Deep beneath the streets of Moscow, trapped in a dark, dingy bunker, strange things are afoot. So begins the decent into 1953 KGB Unleashed’s old school Point & Click adventure, though calling it such might wrongly imply there is an adventure to be had. In actuality, the game is about unravelling a mystery, trying to discover the buried secrets in an oppressive and claustrophobic environment, all while dealing with a wide range of challenging, and at times quite frustratingly tedious, puzzles.
Purportedly based on real research conducted by the KGB in the early 50’s, you awaken trapped in a bunker with no recollection of how you came to arrive their, and seemingly no clear way to escape. The thrust of the game revolves around your continued efforts to leave this hellish place, all while uncovering the dark secrets of bizarre experiments that where performed down there. As far as the story goes, it remains a surprisingly engaging one, weaving in mysteries and secrets you feel compelled to uncover, the assorted documents and memo’s left strewn about the offices of this haunting bunker complex raising questions you have to find the answers to.
Such answers don’t come without a fair amount of solving the inevitable cavalcade of old school-styled puzzles, and it’s here things take a turn for the worse. Some of these can be quite a challenge, their solutions never immediately obvious but nor are they as impossible to discover as it first appears, and these can be quite enjoyable obstacles to overcome, that sense of accomplishment of finding a solution to what initially appeared to be an impossible conundrum.
Unfortunately, either in an attempt to pad out the games incredibly short length or to stick as close to the fundamental game-play mechanics of the genre, some of the puzzles aren’t quite as clever in their implementation. The old flaws of the point-&-click adventure games are all here present and correct, and frequently the ability to overcome obstacle relies on using a specific object, an object that will always remain hidden within the depths of the games 2D picture backdrops. And so when progress does hit a brick wall, your only course of action is to click these backgrounds from head to toe until said object makes itself known. Thus what began as a journey to unravel dark, hidden secrets, devolves into boring object hunting.
Solutions to puzzles can be no less awkward and clunky. Hitting an impasse in what it is you’re supposed to do inevitably means clicking every item in your inventory and interfacing it with what ever interactive object is on screen, hoping that one of them may eventually connect and you can proceed to the next problem. The archaic design may appeal to some, the chance of some good old fashioned 90’s style adventuring still remains high, but moments such as these mar the games fewer finer points.
The story still manages to drag you into it’s world, that mystery deepens the further you progress and there’s a constant need to find out the answers that always seem to elude you. It’s also a game that manages to raise the level of tension and fear quite high, an impressive feat considering the game is essentially little more than linear navigation through a series of picturesque postcard backdrops. Clever use of the dark environments and some well placed sound effect and eerie music do however help to create a foreboding atmosphere that always makes you feel uneasy, in spite of it’s limitations elsewhere.
Limited being the operative word, as the game itself isn’t very long. In fact, the more ardent of adventure gamers could complete the whole thing in 2 to 3 hours depending on how well they do at finding all those hidden clues. It’s also limited in the things you can explore, the underground bunker never far exceeding a few claustrophobic rooms you’re forced to backtrack through more times than you really should. And the story also ends with something of a whimper, short changing you by failing to answer some of the questions you want answers to, leaving with little more than a pat on a back before dumping you at the menu screen.
For all it’s ills though, it has a nostalgic charm to it, a reminder of the simpler times when adventure games where all about the story and the puzzles more than they where about the graphics and the desire to bludgeon orcs in made up fantasy lands. KGB Unleashed remains a nice throwback to a bygone era that simultaneously reminds you of why we’ve moved on from the days of limited interactivity and the frantic clicking on postcard backdrops.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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