Undercover Operation Wintersun

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 60/100

Undercover Operation Wintersun Review
Published By: Lighthouse Interactive
Developed By: Sproing
Format Reviewed: PC
Reviewed By: Wencke Schuncken

If you think that you've got the skills to be a perfect detective or becoming one, Lighthouse Interactive and Sproing are going to challenge you! With the PC game, Operation Wintersun, you can proof what you're made of. And please don't fail while a thread to the world is being created and you certainly don't want to get blamed for that, do you?

This is the first time I had the opportunity to experience an adventurous point and click game set in World War 2. Of course the World War 2 inspired many game developers and became a popular theme in the shooter genre but never truly in the adventure genre. It's time to slip into the role of Dr. John Russell, a renowned British nuclear physicist who is hired by Britain's Secret Service MI-6, early 1943 to become an undercover agent. A man with a somewhat imposed mission; prevent the Third Reich from building the world's first nuclear bomb. Embark on a dangerous and enthralling adventure that will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning who you can trust. Explore the heart of historic war-tom locations including London, Berlin and Stalingrad, as you work with Allied operatives to serve your country, the Crown, and defend the world from destruction.

In third person perspective you're going to investigate everything that can be investigated in 2D environments. Those who already are familiar with the point and click genre understand what that means, but for the newcomers I'll describe the gameplay and handling. First of all you can throw away your keyboard as this game is being controlled completely by mouse movement and clicks. Navigate Dr. John Russell around by clicking on a visible spot on screen and he will go there. Environments are covered with objects which can and need to be investigated by clicking on them (left mouse click to identify the item, right mouse click for action like picking it up). Some items are useless but some are required to make progress and those are going to be stored in your inventory. Progress in the game can be made by solving puzzles and tasks. Let's give a simple example; you can try to use your knife or a sharp pencil to open a desk's drawer, but that won't work. Why not use the key which is hidden in the room? A more complicated example is when you need to combine several objects from your inventory with the main goal to distract two guards. A truck is parked in the street which contains spirits, soft soap, citrus extract, rock salt, sharpened pencil, stain remover, empty glass bottle, Ferrous sulfate, pebbles and a rubber hose. By using the rubber hose on the car's tie handle and combining it with the pebbles you create an improvised slingshot to shoot at those guards. Later on it's also necessary to prepare some "cocktails" with several fluids to gain access to a building, to solve the a squeaking door problem, etc

Searching items is the easiest part. Just scan the screen with your mouse and each item reveals its identity. Not only the item's name becomes visible while moving your mouse over it, but by clicking on it, a short description will be given by speech and written text. The negative part is that you're also going to click on a lot of objects which aren't relevant for your inventory or future puzzles / tasks. It's time consuming but necessary as you otherwise would not collect that required item needed in the near future. The difficult part regarding the puzzles is how to use your inventory wisely. Some puzzles are really easy to solve but sometimes they can be real blockbusters or don't make much sense to some gamers. Even math is required as you need to enter the Pi code to open a safe, as the sign of Pi was mentioned in a discovered journal. I guess my hair turned grey under the dyed hair while trying to think of possible solutions and / or combining items over and over again to solve some problems. The game also includes several tasks such as sneaking through a guarded library without getting caught, matching keys with lockers, turning wheels in a certain combination to get access to a secret tunnel and what about that bomb? Does somebody need to disarm it? Items and clues can also be found by talking to the various characters. Most of the time the conversations aren't going to improve your knowledge on how to solve a problem or how to proceed, but they do contribute to the overall story and atmosphere.

The setting is in World War II and visually this is implemented with soldiers, barbwire, Nazi insignia mocked-up decorations, half destroyed buildings, etc. But you don't really get the impression that a real war is going on as you don’t hear any exploding bombs, sirens, shootings, etc. For most of the game you'll explore the streets and buildings which are designed to look authentic to the period with impressive backgrounds. The characters are visualized in 3D and rather well realistically rendered, but in the cutscenes and close-ups the quality decreases unfortunately. This all is accompanied with nice orchestral music, playing in the background and isn't disturbing at all. The voice-overs of the German characters trying to speak English with a really bad accent are bad or humorous, depending on your interpretation. I really liked talking to the drunken German citizen who was trying to stand on his two feet by leaning against a lantern. He had the worst accent, which made me laugh. The spoken text is also readable on screen and each character has a specific colored text. For a deaf gamer for example this can be very helpful to define which character is talking.

The female point is view is dedicated to Anne Taylor. She's the first character you'll meet in the year 1943, when she sits in a fancy restaurant. She is handed a menu, but it's not the usual menu you would expect; it's a folder of Operation Wintersun. That document reveals the German plans for manufacturing the world's first nuclear bomb. During the game she's going to help John in various situations and even shortly plays the damsel in distress by screaming for help, well sometimes that's just a girl's tactic to trick someone and most of the time it works …

Undercover Operation Wintersun contains the dual concepts of Ying and Yang. The puzzles are challenging and therefore fulfilling when solved but they also can make gamers clueless and frustrated whenever the puzzles are way too complicated. I normally won’t say this but in this case it’s recommendable to keep a walkthrough nearby for consultation whenever you’re stuck as it’s worthwhile challenging your brain cells to a certain degree and of course you want to find out how the story evolves. And there are a few twists involved so don’t give up! The searching for items can become boring, repetitive or for the more impatient gamers too time consuming, but those gamers should never get involved with point and click games as searching / investigating is a main ingredient of the typical point and click gameplay. The 2D backgrounds are beautiful but the 3D rendered characters let me down from time to time. All in all mixed feelings about the rating of this game but due to the game’s atmosphere I’ll move the rating to a six instead of the negative / positive five!