Feisty redhead Nina Kalenkov is back in Secret Files 2, the sequel to the PC point-and-click adventure game The Secret Files: Tunguska. Whereas the first game dealt with a mystery in which the Siberian region of Tunguska was engulfed in a mysterious inferno (also known as the Russian Roswell), this time it could be the end of the world. Literally.
The intro to the game shows an obviously agitated vicar hurrying to get inside the sanctuary of his church. However, before he can get there, he is shot with what looks like a poison dart by two men dressed in full military kit, complete with night-vision goggles. You're then given control of his friend, Bishop Parrey, who realises that he too is in grave danger. After controlling the Bishop for a brief time, the scene changes to transport you to much sunnier climes, and you are once again in control of the sassy Nina.
Secret Files 2 is set some time after the first game ended, although it's unclear right now from the section we played quite how much longer. Having split with Max Gruber, the guy she hooked up with in the previous adventure, Nina's decided to go on a relaxing cruise to get over the whole thing. That wouldn't make for a very interesting game, and naturally things don't really go down as planned; she's soon dealing with a motley crew of weird shipmates and a series of peculiar goings-on. You can bet your life that it will all end up having something to do with the death of the priest shown at the beginning--but just how, who knows?
Nina doesn't suffer this particular ship of fools gladly, and she has plenty of comebacks and quips for the bizarre assortment of weirdos who cross her path. There's lots of humour thrown in as well, and in the space of the preview levels that we saw, we caught a nod to Monty Python, along with a sly reference to virtual Tomb Raider star Lara Croft.
The interface is much the same as in the previous game, with the inventory items shown as icons at the bottom of the screen, along with an options button to save and load. The same option to reveal all the items and people that can be interacted with, along with all available exits, is back there as well. Some people consider this feature tantamount to cheating, but you don't have to use it.
Nina still has her trusty journal on hand, which will fill up with notes and important plot information as you go along, so those with short attention spans can be sure to keep on top of it all. Flipping to the end of the journal will also give you the option to get a hint, although sometimes they just seem to tell you what you already know you need to do, rather than give you any help with actually working out how to do it.
Items and people can be examined using right-click, and if there's an option to interact with them in some way, the cursor will change to show you a left-click option too. Objects can also be combined, for example, to make yourself a cunning disguise.
Graphically, the game looks as good as, if not better than, the first in the series, with a series of detailed prerendered backgrounds serving as pleasing eye candy to explore. When Nina talks to someone, or in certain other situations (for instance, when she's peeping through a window), the camera will pan into a 3D close-up with the character. The voice acting is a mixed bag--some characters are fine, whilst others are truly awful. Call to the witness stand the fake Southern American accent.
The puzzles we played seemed to be mainly inventory-based, solved by picking up everything that's lying around; if you're really stumped, methodically trying to use and combine everything with everything else will eventually move you along.
Secret Files 2 is currently expected to be ready for UK release in Q3 2008.