Soviet Republics, communism and, err McDonalds... eh?

KGB logo

VIRGIN * £29.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse * Out now

Blimey, this is a bit of a first, a graphic adventure based on the KGB. Normally, you get some dodgy adventure with wizards and goblins, but a game about the KGB, that's going to break some ground in the computer game world.

Wait a minute - isn't a game about the KGB going to be really political? Well you'd think so, but it doesn't tend to go into detail about all that boring stuff. What it's really about is kidnapping (gusp!), murder (double gusp!), drugs (hooray, erm I mean gusp!) and eventually a plot to oust President Gorbachev from power and return the country to the iron grasp hardliners.

The game takes place in Moscow and Leningrad in the days leading up to the August putsch. Pardon? You don't know what a putsch is? Well to be perfectly honest I didn't know what it was either, but look it up in a good dictionary and it means an attempt at a political revolution or a violent uprising. So there you go, you learn something new everyday.

You play the part of Maksim Rukov, a former GRU Captain who has been transferred to Department P. Department P, if you're wondering, was set up during the time of Perestroika and its function is to investigate possible cases of KGB corruption.

Your first mission in your new job is to investigate a vicious killing. Your involvement is required because the victim, a chap called Golitsin, is ex-KGB. Your superior officer Major Vovlov sends you to investigate the scene of the crime, and it is while you are at Golitsin's office that you meet and interview his sister.

It is while practising your famous D I Burnside interview technique that you discover the trail that Golitsin was following before he died. KGB isn't an an adventure like Monkey Island and Legend of Kyrandia, it's an adventure more in the style of Ween. You are given the view of a room from your eyes, but you don't see your character moving about in the room.

You do see other people in the room, though. For instance, while you are interviewing Golitsin's sister, you see her standing and when you tell her to sit, she sits on a chair. She isn't animated, though, and it looks more like the beaming down process out of Star Trek. I'm sure you get a good enough idea of what I mean.

One wonderful thing about KGB is, when you start talking to other characters. The text that you get to choose from is so funny that I couldn't stop myself giggling, but I quite regularly got stared at by other members of staff.

A sample conversation would be something like: "Have you a cigarette?", to which your colleague replies: "The unparalleled Soviet health budget is not to be squandered on treating self-inflicting diseases, comrade!" I know it's not meant to be funny, but no-one on earth, not even the Soviet talk like that. The graphics in KGB are pretty amazing. Everything's nicely detailed, especially the screens where you are talking to suspects and superiors.

KGB is very easy to play thanks to the mouse pointer system. It's called a smart pointer, and whenever you place the pointer over an object it will automatically lock on to the best option. So if you place it over a person it switches over to the Talk option automatically.

KGB is a pretty good game and very intriguing. Lovely graphics, great playability, quite addictive - that's how I'd sum it up and by Jove I just have.
If you adventure fans are looking for a bit of entertainment to while away the winter evenings, you won't go far wrong with this.

KGB logo

In Virgin's latest hard-hitting graphic adventure, you play a Soviet agent working for the cause of perestroika. You've been drafted in from the Soviet GRU (the Red Army's Intelligence Administration) to help the KGB (the committee for State Security) investigate itself. From now on, you're a KGB agent - but your mission is to uproot corruption within the organisation. It's a few days before the coup d'etat in which Gorbachev was arrested and the USSR fell back into the lands of the hard-liners again - for a few hours. All these events happen after the game you're playing, but you uncover plenty of clues as to its imminent arrival.

At first some of KGB's seemingly anti-Russian text seems unnecessary, but you soon realise the characters in KGB are as detailed and as deep as those in Monkey Island 2 - perhaps more so. In any event, most of the mock-Russian language and attitudes seem plausible once you've met a few more people.

The first few characters you meet in the KGB building are popular Russian stereotypes, all 'comrade this, and up the revolution that'. There are even a few tractor references and gags about Gorbachev and the bread queue, but this is meant to be a send-up of the hard-liners in the KGB who think like this, not the Russian people in general.

It's easy to believe that the game is just pandering to the usual tabloid-style misconceptions and perpetuating the old anti-Soviet myths, but it's not really the case. Once you get a few more conversations going with 'normal' people, things seem more realistic and a lot more entertaining.

Power to the people
KGB bears a strong resemblance to a much older game, Kult, (and that's not surprising - KGB is from the same team that brought us Dune, Purple Saturn Day, Captain Blood and Kult, but in a much better style than all of these). Rooms and views are full of detail, atmosphere and characters that fade in and out rather than walk around.

When characters talk to you you get a close-up animated face and a pixellated enlargement of the background. The effect works well, and after a while you become quite comfortable with it. Each character's face is different, and each face has many different expressions - these change depending on your current line of questioning.

Some characters are better than others - both in the depth of their responses and in the realism of the expressions. A few look as if they have nervous ticks - but then they may be real - this is, after all, an investigation. All the characters have some level of intelligent responses and some take many questionings before they reveal all.

During one particularly heavy line of questioning, I got to stuff a turnip up my, well neither regions, except that it wasn't put quite like that. KGB is undoubtedly an adult game, and it is meant for people with reasonably liberal views on things like swearing and distasteful subjects.

The game also contains a fair bit of sexual innuendo (though it's up to you if you want to pursue those lines of conversation - they're in there, but it's your choice if you dig them up). It all covers topics like teenage prostitution (Moscow has a big problem with this, apparently), urban decay and labour-camps.

Dirty but not decadent
Different characters in the game have different viewpoints on many issues, and all kinds of things are discussed, sometimes casually, sometimes in ways that make you think twice about going for the jokey comments which you're sometimes able to respond with.

The picture of Russia that KGB paints is not a pretty one, so don't be under any illusions - this game is not meant for kids. Rather than being just a game, it's more of an interactive drama - and a post-9pm drama at that. It's all thought-provoking stuff, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Please don't complain to us if you read this, buy KGB, and get upset by it - you might get told where the turnip fits.

KGB is an intense game, full of intrigue, political double-dealing and shady goings-on. How representative it is of real Russian life is anyone's guess (though a Russian would stand a better chance), but it feels real and that's what counts. Whether it's fiction of docu-drama is immaterial - it's solid entertainment and powerful stuff.

Take heed of the warnings if you're not very pleased by 'heavy' stuff, and keep the very young away from it. But if you've an open mind, and an interest in what's going on in Moscow, you'll find KGB highly involving, mind-stimulating drama which is almost as good as a Hollywood movie.


KGB's interface has several neat tricks that we've not seen before, including a replay option which enables you to skip back over the scenes and dialogue that happened earlier. This doesn't affect your game-clock and you can't change the way things happened, all it serves to do is jog your memory about things which people may have referred to ages ago; things you might not have thought important back then. This is a surprisingly simple feature, but one that even Secret of Monkey Island could have benefitted from.

There's also a backtrack option which enables you to restart from a recent 'key' point in the game, in the event that you die, or get chucked off the KGB. It's very easy to make mistakes, especially at first, but you'd soon get tired of having to go through all the same situations right from the beginning, especially if you know where you messed up. So the backtrack option provides you with a way of winding back the clock, and playing a particular scene or chapter again. It's also useful for double-checking the responses that you get from characters - you can sweet-talk a person and hear what they have to say, then use the backtrack option and then bawl them out. You'll be surprised at how different the responses are, and how much more information you can dig up.

KGB logo

Neben "Legend of Kyrandia" legt Virgin mit diesem originellen Kreml-Krimi eine weitere Amiga-Umsetzung eines Spitzen-Adventures vor - und damit einen weiteren Konvertierungs-Knaller?

Der Spieler übernimmt die Rolle des KGB-Offiziers Maxim Rukow - erstaunlicherweise ist er trotzdem kein Bösewicht, sondern soll den mysteriösen Tod eines ehemaligen Kollegen aufklären.

Da der Verstorbene beileibe kein Kind von Traurigkeit war, findet sich der Held der Ermittlungen alsbald in einem schier undurchdringlichen Netz von Gangstersyndicaten, Mord und Drogenhandel wieder - ja, sogar der Putsch gegen Gorbatschow spielt mit hinein!

Was die Präsentation angeht, wird man hier ähnlich verwöhnt wie beim SF-Spektakel "Dune", sprich, die fein animierte Grafik ist farbenfroh (nicht ganz so farbenfroh und detailreich wie am PC, aber immerhin) und die Soundbegleitung sehr atmosphärisch.

Die zahlreichen Örtlichkeiten sind aus der Sicht des Staatsdetektivs zu sehen, darunter ist die Iconleiste zum Aufrufen von Save-Option, Automappingkarte, Inventory und Rewind-Funktion.

Letzteres entspricht nicht nur namentlich dem von jedem Videorekorder her bekannten Feature - hier ermöglicht es dem Spieler, einfach ein paar Szenen zurückzugehen, falls er dort etwas Wichtiges vergessen hat.

Bei den Multiple Choice-Unterhaltungen à la "Dune" wird ein hübsches Portrait des jeweiligen Opfers eingeblendet; wichtiger ist allerdings die Tatsache, daß die Quassel-Vorgaben so reichlich ausgefallen sind, daß beinahe schon richtige Gespräche möglich werden.

Weiterentwickelt hat man auch die Maussteuerung: der sich automatisch mit der Handlungssituation verändernde Cursor ermöglicht jetzt absolut problemlos Point & Click-Abenteuern.

Die letzte und aufregendste Neuerung betrifft das Gameplay selbst: Trotz aller formalen Ähnlichkeiten zum Wüstenplaneten haben die Programmierer von Cryo den Strategie-Anteil zugunsten vielfältiger Aktionsmöglichkeiten gestrichen.

Tja Genossen, wenn Ihr nicht ganz linientreue Anhänger der etablierten Adventure-Schmieden wie Lucas Arts und Sierra seid, solltet Ihr mal einen Blick durch den zerrissenen eisernen Vorhang wagen - es wartet ein spannendes Grafik-Abenteuer, dessen einziges Manko die gelegentlich etwas nervtötenden Nachladezeiten sind. (C. Borgmeier)

KGB logo

The graphic adventure comes of age in a political thriller about the Soviet Union's infamous bad guys.

The Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (that is KGB to the likes of you and me), is a mysterious and shadowy organisation whose name is synonymous with underhandedness, sinisterness, and general nastiness of all sorts.

Soviet state security went through various mysterious sets of initials before setting on KGB in 1954 (it was the KNVD in the 1930s that were responsible for 'disappearing' so many people).

Actually, here is an alarming story I heard about the Stalin era from an old teacher of mine who spend some time in the '70s studying in the USSR. He met an old woman whose husband had been arrested and imprisoned in the '30s for alleged anti-Soviet activities. She never saw him again, but many years later she was allowed to see his file. It contained the original information sheet, typed when he was arrested. On the sheet was the man's name, his address and nothing else. The space for the charge was blank and there were no other papers in the file. No one ever knew why he was arrested and there were no records of what happened to him. Most disturbing.

Anyway, back to the action. KGB is a graphic adventure set in post-Perestroika USSR in the days immediately before the August-putsch. You play the part of Captain Maksim Rukov, formerly the GRU - the Red Army's intelligence service - and now assigned to Department Pof the KGB.

He seems like a nice enough chap, if a little inexperienced, and his superiors have something of a soft spot for him (they knew his father). He works in a grotty office in Moscow and he gets his orders from a rather grumpy Colonel.

The interface is quite friendly - mostly point and click stuff - and, as a result, the game is very easy to get into. And once you are in, you will be captivated by it. The atmosphere is established almost as soon as you begin playing by the superbly drawn and detailed graphics.

The characters have character, the scenery is scenic, the static screens between sections show (mainly) beautiful pictures of Moscow, and the whole thing draws you into the seedy, scruffy and slightly unwholesome Soviet underworld. (Or, at least, into what I imagine the Soviet underworld is like, having never actually experienced it personally).

Superbly drawn and detailed graphics

Your first mission, by way of introduction to the whole thing, is nice and simple. You have to investigate the murder of a private investigator named Geltsin. So you troll off to his office, search the place, and eventually meet his sister. She gives you a tape, you listen to it, you go back to base and get your next orders.

Now that is all well and groovy, but of course you cannot listen to the tape unless you find the tape machine, and you do not find that unless you have got the key to one of the drawers in the office. But you cannot get the key until you have tried to open it and found it locked and then gone outside and asked the guard for the key (not my first idea) and...

The problem with old-fashioned adventures was that the puzzles tended to be thoroughly irritating in that they had utterly illogical solutions. You know the sort of thing where you could open the secret door only if you had the ruby in your right hand, the dagger in your left, you jumped in the air three times, span round and sang the American national anthem in Spanish with a Welsh accent. Yeah right.

Things have improved in recent years. The solutions to the problems are now slightly more logical. But, in KGB, it seems that unless you do everything in exactly the right order (which, first time, can only be by good fortune) you are just as stuck as you would have been if the solution was completely bizarre. This linearity can be a bit of a downer.

Take, for example, the rather more complex second mission. You need to find the identity of the geezer you found out about in the first mission. Unless you see two muggers and overhear their conversation, you will never get anywhere. But it was not until the third or fourth time I had played it tot that point that I actually saw them. Is my meeting with them random, or what?

Once they appeared, everything suddenly came together, but where had they been up until then? If you are going to have a whole section of the game dependent on the presence of two characters, the least you can do is make sure they are there. Isn't it?

Oh, and sudden death. Do you not just hate it when that happens? It was outstandingly frustrating to be killed by another two fools (ugly twins) every time I did anything with no idea of what was going wrong. (It was because I had not met the muggers, without them there was nothing else to do but talk to the thugs and get killed... Aaaarrrrgh!).

It draws you in to the seedy Soviet underworld

At least when you die you are given the option of backtracking to a point before you made your fatal error, but given the linearity of the game, this often is not helpful - unless you have done all the right things in roughly the right order, you are pretty much stuffed. So even though I had the option not saying whatever it was I'd said to make the twins kill me, I still could not progress since I knew nothing about the muggers who were not actually there.

The aforementioned friendly interface has a couple of nice little features to help you along the way. As well as the usual tools (including a 'backtrack' option to allow you to change your mind about earlier decisions) there is a little map of what you have explored so far; there is a very usable inventory; and there is a 'replay' function which lets you go back to see again what people have said to you, in case your note-taking is not up to scratch.

The manual I saw (a rough version) was pretty well presented too. There is quite a bit of info in there about the history of the Soviet intelligence agencies and a little background on the political situation in the USSR towards the end of Gorbachev's premiership. As with so many other games, this sort of attention to detail in the manual adds greatly to the atmosphere and gives a real feel for the world that you are going to be living in.

If you look around at the world of popular books, movies and TV shows, you will see it full of political thrillers. Spies, secret agents, intrigue, murder, cover-ups, corruption - staple fare of popular culture. But where are the games? Floor 13 seems about the limit of it, really.

So there is a massive hole in the market for this sort of thing, and this particular thing is just the sort of thing that will nicely fill said hole. I love adventures, but the Dungeons And Dragons stuff and all its clones can get a bit samey after a while (although there is an occasional gem like Legend) and the comic book style of Monkey Island can be a bit wearisome as well. So an adventure based in the real world with a bit of (fairly) current affairs thrown in is a bit of a godsend.

If it were a bit freer, it would be an absolute classic but as it is, it is just utterly fab.

KGB logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Tony Horgan sticks on his Cossack hat and journeys into the seedy world of the Russian Secret Police.

If there's one thing more frightening than being locked in a cupboard with a disturbed pitbull terrier, it's the reputation of the KGB. The now defunct Russian Secret Police were so sneaky in their methods that no-one even knew what the letters KGB actually stood for, let alone their methods or what they got up to.

Since the fall of Communist rule and the subsequent democratic changes that Russia has witnessed, information about them has become much more accessible. Virgin obviously feel that it is now safe to release a game based around the exploits of the not-exactly-pleasant Soviet sods and hence there is the arrival of Cryo's new graphical adventure.

In the game, you play Captain Maksim Mikhailovich Rukov, a newly appointed member of a sub-division of the KGB, entitled Department P. A private investigator has been murdered and you are in charge of the investigation.

Whilst the death of a P.I. may not seem particularly important, it soon transpires that this dad detective used to work for the Secret Police and your boss, Volvov, wants to make sure that there are no state security implications involved. The investigation soon evolves from a simple murder inquiry to the discovery of a vast, sprawling plot which threatens the positions of the then-President Gorbachev himself, but I won't spoil it by going into details.

The adventure itself is huge to say the least, and it's going to take even the most hardened players a good deal of exploring before the main part of the investigation is even touched upon.

There are plenty of people to meet and interrogate and much of the puzzle aspect of KGB is derived from discovering the right line of questioning you need to adopt. One false word to anybody can often result in the sudden end of your career or life, but rather than prove frustrating, as is the case with some adventures, the handy addition of a 'backtracking' option means that you can often retrace your steps and try other combinations of questions which will, hopefully, result in a successful outcome. The game is quite time sensitive as well, so it is extremely important to be in the right time at the right place.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the hard-edged world of the KGB might make for a seemingly depressing game, but you could not be further from the truth. Right from the start when flicking through the manual, you can see that this is one game which will not be upping the national suicide figures. 'Beware of letting you disks fall into the wrong hands! Capitalist agents are everywhere, and any unlawful copying or distribution of these disks will result in the ultimate failure of our mission! You have been warned,' it proclaims, wisely.

There's plenty of laughs to be found in the game as well, mainly adult Russian-type gags, but laughs nonetheless. In your bedroom, for example, you encounter a likely looking mirror and clicking on it reveals a list of options, one of which is to 'place yourself under visual observation' which, when selected, provokes the response 'Good idea - report anything suspicious'.

In another instance, Rukov stumbles into an office only to find that a certain gentleman is extremely 'close consultation' with his rapidly blushing secretary, if you know what I mean. It's not often that a game actually provides laughter with some consistency (I can only think of Monkey Island 1 & 2 offhand) and so it is refreshing to find a game which continually hits the giggle button with unnerving accuracy.

A major problem that some first person-perspective adventure often have is the player interface. In Ween for example, there was far too much selecting from a menu bar at the top of the screen, something which is never user-friendly.

In contrast KGB positively overflows with easy of use and the interface it employs is a joy to work with. For the bulk of the game the 'smart pointer' is in use, which changes as you move it around the screen. If you place the pointer over a locked desk, for example, it will change to 'look'. If you want to move through a door then simply point at the door and the icon will change to 'go'. If you are not happy with the option the smart pointer offers you, then pressing the right button will reveal a list of alternatives.

The smartest feature, though, is the way that the 'look' pointer flashes when passed over an interesting object in the current location. This ensures that you don't have to search everything in any given place. The save game option wreaks of user-friendliness as it automatically inputs a filename along with a score rating.

Conversations are conducted via a series of pop-up menus, which build in complexity throughout the adventure - the more you learn, the more you can talk about. These menus always appear roughly in the middle of the screen so, once again, there's no unnecessary cursor movement, a feature that will please adventurers who possess a dodgy mouse (like me).

If there's one thing that lets the game down slightly, it's the music. It's a funky track which, although sounding very pleasant, actually feels out of place in Communist Russia. I can't imagine how the musicians arrived at the finished piece - do they think that the Soviets are constantly dancing?

Overall though, KGB is one of the finest graphical adventures available to Amiga owners. Its ease of use and humour elevate it from being just 'very good' to 'flipping excellent' and it must surely rank as a must buy for all serious gamers.


Newcomers to the violent world of the KGB could be forgiven for not agreeing with many of the organisation's methods. They are not renowned for being easy to deal with and always expect 100 percent co-operation and success. Anything less and they might well introduce you to the KGB Book of Torture - something which is enough to persuade even super-tough psychos to tow the party line.

The first thing they are likely to try is sending a couple of hard-nuts round to your home with nothing more than a couple of fists to give slackers a proper 'going over', perhaps stopping only after a few ribs have been broken. Whilst this may be enough to put off the majority of people, sometimes even tougher measures are called for, like the introduction of rubber hoses, for example. Rather than coming round to water a garden, the hoses serve as whips to inflict visible damage to the skin, leaving a clear reminder of what can happen if anybody messes with them. After this you are in Extreme Pain City, because their methods become even more (more!!?) terrifying. How would you like to be bashed around with a sack filled with iron or your nether regions burnt with hot plates? (Put your hands down Frank Bough).

If it's information they're after, and the pain tactic isn't working, they will almost certainly resort to drugging a suspect using a variety of illegal substances. These doses are increased until facts are gleaned, and if the suspect isn't exactly forthcoming with the goods then the dose can become so large that it can sometimes prove fatal. Someone who knows too much well find themselves missing a tongue before too long, as the KGB don't often trust anybody outside the nucleus of the organisation to keep their mouth shut.

With this new knowledge you can hopefully see things under a different light and have a little more success in the world of the KGB.