Do you ever find yourself wishing there was another game out there which was in the mould of Broken Sword? And do also you wish it was not quite as good as Broken Sword? If the answer to these two questions is “Yes” then Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis could be for you.
Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis was developed by Fusionsphere Systems and Animation Arts and was originally released in 2009 on various platforms to variable reactions. With the Switch selling like hot-cakes, every developer and their mother is looking to port their back catalogue over, and so, much like it’s prequel Secret Files Tunguska, Secret Files 2 is back, sporting a few improvements but otherwise looking pretty similar to its late naughties progenitor.
The plot of the game concerns the fairly nasty Puritas Cordis organisation, who get their jollies by forecasting that the majority of the world’s population will be wiped out by a series of natural disasters, with only robe-wearing zealots being spared. You take control of a diverse cast of characters who don’t wish to join the Puritas Cordis club and therefore must avoid being bumped off while getting to the bottom of the culty conspiracy.
Secret Files 2 sits firmly within the “point and click” adventure genre, with your control over the multiple protagonists being limited to instructing them to walk to the point where you last clicked, converse with other characters and examine, pick-up and manipulate the wide variety of objects those characters leave lying around. These bits of tat, which any sane person would disregard, are your means of solving the majority of the puzzles in Secret Files 2. They can sometimes be combined together or can be used while interacting with elements of the environment.
Point and click games live or die on the quality of their puzzles, with the balance between the solution not being immediately obvious and ridiculously obscure being difficult for a developer to strike. In this regard, Secret Files 2 is a mixed bag. There is a lot of creative puzzle design to be found and joining the dots to reach an objective can be satisfying, but some solutions are obscure or make little sense (which admittedly isn’t unusual for the genre), and you will sometimes find yourself achieving things without knowing the reason for having done so. An early quest sees one of our protagonists aboard a cruise ship, where she is asked to combine objects together to create a model of a landmark to gain an opportunity to be randomly selected to win a holiday. The immediate reward for building the landmark is a numbered ball, which can be used as ping pong ball replacement to distract a child away from playing the bongos. A clue as to which landmark to build could be found in one of the rooms of the ship, but I arrived at the solution by smashing items together until I heard the “Successfully combined” sound, a technique which works more often than it probably should. I didn’t understand why I was being tasked with winning a holiday while I was already on one.
Secret Files 2 can be played in docked mode using the Joy-Con to do the pointing/clicking. As is often the case with gyro controls on the Switch, moving the pointer around doesn’t feel massively comfortable, requiring you to twist your wrist to travel from corner to corner and not offering the range of movement achieved by using the analogue sticks. The motion controls would be more comfortable if there was an option to re-centre the cursor, although a number of short-cuts for opening menus and viewing hints are available, which reduce some of the shiftings back and forth between opposite ends of the screen which you would otherwise be subjected to. Conversely, the handheld mode works really well, with the picture for the item you are currently manipulating displaying above your finger’s current location, allowing you to see what is going on more easily. I didn’t notice any performance issues while playing in handheld mode, but some people may find details hard to spot. The developers implemented a mechanic to enable the player to temporarily view any items which can be interacted with, which is a massive help.
Graphically Secret Files 2 captures the charm of early 3D titles in its visual simplicity. The environments are nicely designed and dressed and feature details which improve the player’s sense of immersion, such as changing weather and twittering wildlife. Unfortunately, it’s hard to deny that SF2 does look its age, with a passing resemblance to the third Broken Sword game, in which the pretty pixel art the series was renowned for was abandoned in favour of primitive polygons. Character models lack detail with some of the protagonists barely resembling their depictions in the in-game art. Cut-scenes are letterboxed and slow to load, and there’s a blurriness as though the screen has been smothered with grease. In one instance a cut-scene appeared to start part-way through an exchange between two characters. There are signs that Secret Files 2 was given a facelift between iterations and that some art assets from previous versions remain, with some characters’ avatars being realistically drawn and others merely being taken from screen-grabs of the character models, leading to the visual aesthetic sometimes feeling a bit muddled. Given the generally sedate and thoughtful pace of the game, these issues are unlikely to be hugely detrimental to the average adventure gamer’s experience.
Secret Files 2’s soundtrack is frequently excellent and captures the atmosphere of each location perfectly without ever feeling intrusive or irritating. The music often takes a back seat during puzzle-solving sections, allowing you to focus and reducing the sense of frustration from hearing a repetitive track over and over while trying to find a solution to an obscure conundrum.
Secret Files 2 is fully voiced, and though the majority of the voice acting is fine this can sometimes be to its disadvantage. Inconsistent accents and unusual inflexions pop up a bit too often, and these issues are made more obvious by the occasionally nonsensical script, presumably a result of imperfect translation given the game’s German origins. There are also moments where the volume of the dialogue will increase suddenly, as though certain lines were recorded when the actor was standing closer to the microphone.
Secret Files 2 can be finished in around 12 hours, and releases at £13.49. This represents reasonable value for a meticulously-crafted adventure title and will keep you busy for a few nights for the price of a couple of cinema tickets. While the game is not strictly a co-op experience it can be enjoyed with a fellow puzzle enthusiast with one person wrestling with the controls while the other shouts instructions.
Secret Files 2 is far from perfect, but if you’re after another game to scratch the itch only a Broken Sword can typically scratch you could do a lot worse. I am gracing it with the prestigious Thumb Culture Silver Award – oh look, there’s a pictorial depiction of one passing by!
Disclaimer: This game was provided for review by Deep Silver.
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