Armageddon is coming over the horizon, abandon all hope and surrender your wallets! In all seriousness, no one is going to be fooled by doomsday scares these days. However, for the Secret Files series, something bad is certainly coming over the horizon, and there are people out there that will stop at nothing to make sure no one finds out what. Inspired by the 1908 explosion in Tunguska, Siberia – an unexplained blast that was 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – what you get in this Broken Sword-inspired, point-and-click game is a satisfying, but frustrating, adventure game on the Switch.
Super sleuth Nina Kalenkov was on the hunt for both her scientist father and the answers to the Tunguska event in the first game, only to be tangled up in a cheesy conspiracy plot involving shifty people and evil corporations. Now she’s found herself in something bigger, with religious scare groups and natural disasters cropping up all too frequently. Much like before, people are acting awfully suspicious about the unfolding events, which is additionally enticing enough to make you want to press onward through its intriguing plot. It’s a slow-paced game, suitable for those who like to take their time, and will take about 8-10 hours to complete.
What we have here is a port of a decade-old game, and it clearly shows. While the cutscenes get the job done and the backgrounds are detailed enough, the characters look like something out of a budget PS2 game. Still, there are no grainy visuals to be seen here, only reasonable loading times and a smooth frame rate. Some of the voice acting can be rather corny, much like the writing. Discussions can feel a bit padded, as well, though you can usually find a good joke here and there.
A word of advice: play the game in handheld mode. Using the touchscreen and buttons is a lot comfier than waving one of the controllers in front of the PC. It’s like using a poorly-calibrated Wii remote, requiring you to twist your hands in wacky ways just to get the cursor to move over a door or a newspaper. Traversing around the map is made a wee bit easier by double-tapping the screen to make characters walk faster, or instantly exit the area from afar.
Secret Files 2 is kind enough to offer a hint book with a list of past events (why it starts at the very first, and not the most recent and relevant one, is a bizarre oversight) along with an optional selection of hints. The inventory interface pops up at the bottom of the screen without filling up too much space, even if dragging and dropping items can be a slight nuisance. Examining the environment is key, and there’s a button that highlights anything or person on-screen that can be interacted with, thus saving some fumbling around. No pixel-hunting required – phew! Later in the game, you’ll be flicking between different characters at a flick of a button, which spices things up a bit.
Puzzles are the flesh and blood of point-and-click titles like these. Naturally, hoarding items is your best bet, as you’ll need to combine items, or merely use them on things around in in order to complete mundane things, e.g. use a broken bell and a bottle opener to attract a receptionist’s attention, rather than merely shouting for them. While there are some genuinely challenging ones, some solutions awfully far-fetched or unspecific. Who would’ve guessed the place to fill a bottle of lotion for sensitive skin was in a soap dispenser in a wash room downstairs? What was there to imply it would be of help? Progressing is a slow and steady process, but relieving nonetheless.
None of the Broken Sword games have made it to the Switch yet, at the time of writing, so Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis is a competent alternative. Dated though it may be, it’ll definitely force you to keep your thinking cap on at all times with some tricky puzzles, some of which are cursed with vague solutions and objectives that are not specified clearly. Still, when you’re playing on-the-go, the controls, inventory interface, additional hints and environment hotspots help cut some slack, making it a bit more accessible than other titles in the genre. Even if its flaws stick out clearer than the solutions to some of its puzzles, it’s certainly not the end of the world for this passable point-and-clicker. A vigorous polish could really do it a few favours, though.