Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis, is an outright assault on the grey matter of gamers everywhere!
- Developers: Animation Arts, Fusionsphere Systems, Keen Games
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Release date: 20 June 2019
- Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Well, after spending the best part of a week stealing every spare moment I could in a bid to conclude this cryptic conundrum of a game, I have finally finished my playthrough of Secret Files 2, which, as most of you will know, is a re-release for Nintendo Switch, originally released in 2009 for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS and Wii. Now, here are my thoughts (what’s left of them)!
Secret Files 2 opens with an in-game introductory scene that follows a frantic and fearful priest as he scampers across a church courtyard. It transpires that he is desperately trying to safeguard documents foretelling of the forthcoming apocalypse due shortly to befall the world; doing all that he can to prevent these from falling into the wrong hands.
This scene serves not only to set the urgent tone that permeates the ensuing gameplay but also to showcase the graphical tier reached by the game, of course making allowances for the unavoidable graphical dip from cut-scene to active gameplay.
This scene, the subsequent initial gameplay, and the graphics on show therein left me with decidedly mixed first impressions. In spite of an objectively textbook hook, I was underwhelmed by the graphics, and the point and click gameplay mechanics adopted by the game were somewhat alien to me, albeit I was of course open to giving them a fair chance!
The game progresses in a manner that sees the player alternating between two main protagonists, Max Grubber and Nina Kalankov, both of whom become unwittingly involved in the search for answers, in the wake of global atrocities prophesied by a fanatical religious group known as Puritas Cordis.
Using the point and click mechanics, the player follows the game’s set narrative and locations, interacting with NPCs, objects and items, in a bid to unravel the mystery of the insidious Puritas Cordis, and what role they have assumed for themselves in relation to the supposedly ‘natural’ disasters occurring throughout the game. Puritas Cordis claim that these disasters emanate from divine intervention – acts of God to cleanse the world of sin. Max and Nina aren’t buying it, and neither are we!
The point and click functionality is, as one might expect, fairly simple and intuitive. Taking control of the two lead protagonists, you observe your surroundings and keep a keen eye out for anything you may be able to pick up or interact with. From here, you essentially embark on a mission to drag and drop collected items in a manner so as to manifest useful interactions, craft imaginative tools, and manipulate the landscape in pursuit of your heroic ends. This functionality can be a little clunky, but for the most part does what it says on the tin, and after a little while, I was fairly comfortable with it.
The environmental and item manipulation is certainly creatively imagined, to say the least, though if I’m to be entirely honest, can be excessively cryptic and far-fetched, in places. The implausibility of many of the interactions is often a source of immense frustration, to the extent that I frequently resorted to indiscriminate pointing and clicking, in the desperate hope that dumb luck would eventually prevail, and I would happen upon the necessary combination or action.
In one particularly memorable instance the lead female, Nina, finds herself trapped inside a capsized ship. I needed to carry out a particularly laborious sequence of interactions involving two bongo drums, a water jet, an oily pipe, a chest of drawers, and a rusty escape hatch. I shan’t give too much away, but this, as with other indecipherable puzzles, was convoluted to the point of excess.
This doesn’t take away from the extraordinary effort and imagination that has clearly gone into conceiving these interactions, but it did at times feel more like an IQ test, as opposed to an enjoyable series of brain teasers.
Adding to this frustration is the fact that many of the items are really rather difficult to spot on-screen. It’s difficult to say whether this is due to graphical contrasting deficiencies or the diminutive size of many of the game’s essential items, but to my surprise, this issue held true both when played on the hand-held Switch, and when linked to my television.
Ultimately, no combination, be it of items, surrounding structures, or characters, is off-limits, and it is necessary to run through ALL possibilities.
For me, the area where this game truly falls flat is the verbal character interactions, with the dialogue, as well as the inner monologue of the main protagonists being of a particularly low quality.
The lead female in particular is excruciatingly monotone, sounding more like Siri than an actual human woman. The lead male is only marginally better, and there is no real sign of any pitch or emotion, which makes it extremely difficult to get invested in the characters. To be honest, I found the game more palatable with the audio turned off.
The dialogue itself is uncomfortably cheesy and contrived, bearing absolutely no resemblance to interactions one might hold with fellow human beings. This unfortunate synergy of poor voice acting and forced dialogue makes for an uncomfortable ride, particularly as there isn’t a whole lot else going on in-game.
Graphically, the game is average, at best. In fairness, the developers have without doubt focused on the problem-solving element of the game, with graphics being a secondary consideration. Furthermore, even as something of a stickler for graphics, I can forgive a misplaced pixel or two, so long as a game shines sufficiently brightly in other areas.
Alas, the aforementioned gameplay issues left me clutching at straws, desperate to latch onto some form of redeeming attribute, though there is no such atonement to be found in the game’s graphical offering.
The character movements, much like the character dialogue, are clunky and unrefined, particularly with arm and other body gestures being woefully out of sync with both the tempo and the context of the characters’ verbal interactions. Lip sync especially is sub-par, and whilst playing through I found myself yearning for the games of generations past, in which there was no mouth movement at all.
Despite a poor show so far as the actual characters and their movements are concerned, the inanimate landscapes and structures, which serve to provide the backdrop for the game, are actually fairly well designed and aesthetically pleasing. It seems somewhat counterintuitive that the characters in a game would be less polished than their surroundings, but what can I say… perhaps there was some method in the madness at the design stage, and I’m just not getting it.
There really isn’t a whole lot to say in terms of the game’s audio. This is because a good 90% of the audio is oral communication between characters; a further 8% can maybe be attributed to the main protagonists’ inner monologues, and the remaining 2% to occasional sound effects, such as a vehicle driving past, an animal calling, or running water.
As highlighted earlier in this article, what little audio does exist in Secret Files 2 is underwhelming, and if anything, makes the game less enjoyable. There are some extremely inauthentic accents on show, a total dearth of tone and pitch, and frankly, the character conversations sound as though they have been produced by a text reader for the visually impaired.
In summary, Secret Files 2 is clever, just a little too clever, in fact. A lot of effort has gone into thinking up the intricately layered interactions, and it would be wrong of me to say that none of it was enjoyable. An honourable mention must go to the stage played out at the Zoo. Nina finds herself in need of befriending a monkey, in order to procure some nuts, in order to appease an elephant, so as to avoid a crocodile… Using a clever combination of hoops, sticks and noise makers, Nina ultimately shows that crocodile who’s boss, allowing you to progress. Unfortunately, however, Secret Files 2 simply falls over in too many areas, and the redeeming qualities are too few and far between to offset the numerous shortcomings.
With unconvincing and uncomfortable character interactions, particularly poor audio and dialogue, mediocre graphics, and excessively cryptic problem solving at the heart of Secret Files 2, I can’t in good conscience recommend this game.