Secret Files 2 archived preview
Appearing about a year ago now, Secret Files: Tunguska proved to be one of the best adventures of 2006. Now its successor Secret Files 2 is on its way, set to thrill adventure fans even more than the original when it arrives next year. The game will debut on PC, but Nintendo Wii and DS owners can look forward to ports appearing later on. The first look we got at the Games Convention gave us some very detailed impressions of the game.
The mystery regarding the Tunguska incident has been resolved, and plays no part in Secret Files 2. The main characters do carry over into the new game, however, along with a few side characters. Set some two years after their first adventure, Nina Kalenkov and Max Gruber are now going their separate ways, trying to leave the past behind them. While Nina is finally getting some rest on a cruise ship to Portugal, Max is out investigating an Indonesian temple site. Meanwhile, much more important things have happened in the background: natural disasters have become increasingly violent, resulting in numerous crises worldwide. Europe is hit, too. These events have prompted the world community to take action, and Nina's father Vladimir Kalenkov has been called upon to find out what's causing them.
But an unexpected and much more interesting lead turns up somewhere else. A priest stumbles upon the ancient notes of a prophet who foresaw the apocalypse. Strange figures violently end his life, but not before he manages to give the document to a bishop friend and warn him of these enemies, who will stop at nothing to keep their dark secret from being revealed. Now the figures are closing in on the bishop as well. At this point, the player takes control and has to keep the notes from falling into the wrong hands, even if it's the last thing he does…
German developers Fusionsphere Systems and Animation Arts aim to build Secret Files 2 on the strengths of its predecessor, and thus in many areas only cosmetic changes have been made. Still, by poring over many small inadequacies, they have achieved significant improvements in the atmosphere of the sequel.
While the intuitive mouse controls and "snoop key" we remember from the first game are much the same, there is more attention to detail sound-wise. Missing footstep sounds and seldomly heard background music are a thing of the past. Where there was only one piece of music in Secret Files: Tunguska, the new game will feature 14 full pieces, including theme songs associated with both main characters. Moreover, these pieces get adapted to the dramatic situation, remaining discreetly in the background or bursting out in a bombastic orchestral version as the scene dictates. As with the first game, the music is handled by Dynamedion.
Things are looking equally good graphically. The character animations and numerous animated background objects look even better this time around and bring the game more to life. From the clouds in the sky to the swinging chandeliers to the water sloshing around in the cruise ship's swimming pool, it all looks very lively. Your conversation partners also aren't nearly as stiff as they used to be. The facial animations and especially the gestures the characters make are more elaborate and much more believable.
As before, the game includes both prerendered cinematics and in-game cutscenes. A few special features have been added to the latter, including cinematic features such as overlays. The 3D-lighting and shadow effects have also been improved, but these improvements had not yet been fully implemented. Still, the version on display did show real-time lighting and shadows. This new feature looked especially nice in one of the earlier levels, where multiple independently-swinging chandeliers spread their light across the room.
Overall, Secret Files 2 looks gorgeous already and makes a very, very good impression in terms of graphics. Technically, the game will run in even higher resolutions than the original, plus offer widescreen users the choice between several resolutions. Fortunately, the accompanying increase in system requirements will be relatively small.
The minor criticisms of presentation and interface in Tunguska have been adressed here as well. For instance, a zoom-effect has been added, which is used during dialogs. This way the player won't be unduly distracted by the background, making the facial animations more effective in the process. The same effect is used as a cinematic feature in some of the in-game cutscenes. Another change is that the inventory can be hidden to get a better look at the scenery. When in widescreen mode, the menu automatically disappears, reappearing when you move the mouse to the bottom of the screen.
The puzzles remain the way they were in the original. Besides inventory, dialog and combination puzzles, there will again be a few number and/or logic puzzles. It is not yet clear to what extent the game might increase on the rather low difficulty of its predecessor, but the difficulty will increase at a steady pace as you progress through the game.
Secret Files 2 starts out with a character we haven't seen before, whose problems aren't particularly difficult. However, this is not so much a bad start as a deliberate way to make it easy to get used to the controls and get into the story. It isn't just for newcomers to the genre, though, as the first tasks aren't simply a tutorial but more of an "interactive intro". To be actively involved in the game so early enhances the experience even for the advanced player.
After this short section, the focus shifts to Nina, who is already discovering that there's no rest to be had on this cruise. The story is divided into two separate branches that will come together later on. It then goes on to result in a fixed end sequence, as alternative endings aren't planned this time.
Overall, Secret Files 2 made a very good first impression. The weak points of the previous game have been addressed and clear improvements have been achieved in many of the weaker areas. The gameplay in the first scenes left us wanting more, and we're excited already for the game's release next year.
This article was originally published on the German website Adventure-Treff. It has been translated and reprinted here with permission. Translation provided by Harald Bastiaanse.