Secret Files: Tunguska



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:     Fusionsphere System

Publisher:    Deep Silver

Released:  September 2006

PC Requirements:   Windows ME/2000/XP, 100% DirectX Compliant (EAX Recommended) sound card, 1 GHz Intel Pentium 3 processor or AMD Athlon processor, 32 MB 3D accelerated video card (NVIDIA GeForce or ATI), 4x (or PC DVD-ROM drive), 256 MB RAM (512 MB on Windows XP), DirectX 9.0

Walkthrough   Walkthrough

Additional Screenshots







By Looney4Labs


Factoid: 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.*

I fancy games based on real events, so it was with great anticipation that I approached Secret Files: Tunguska.  This game sets the tale of a daughter seeking her vanished father into the frame of the still unexplained 1908 explosion in the Tunguska region of Siberia.  Though that blast destroyed 2300 square miles of forest and was heard 600 miles away, its cause has yet to be determined.  Many scenarios have been put forth, but none have been universally accepted as truth.  Is that about to change?   

Tunguska intrigues immediately with its spooky beginning.  Mysterious hooded figures, shadowy scenes and swelling orchestral music are juxtaposed with our modern, jean clad protagonist, Nina, arriving at Berlin’s Naturkunde Museum.  She finds -- not her father, Vladimir Kalenkov, as expected -- but a ransacked empty office.  Naturally she calls the police.  Receiving very little help, she begins her quest to find her father.


This inquiry brings Nina into contact with many quirky and enigmatic characters and draws her to diverse and far flung places.  The multilayered story is well developed, intertwining bits and pieces of Vladimir’s hidden history with a possible solution to this century old mystery.


Factoid: Over the next few days, night skies were aglow such that one could read in their light.*



Tunguska is a beautiful game, featuring clear, crisp and detailed graphics.  Subtle movements abound.  Leaves gently rustle outside a window and bubbles rise in a sparkling aquarium.  An air vent vibrates slightly.  Ceiling fans lazily turn, dust motes drift in the sunlight, a butterfly flits from bush to bush, and willows sway pleasingly.

The cinematic cut scenes can be replayed from the main menu.  I particularly appreciate this feature as I often miss part of a scene due to real life interruptions.  I particularly enjoyed watching Nina stroll along the roof of a speeding train.

Avatars move fluidly, but at rest they are a bit static.  While waiting and during conversations they are still.  No weight shifting, no foot shuffling, and not much arm or head movement.  More incidental movements would have contributed to greater realism.

This game encompasses many locations and I found something to like in all of them.  In one, I noted with humor a computer plugged into a power strip identical to mine.  The tropical colors in another were gorgeous, while the verdant and muted colors of a misty isle invited me to stay awhile.  The eerie blue lighting in a swamp built tension.  Shadows are appropriate and add authenticity.


Factoid: In the United States, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Mount Wilson Observatory observed a decrease in atmospheric transparency that lasted for several months.*



Nina meets many folks during this journey, some helpful, some indifferent, and some covertly antagonistic.  Graphically they are all well done.  Faces are beautifully drawn and detailed with speech usually being synchronized to text.

Nina is the main adventurer and the one you’ll spend the most time with.  I relish that Nina is a motorcycle mechanic -- an unusual profession for a woman, at least in my neck of the woods.  She sports blue jeans, a pony tail, and an attitude.   

You occasionally play as Max, a handsome, young, casually dressed colleague of Nina’s father.  I enjoyed playing as Max much more than as Nina.  For a while you alternate between Nina and Max, cooperating to solve one puzzle.  At other times the two separate to follow the trail of clues.

But Nina and Max are just the most prominent personalities.  Tunguska is filled with non-player characters (NPCs).  Some reflect tried-and-true stereotypes, while others are more original.  The furtive, black cowled figures are appropriately ominous.  I was quite intrigued by the slight window reflection of Nina’s mysterious and malevolent foe directing his minions from his modern skyscraper.  And having an NPC seen only from the knees down is a first for me.

Though players who love interaction (count me among them) should get their fill in this one, it doesn’t feel excessive.  Instead, this game dispenses a nice balance of dialogue and single player exploration. 


Factoid: “I suddenly saw that directly to the North….. the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest.”  S. Semenov, eyewitness.*


Voice Acting and Dialogue

Great graphics are not enough to sustain a characterization for the duration of a game.  The portrayal must be completed by believable voice acting, expressing credible emotions.  I wish I could tell you that is what I found in Tunguska.  But sadly, I can’t. 

This is the first game I’ve played which allows access to the protagonist’s thoughts.  This appealed to me as I believed it would allow me to really identify with Nina, immersing myself in her personality as well as in her quest.  In practice, however, it turned what should have been an outstanding game into merely a good one.  Not because it is a bad idea per se, but because her ruminations were too often inappropriately flippant either in tone, content, or both.

Because of this I had a difficult time losing myself in this game.  Each time I began sinking into the story, believing it and connecting emotionally to the characters, out popped an ill-suited utterance.  Too often, it was a witticism that fell flat or a wisecrack spoken in an upbeat, perky tone.  I never heard the tenseness, the stress, the sincerity expected in one seeking a lost (possibly dead) father in dangerous surroundings.  I wanted to care.  I wanted to connect, but the tone of voice and too often, the words themselves broke that tenuous bond between gamer and heroine.

It’s not all bad news.  Some of the characters -- Morangie in particular -- did a decent job bringing their personas to life.  But too many missed the high mark set by the other elements of the game. 

Be aware that Tunguska contains a smattering of mild profanity.


Factoid: All villagers were stricken with panic and took to the streets, women cried, thinking it was the end of the world.  Sibir newspaper, July 2, 1908.*


Ambient Sounds and Background Music

The ambient sounds are drawn with a fine and subtle hand.  For the most part they work wonderfully, establishing a realistic feeling.  Traffic sounds are in the right places.  Stairs creak, dogs bark, insects chirp, and birds sing.  Once, an emergency siren caused me to remove my headphones to verify that this alarm came from the game and not from my environment.  However, I missed the sound of footsteps.  I don’t believe that I heard them even once throughout the game.

I particularly enjoyed the background music in this game as much as for what was absent as for what was present.  During much of the game, there is no music.  This allowed me to explore in more natural surroundings, accompanied only by environmental sounds.  I enjoy that approach as it enhances realism.

Music is present from time to time and runs the gamut from chanting monks to Latin salsa.  It provides background, establishes flavor, and then quietly floats away. 


Factoid: Amongst the many discredited theories is that of Russian geologist Vladimir Epifanov and German astrophysicist Wolfgang Kundt who suggested that the explosion was of methane gas emitted from the earth.*



Tunguska is an inventory lover’s dream.  Most of the puzzles are inventory based and (in so far as we are talking about a game) fairly logical and entertaining.  Of course, there are always exceptions.  I learned to begin with pragmatic inventory combinations.  If those failed, I resorted to more, shall we say, “imaginative” blends.  This approach often generated an unexpected amalgamation, thus setting me on the correct trail once again. 

Though the great preponderance of puzzles in this game involve inventory, there are also some very enjoyable logic and/or riddle types.  Nearly all are diverting and flow naturally from the story.  The most difficult one for me was the compass puzzle because its clues were too obtuse.  On the other hand, I thought the statue puzzle very clever and absolutely satisfying.

There are no sliders, mazes, sound or color puzzles, and nothing is timed.  There are no mini-games.  Taken as a whole, the puzzles are fun and lie in the easy to mid range of difficulty.


Factoid:  Another controversial theory was advanced in 1990 by César Sirvent.  He proposed that a deuterium comet may have exploded as a natural hydrogen bomb.*



Tunguska is a point and click adventure story told from the third person perspective.  The interface is easy to use as long as one remembers to left click to move Nina and right click to examine items.  It features a “smart cursor.”  Right clicking skips dialogue and introductory screens.  Double clicking moves Nina immediately from one scene to the next.

Saving is easy, unlimited, available at any time, and the game confirms the save was successful.  It also reminds you to save before quitting.  Saves are identified by a screen capture, a title, and the date and time.

The options menu allows adjustments to music and sounds independently, but not voice.  It also allows some customization of the graphics and provides a game help option.  With this option on, a hint is available for a few of the game’s non-inventory puzzles.  This is not a solution -- just a gentle push in the right direction.  

Captions can be turned on or off.  The game was intermittently Alt+Tab friendly.  Most of the time I could tab out and back, but sporadically, I couldn’t.

Tunguska provides hot spot help in the form of a magnifying glass icon which they term the “snoop key.”  When used it shows all exits and all hotspots, effectively eliminating pixel hunting.  Now and then, finding that elusive spot in what I thought was a “completely searched” scene was just the nudge I needed.

An automatic journal records important events.  You can access the journal whenever you like. To solve one puzzle, you must access the journal, a fact which I found aggravating. 

Tunguska comes with a small paper manual.  Although the “read me” file says there is a manual in PDF format on the game disk, I was never able to find it.  The game disk must be in the drive to play.


Factoid:  Yet another theory was advanced in 1965 by Cowan, Atluri, and Libby who suggested that the Tunguska event was caused by the annihilation of a chunk of antimatter falling from space.*



I had a problem with voices occasionally switching from normal to a kind of “far off echo” mode.  It happened with several different persons and in multiple settings.

Other than the irregular sound flaw and Alt+Tab difficulties, the game loaded easily and ran glitch free.  A patch addresses some issues and provides a longer ending, but it did not fix my problems. 

I did not care for the longer ending as it echoed the frivolous irreverence found in much of Nina’s inner musings.  My biggest problem with Tunguska is that the game could not seem to make up its mind if it was a tension-filled drama or a comedy.  The newly patched ending reinforced this dichotomy.


Factoid: The Tunguska explosion has often been referred to in popular culture including Star Trek (original series), the 1984 film Ghostbusters, the 2004 film Hellboy, and a 2004 Alan Parson’s album.*


In Conclusion

I liked this game.  A lot!  The graphics are great, locales fascinating, the interface is intuitive, and the multilayered story is set against a genuine mystery.  Saves are at will and unlimited.  The ambient sounds are convincing and the background music is pleasant.  It features lots of people to interact with, so this is not a lonely journey.

The challenges are congenial and, with one or two exceptions, not daunting as long as you remember to think outside the box.  My disappointment in the dialogue and voice acting is overridden by the overall excellence of the game.  It was stable, requiring no fiddling to run.  All in all, Secret Files: Tunguska was a fun time, and I look forward to the sequel projected to release in 2008.

Grade: B+ 

Short List

3rd person, mouse-controlled adventure game

Craftily designed plot

Saves unlimited and available at will

Easy to use interface

Smart cursor

Captions available

Hot spot finder

Automatic journal records major events

Paper manual

Excellent graphics

Filmic cut scenes

Liberal dialogue containing mild expletives

Interaction with many non-player characters

Dialogue not appropriate to the tenseness of the story

Mediocre voice acting

Ambient sounds good except for the absence of footsteps

Background music intermittent and varied

Puzzles mostly inventory with a few logic

No mazes, sound or color puzzles

No timed elements

No mini-games

Patch addresses a known puzzle issue

Intermittent Alt+Tab and sound fading problems

Stable game

My computer specs:

Win XP Professional SP1

3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4

1 GB Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM

Sound Card: DirectX Version:  9.0b

Video Card: 128 DDR NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra

* Factoids were taken from Wikipedia.

December 2006

design copyright © 2006 GameBoomers Group

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