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Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis [PC]

Secret Files: Tunguska, released in 2006, was a curious point and click affair. A slightly unbalanced mix of tidy visuals, a conspiracy plot and misfiring humour, the game received suitably mixed reviews upon its release.  However, it did tap into the vein of secret societies and religious intrigue that has dominated the airport fiction lists for the last few years and, as a result, was popular enough to spawn a sequel. And from what we’ve seen so far, Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis is very much in keeping with its predecessor.The story begins with the murder of a vicar by Splinter Cell-style stealth assassins who are searching for a single piece of ancient parchment. It turns out to be in the hands of Bishop Parrey, the first playable character in the game. This intro section tasks the player with hiding the parchment before the main chunk of the story begins as we are reintroduced to the series’ heroine, Nina Kalenkov. Since the events in Tunguska, Nina has acrimoniously split up with boyfriend Max Gruber (which is perhaps unsurprising given her penchant for malicious sarcasm and tumbleweed humour) and is embarking on relaxing cruise. However, following a luggage mishap, Nina is drawn into a mystery revolving around the very same parchment that Bishop Parrey was so determined to keep out of the hands of his assailants. Later on, predictably, Max shows up (albeit half way across the world) as a playable character and it all hints towards a reunion at the climax of the game. The backdrop to this narrative is a spate of unexplained natural disasters and a secret society called Puritas Cordis who warn that apocalypse is imminent. Nina and Max must get to the bottom of the mysterious events and uncover the sinister truth behind Puritas Cordis.In gameplay terms, this means a lot of dialogue, puzzle solving and extensive amounts of item collection/combination. One aspect of Tunguska that has been carried over to the sequel is the slick, streamlined point-and-click interface. The right mouse button is responsible for examining objects, while the left button interacts. Handily, the mouse cursor makes it clear when you can ‘use’ an item on a hot spot so you won’t have to worry about trying every item in your inventory before you find the one that works. Developer Fusionsphere has also included a show-all-hot-spots feature (space bar) which means there’ll be none of the pixel-scanning that dominated the early days of adventure gaming.  You’ll also have a large inventory at your disposal, as well as the useful diary feature which contains plot notes and a hint system, should you get stuck.And, like in Tunguska, you will get stuck. Love or hate them, the frequently logic-defying puzzles make a return in Puritas Cordis. There are times when nothing seems to make sense and you suspect that the conclusions to some of the puzzles were devised during an acid bender. In our time with the preview build, our favourite weird scenario involved inserting a donut and a Venus flytrap into an ancient wall cavity. We suspect a lot of the puzzles are designed to put a smile on your face when you eventually discover the solution and, like its predecessor, Puritas Cordis, has a vein of humour running throughout.You’ll have to contend with a lot of deadpan sarcasm from Nina and you’ll notice thinly-veiled references to modern celebrities and the game even tips a nod to Monty Python’s classic Dead Parrot sketch at one point. However, most of the humour resides in the voice acting which regularly flits between the passable and the downright bizarre. While the main characters are acceptably-voiced, some of the side-players in the portion of the game that we played sounded utterly insane (one of the cruise ship passengers sounds like a camp Keanu Reeves circa Bill and Ted). Nevertheless, on the whole the game’s presentation is pretty solid with some decent character and environmental visuals on offer. There are even some visual tricks on display, with a zoom effect used for conversations and some nicely-animated cutscenes.In essence, Puritas Cordis feels very similar to Tunguska in both gameplay terms and its general atmosphere. However, due to the basic – and arguably repetitive – gameplay, point-and-click games live and die by their story. From the preview build, there was some intrigue buried beneath the patchy dialogue and often-bizarre puzzles, which we hope will be developed later in the game. We expect a few twists and turns along the way but it remains to be seen whether the conspiracy tale at the heart of Puritas Cordis can lift the game above ‘average’ status.     

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