How to be different from the original and how not to alienate fans is a question many developers constantle struggle with. Animation Arts’ second game in the Secret Files series is sure to raise a few eyebrows, especially with the mainstream audience who expect the same accessibility.
Nina and Max whose, relationship after the first game went downhill, fall into the traps of a sect which hasn’t the best intentions for them or the world at large.
Manufactured story and characters
Sequels in adventure games are always tricky to handle, especially when it comes to storytelling and characterization. Or maybe they’re easier, because the tone has already been set and the protagonists introduced in the original? Secret Files 2 is like Broken Sword 2 in the sense that the main characters act independently, only in this case it takes way too long to bring them together and actually matter.
The first game didn’t have an overcomplicated plot, the second one tries to have one, but ultimately fails, because the episodes of Nina and Max are too long and it feels like playing two different games. As the setting is more colorful, suspense is lacking and story progression pretty slow. What makes it even more of a grinding process is how the heroes are full of themselves, always praising their intelligence and what they achieve, which is of course to the player’s credit, but it’s quite annoying to be constantly reminded how clever Nina or Max are (and how Indiana Jones-like the latter tries to be), even after performing a rather stupid task or solving a ridiculous puzzle.
Puzzles to pick up or let go
Puzzle design is again reminiscent of Broken Sword 2, as more inventory-based puzzles are included and unfortunately some more code-breaking, tile-moving sorts of annoyances rear their ugly heads. It’s of course much more interesting for the hardcore adventure gamer to be confronted with a higher difficulty, but this wasn’t what made the original enjoyable to play. It was the fluidity of gameplay which made following the rather thin storyline and the flat characters’ conversations easier.
Now it happens quite often that the inventory is full with stuff which is picked up randomly without knowing what to do with it. It’s obviously a problem a lot of adventure games face: how unrealistic it is having all those things lying around (not to mention how to carry them), but this game pushes it a bit too far just to progress in the story. The aforementioned Broken Sword 2 tried the same with a Monkey-Island-like puzzle system, but at least it had some great dialogue and a suspenseful story, which Secret Files 2 desperately needs to be engaging.
In the movie
The presentation is as good as is expected from the series with lush visuals in the environment, well-directed action sequences (when they show up) and an atmospheric soundtrack plus some good (German) performances in the voice acting department. It’s therefore a shame that it takes so long for the story to take off and that the script in dialogue scenes isn’t worth much.
The game doesn’t only look and sound very similar to the original, the controls are also the same, which is a good thing as there wasn’t a lot which could be improved. Still now it’s possible to make the characters run to their points of interaction, making the gameplay more fluent.
A puzzling experience
Secret Files 2 – Puritas Cordis is another case of a sequel trying to be different from the original, but only succeeding in giving old-school adventure gamers obscure puzzles to solve which slow down story progression. It’s still fun to figure out what to do with all the inventory items and how to interact with the environment. The graphics and sound design are great as well, so it’s too bad the story and characters feel as if they were included as an afterthought.