Secret Files 3
is an ambitious cinematic conspiracy thriller within a point-and-click
adventure game. It's a sequel to Secret Files: Tunguska and
Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis. The game opens in 48 BC outside the
library at Alexandria, as battle rages in the streets. A robed figure
hires a thief to destroy certain manuscripts housed in the library.
Fast forward to current day Berlin. It’s several
months after Nina Kalenkov and Max Gruber have recovered from their
adventures in Puritas Cordis, and Nina is late for their wedding.
To her surprise, the church is empty except for Max and the minister.
Further oddities surface, including a mysterious hooded figure that
walks through walls. The church collapses and is engulfed by flames.
Nina wakes up and masked commandos sprint into the
room. Max shouts an obscure reference as he is hustled away, prompting
Nina to follow the clues to a covert archaeological dig. A grid-like
graphic appears on-screen, revealing the presence of persons unknown who
monitor Nina’s every move.
Whew! And the story is just beginning!
Take an Expansive View
Graphics in Secret Files 3 are
photorealistic, intricate and strikingly lit. Locations are far-flung
and exotic. Some of the environments contain monumental structures and
towering spaces, creating a sense of awe. Ambient effects add to the
atmosphere – fire, smoke, drifting clouds, and falling snow.
Substantial gameplay takes place in Nina’s dreams.
These are constructed in exquisite detail and are so lucid that they
seem more like preserved memories than dreams. Each dream ends in
apocalyptic fire. Animated cut scenes are well crafted, if brief. The
more memorable take place during Nina's surreal dream sequences.
The background music is more prominent than in
other adventure games – but blends so well with the environments and the
various time periods that its presence enhances rather than distracts.
The orchestral soundtrack is varied and layered with different sounds –
for instance, exotic Middle Eastern melodies set to a drumbeat, and male
vocals backed by an energetic orchestra.
One Woman Wrecking Crew
Although you play brief sequences as other
characters, in Secret Files 3 the gamer primarily assumes the
role of Nina. Nina lives dangerously, as do those whom she encounters.
Our heroine has an uncanny ability to expose both friends and
adversaries to disaster. Anyone within hailing distance of Nina should
expect to be electrocuted, gassed, arrested, captured, or poisoned. All
of which are superior to the alternative -- disappearing without a
The game features plenty of character interaction.
Voiceovers are professional. Dialogs can be clicked through. The writing
is somewhat “snarkier” and the language is spicier than in the previous
games. A few one-liners really zing (I especially liked Nina’s response
when asked if she studies martial arts).
Cluelessness and Confusion
I played Tunguska years ago (and, to be
honest, didn't make it to the end when I did play it). So I was
completely at sea as to why the mysterious robed, hooded figures were
planting themselves in Nina’s path. Secret Files 3 should have --
but didn't -- provide a written synopsis of Tunguska and
Puritas Cordis, with perhaps a quick rundown as to the different
An in-game journal keeping track of characters and
locations in the third game would also have helped with guessing as to
who is allied with whom, and what they are doing and why. The storyline
is fragmented and extremely hard to follow. The historical sequences and
dreams are disjointed pieces of a narrative puzzle that left me baffled.
For instance, until I replayed part of the game looking precisely for
the explanation, I had no idea why a certain life-and-death, desperate
measure had to be taken -- and even then found the "explanation"
unsatisfying. A further disappointment: Max disappears so early in the
game that his relationship with Nina is unexplored.
Trying A with B (and C and D…)
Secret Files 3 is played from the third
person perspective and uses a point-and-click interface. Character
movement during gameplay is smooth.
The environments are compact in terms of the number
of screens that can be accessed at any one time. This eliminates much of
the “wandering back and forth” tedium frequently found in adventure
games. Each environment contains many hotspots which can be identified
by pressing the space bar. A handful of challenges can be solved
flexibly -- that is, more than one inventory item or more than one type
of device can be used to get the desired result.
The game contains a rudimentary hint/task system
delineating a goal for each particular area. It was singularly unhelpful
– either too vague or providing information that I’d already figured out
on my own.
Most puzzles involve combining and/or using
inventory items. The implausibility of some combinations recalls the
wacky logic found in the puzzles in Tunguska. Nina has a special
dispensation – she can exponentially increase the sharpness of bread
knives, or the weight-bearing capacity of wire objects.
During the game’s dream sequences, such
impracticality isn’t a problem – why not use dream logic in a dream? But
the combinations are just as bizarre in the “real life” portions of the
game, forcing the gamer to employ the “try every inventory item on every
other item and hotspot” strategy. This procedure is simplified by the
cursor, which indicates whether combinations work as you place it over
each hotspot – so you don’t need to click to see if the combination is
effective. Still, with so many hotspots, the inventory puzzles can
The self-contained puzzles (mostly based on pattern
analysis and symbol recognition) are more entertaining. A particularly
creative sequence requires Nina and a companion to move in tandem on a
tile-like floor, using images of animals as a guide. Unfortunately, the
animal images are small and some are faint enough to make it difficult
to discern the necessary characteristics. However, trial and error and
persistence will eventually yield the solution.
Another unusual challenge spotlights a war-bot that
Nina must accessorize using various weapons. This becomes an amusing
form of turn-based combat. Note to self: in the future, maintain a vast
weapons wardrobe and only go up against opponents whose holdings are
Oddly, a couple of situations (getting an object
through a laser maze, for instance) cried out for a puzzle, but led only
to a screen fade. Apparently, either a puzzle or a cutscene was planned
but not implemented.
Secret Files 3 contains an unusual (for an
adventure game) bonus feature that endows the player with various
achievements. I enjoyed learning that I’m a “Maverick” and that I walk
around a lot while looking at everything ten times (my compulsive nature
has officially been rewarded).
After the game ends, a series of “where are they
now?” scenarios update each character's status. These change slightly,
depending upon two (fully identified) choices that you make late in the
game. You have to replay parts of the game to see the different
character outcomes. You can also re-view cut scenes that you’ve already
Secret Files 3 has many attractive elements
– spectacular locations, atmosphere-enhancing music, and some unusual
puzzles. But the experience is piecemeal. Historical chapters, dream
sequences, and current day conspiratorial imbroglios are haphazardly
woven together. Characters and locations surface for short periods and
then disappear. The game ends with yet another in a chain of physical
impossibilities and raises the question -- can anyone actually cheat the
Quick List for Secret Files 3
A fast-paced conspiracy thriller with a spunky
heroine who lives by Murphy's Law. Multiple mysteries, locations, time
periods, and characters are tossed into the plot mix – superhuman
alertness is required to understand who’s who and what’s what.
Photorealistic graphics with impressive, elaborate
structures. Intriguing, animated cutscenes. Good voiceovers. Plenty of
character interaction. You can click through the dialogs.
Third person perspective, point-and-click
interface. The spacebar shows all hotspots. Some of the setpiece puzzles
have two difficulty levels.
Inventory puzzles, plus challenges that involve
recognizing patterns, analyzing information, assembling devices, and
tricking and disabling other characters. The two most difficult puzzles
use images that are tiny or ambiguous. Overall puzzle difficulty is
medium. One slider, no mazes, no sound or color based puzzles, one
turn-based combat sequence (it does not require quick reflexes). You
No problems with installation; no glitches.
Unlimited save slots. The game contains a lot of spicy language and some
violent themes; it is not appropriate for young children. About eight
hours of gameplay.
Secret Files 3 is aimed at
fans of the previous Secret Files games and those who can handle
collateral damage while in the company of a plucky redhead.
Final Grade: B
Secret Files 3 can be purchased via download
The Adventure Shop and from