Written by  :  Joakim Kihlman (275)
Written on  :  Apr 21, 2004
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Stupendously difficult and arbitrary gameplay but in the end rewarding and original.

The Good

KGB, or Conspiracy, as it was named on the CD-ROM version I had back in the days, is a political thriller with murder, conspiracies(duh!) and lots of shabby affairs as main ingredients. I might as well say it right away, the story/plot is great. The story, and the very original(but difficult) "puzzles" are what makes you keep on playing despite the flaws the game has. The player has an immense freedom in what he can do, although you have to do the right things in the right order, or youäll die or fail(usually die). But the fact that you do not get many clues and can investigate for your own, trusting your own investigating abilities, makes it feel as the game is very open, when in fact it is not. It actually feels as if you are a spy caught in a very confusing web of lies, conspiracies, murder, snuff-videos and corruption, desperately trying to both survive and to find the truth about what is going on. I really like the way the plot takes turns and twists and forces the player to be attentive and not only solve the "puzzles" but also listen to what the character have to say in order to figure out who to trust and who is trying to fool you. In other words, the game is more involving "story-wise" than "puzzle-wise", and to me that is a good thing. I write "puzzles" in brackets because there are no traditional puzzles in this game. As Rukov, a fresh KGB-agent trying to discover corruption inside the KGB, the "puzzles" are really something more than just solve boring "put the egg in the hat and use it on the banana"-puzzles. In this game you spy, use surveillance equipment, you decode messages, follow suspects, interrogate people, and above all, you manipulate and use all of your diplomatic skills to get out of the many precarious situations you find yourself in. It's a very intelligent game, and it demands a lot from the player. The characters are also good, and the story is definitely not suitable for children. This is a real dirty story that takes place in the Soviet Union and it's full of corruption and death. Another both good and bad aspect of the game is how time moves. The clock is always ticking on, and you should do certain things before certain times and so on. This is sometimes a good way to make the game feel more realistic. But it is not only good(see below.)

The Bad

First of all, the graphics aren't very good at all. It's not appalling to look at, but it's not very good looking either. On the CD-ROM version you can get hints from Rukov's dead father, played by Donald Sutherland. I like Donald very much, which is why I really hated seeing him in this boring, very "brown" role, with a silly accent and a beard, repeating the same hints over and over again. The biggest problem, however, is the difficulty of the game. It's more than challenging, it is frustratingly difficult. Sometimes you have no idea what you should do, and Donald "hints" that you are doing just fine, and then five minutes later, without knowing what you have done wrong, Donald tells you that you have failed and that you should start over. Yes, people, this is the worst part of the game. If you do not do things in the right order, and if you are not in the right places at the right times, you fail. Often you don't even realise that you have failed, so check carefully before you save because it is very frustrating to save a game just to find out that you have blown it and have to start all over from the beginning of the chapter. There is a function that allows you to backtrack a little while, but this doesn't work well at all, and all too often it does not backtrack long enough to allow the player to correct the mistake, in which case you have to start over. Extremely annoying. As long as we're talking about failing, there are way too many ways to die. Sometimes you do not even realise that you have written your own death sentence. If you say one thing wrong to a CIA agent that you meet, he will snipe you when you leave the building, while you may think that you have done well and saved(you do a lot of investigating in the hotel you meet the agent in), you go outside and you just die, and there is nothing you can do about it but start over. I didn't even know who killed me or why the first times it happened to me. This is just downright idiotic and without these disturbing elements the gameplay would rise considerably. It is frustrating enough that you often find yourself in situations where you have no idea what the hell you are supposed to do. A game should not leave the player clueless to what the goals are, if the player are clueless it should be to how to reach these goals. It is very common that you wander around aimlessly, hoping to stumble upon the right path(but mostly you'll hear Donald telling you to start over..AAAARGH). This arbitrariness of the game is very frustrating and it feels very unfair to constantly fail or be killed despite the fact that you have been doing so well and found a lot of clues, just because you should have done something else first(which the game did not hint about at all).

The Bottom Line

Although the game is very difficult due to it's lack of clues on what you should do and why, the games advantages are stronger than the flaws. It feels realistic, open and the story is very good and full of intrigues, twists and turns, and the end is both surprising and quite good. If you can endure the frustrating difficulty (use the hints a lot) it's in the end a very rewarding game. Try it out with and open mind.