Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis

Developer:  Fusionsphere Systems/Animation Arts
Publisher:  Deep Silver
Year Released:  2009

Review by Steve Metzler (December, 2012)
"Oh, thank heavens for that. It's only you... aaggghhhh!"
Michael Crichton is one of my favourite authors, having penned some very slick science fiction thrillers over the years, such as: The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Timeline, and State of Fear. That last one on the list was about a group of eco-terrorists trying to artificially bring forward an End of Days scenario to further their agenda regarding climate change. The novel itself was to his usual standard as far as that goes, but many 'facts' that were rolled out during the course of the story, not to mention in the lengthy afterword, just did not hold up to scrutiny if you know anything about the science behind climate change - which, sadly, I didn't at the time, and so was largely taken in by Crichton's pseudo-scientific ideas. Anyway, let's leave that observation dangling right there for the moment. I'm not about to get up on my soap box just yet.

Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis is the sequel to Secret Files: Tunguska, which was released in 2006. As you may have guessed from the lead-in, the plot line for Secret Files 2 could have been lifted straight out of State of Fear. For all I know, it may well have been, and I'm not ruining anything here by telling you this, because it's all laid out right there on the back of the DVD cover. What the developers did do, however, is throw a mysterious ancient sect and some religious righteousness into the mix (like Dan Brown would do). All in all, I think it makes for a heady offering; something along the lines of: State of Fear Meets Angels and Demons.

Dynamic duo
At the start of Secret Files 2, our two protagonists from the first game, Nina Kalenkov and Max Gruber, are no longer an item, having recently parted ways. Nina is heading off on a North Sea cruise by herself, while her dad attends an important UN conference in New York. Coincidentally, this conference concerns what to do about the recent spate of natural disasters seemingly brought on by mankind's cavalier attitude toward the environment. Max doesn't come into the game till quite a bit later, but as with Tunguska the balance is quite good between playing Nina and Max. You even get to control some other characters, such as a bishop, and an erstwhile acquaintance of Max, archaeologist Samantha Peters. But these are only bit parts.

As with its predecessor, the hand-rendered 2-D backdrops are drop-dead gorgeous. So much so, that you often need a little help picking out objects that you can interact with from the background. But all you need do in any scene is hit the space bar, and this causes all objects you can interact with and all exits from the scene to be highlighted. For some reason, the game considers this to be cheating, as it gives you a report at the very end that informed me I had asked for 'help' several hundred times. But I view this feature as just a way of avoiding a lot of pixel hunting, which does not constitute 'fun' by any measure of the word in my book. Though others may well feel that hunting for miniscule hot spots is a necessary part of the adventure gaming ritual. Meh. You can also get hints for the handful of abstract puzzles that appear in Secret Files 2. Now, that is what *I* would actually call 'help'.

Playing by MacGyver's rules
Speaking of puzzles, Secret Files 2 is very enjoyable in this respect. It provides a nice selection of mostly inventory-based puzzles that should keep you occupied for a good week or so. Yeah, some of the object combinations require quite a stretch of the imagination to even make them worthy of consideration. And this is where the nit-picking will inevitably begin over whether or not these puzzles - that have you trying to combine every object in your inventory with every other object in your inventory, and on most of the objects in the outside world for good measure - are worthwhile pursuing. But really, it shouldn't. It's all part of the fun. Look to some of the most illustrious adventure games of the past, like Grim Fandango, or Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, and you will encounter the same ilk of banging-your-head-on-the-keyboard type puzzles. I'm not suggesting that Secret Files 2 is right up there with those two venerable games, but it does try hard :-)

Sounding off
My review of Tunguska featured a longish rant about the voicing of Nina and Max. Sorry, but my expectation is that German characters in a video game shouldn't sound like they're straight out of Los Angeles mall land. So now I will get up on my rather very small soap box to say that the voice of Nina is even worse on this occasion, with a performance that is completely devoid of emotion. There's a passage of play in the game where you can make her sing a little ditty, and there are no inflection points whatsoever in her singing. My cat could do a better job (if I had a cat).

Sam n' Max™. Oops. Conflating my game franchises again
There's some fairly good humour in the dialogue, and plenty of pop culture references. To sum up: Secret Files 2 does no more and no less than Tunguska did, so if you liked the inventory-style puzzles and cinematic story line from Tunguska, then I suggest this one is worth a twirl too. And I see that I've waited so long to play this one, that Secret Files 3 has already been released a few months ago. I'll be reviewing it shortly, I suspect.

See the Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis walkthrough. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Metzler 2012. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Pentium III 800 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 32MB DirectX 9 compatible video card, 16-bit DirectX 9 compatible sound card, 2 GB free hard disk space, DVD-ROM drive, mouse, keyboard (note: these requiremants seem a bit on the low side. They may be OK if the game really does run on Windows 2000. But that's what's in the manual, so...)