adventure games for less than $20.

Getting Tunguska to Work: I didn't encounter any problems installing or running Tunguska on XP. Like most games released before 2007, it apparently has a few issues with Vista, but the Adventure Company has issued a patch that should help with that.

Hints For Tunguska: I don't have a Tunguska hints page available at this time-- to be honest, such a linear game really wouldn't benefit much from my low-spoiler hint treatment. If you ever get stuck, the answer is almost always to click every object in your inventory on every other object until they combine with each other. But if you're the impatient sort, I recommend the UHS website, which reveals only one hint at a time, so you won't accidentally learn the answers to future puzzles while scanning for the one you're stuck on.

Game Length: 15 hours or so. Since the game doesn't waste as much of your time on interface-wrangling as some graphic adventures do, it was a good length.

Age-Appropriateness: Tunguska is rated T (for 13 years old and up) due to four-letter words and embarrassingly idiotic sexual innuendo and bathroom humor.

Lora's Tunguska Review: Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Pretty Good)

2 out of 5Plot and Quests: The plot is acceptable but very predictable, and the player is given no meaningful clues or information about the underlying mystery until the game is nearly over.
3.5 out of 5Puzzles and Mental Challenges: Most of this game consists of rote inventory exercises that pose no challenge at all, but there are also a half-dozen true puzzles scattered throughout.
2 out of 5Characters: The two main characters, Nina and Max, have no identifiable personalities and undergo no character development; you cannot customize or develop them at all, not even by methods so superficial as choosing dialogue options on their behalf. Minor characters are mostly forgettable, with only a few exceptions (one interesting, two exceedingly annoying.)
2.5 out of 5Gameworld: Tunguska is set in generic version of Europe. There's no change in mood or ambience as Nina moves from country to country, and there's never any sense of place.
1.5 out of 5Gameplay: Extremely rote. Except for the puzzle interludes, this game could be played by a trained monkey clicking randomly on hotspots and inventory items until something happened and the next cutscene was triggered. The player is often forced to solve nonsensical inventory puzzles for no reason at all; once you've completed the task it will turn out to be useless, but Nina refuses to move on until you try it anyway.
4.5 out of 5Interface: Tunguska's game interface is standard for its genre but very well-done, with screen exits you can double-click on to save travel time and a welcome feature that highlights hotspots on the screen to minimize pixel-hunting.
3.5 out of 5Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): The graphics are very good and the background music is suitable. Voice acting is mediocre. There's no appreciable mood conveyed by this game, and the lack of suspense is disappointing for a mystery story.

Lora's Recommendations: I would recommend Tunguska only to people who are already fans of the graphic adventure genre-- the characterless feel and excessive linearity make this a bad entry point to graphic adventure games, but the lack of interface annoyances make it a quick and smooth journey for adventure-game veterans who enjoy a casual inventory-recombining romp.

If You Loved Tunguska: Then you will probably love just about any graphic adventure game; there are dozens out there in the same mold as Tunguska. If you haven't yet played The Longest Journey or Syberia, those seem to be the two games Tunguska is most blatantly modeled on (complete with in-game references to both of them), and both are excellent games with more originality than Tunguska to boot. If you liked the MacGyveresque inventory puzzles then you're bound to enjoy Return to Mysterious Island, a castaway game in which you can build everything from kites to weaponry out of various vines and twigs. Other adventure games you may enjoy include The Black Mirror, Nibiru, and The Curse of Monkey Island.

For a more detailed critique of the game involving spoilers, plot holes, and impacts Tunguska could have on the adventure-game genre, please see my Backseat Game Designer page. Happy gaming!

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