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In Soviet Russia, game plays you.
Set during the dying throes of the Soviet Union, KGB puts you in the unenviable shoes of Captain Maksim Rukov, recently transferred to Department P from GRU, whose job is to ferret out corruption. (Good luck.) Your first case is to investigate the petty murder of a private eye; naturally, there's more to it than that, and you become further entangled in a conspiracy involving the CIA, mind-control experiments, and a possible military coup.
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Adventure games are notorious for their instant deaths and dead-ends, but none are quite so merciless as KGB. The murder mystery is actually a MacGuffin: The real goal of the game is to survive the Red Bureaucracy. Don't mess up and get reassigned to a desk job, don't get killed, don't get beaten up, don't get sent to a gulag, don't get beaten up and sent to a gulag, don’t get beaten up and killed, etc. Your investigation is being closely monitored, and at various points you're quizzed on what you've discovered. Answer incorrectly... well, you can probably guess what happens there, too. Make no mistake, you'll lose and lose and lose, eventually falling into the habit of lying to everybody, all the time—except on occasion where lying will get you killed or sent to a gulag.

Less a game than a social experiment, KGB ingeniously evokes the paranoia inside a repressive regime, where an off-color joke can buy you a trip to Siberia.

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KGB was ported to CD with some rather odd additions. Rather than adding voices or redbook music, they instead cast Donald Sutherland, dressed him up as a Russkie, and inserted him as the FMV ghost of your father. They even changed the title to Conspiяacy: Starring Donald Sutherland.


Tropes:

  • Agent Peacock: Savinkov is described as "a dangerous looking dandy."
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Telling Romeo you're Buyer 2 causes Greg or Oleg to respond "If you're Golitsin, I'm Yuri Gagarin's old grandmother!" before you get killed by them.
  • Artistic License: A character's possession of Cuban cigars is presented as evidence that he's corrupt. The USSR considered Cuba an ally and never imposed a trade embargo against them, so Cuban cigars are the type of luxury item a Soviet bigwig would have been most likely to possess.
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  • The Backwards Я: The Updated Re-release was re-titled "Conspiяacy".
  • Big Good: Uncle Vanya closely follows the investigation, and is very likely Cut-throat's boss. Rukov is not allowed to enter his room, which he says is full of personal memories. It can be assumed that, in fact, this is because his room contains his KGB files.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: A duo of petty criminals who make a living mugging people and committing burglaries. Lyonka is big and stupid, Petka is small and smarter than his colleague.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Vovlov has pretty long eyebrows which make him more indimidating.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Rukov and his allies commit numerous shady deeds during the game, but their enemies are drug dealers, snuff film producers, corrupt officials and neo-Nazis.
  • Bookcase Passage: A sliding painting in the art gallery. A nearby statue shows a martyr "willingly giving his life for his faith." Sticking a blade into his chest triggers the door mechanism.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Averted. Bathrooms exist (and can be plot-relevant), and you have to visit one periodically (the game tells the player when it's time). If you don't, you'll pee in your pants, but nothing else comes of it.
  • But Thou Must!: Defied in the game's climax. Vovlov keeps pestering you to Neck Snap the Gorbachev double, but if you do so Vovlov kills you.
  • Catching Some Z's: The game's dialogue consists of Zs when Rukov is asleep before Chapkin wakes him up.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Yegor, Uncle Vanya's manservant.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Yes and no. Wallace is the corrupt agent; she deals crack and delivers Protopopov to the conspirators. She initially claims to be working alongside Greenberg, but this is denied by Greenberg later.
  • Commander Contrarian: Vovlov. (See below.)
  • Continuing is Painful: There is an "undo" command when you die, but it only takes you back a little bit, potentially not far enough to have any real consequence.
  • Controllable Helplessness: In the first chapter, it's possible to be locked in the cold room of Sytenko's meat shop, at which point you will not be able to exit the room until you die about 10 minutes later.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Vanya was in the car of Rukov's parents when it exploded and killed them both. He was sitting at the back and survived, but has been confined to a wheelchair since then. Unbeknownst to Rukov, he is still working undercover for the KGB, and secretly arranged for Rukov's transfer at Department P so he could investigate on the New Birth project, in which Rukov's parents' assassins are also involved.
  • Copy Protection: Before starting the game, you'll have to answer in which page of the manual a character's portrait appears.
  • Curtain Call: The ending shows all the character's portraits and names in order of appearance.
  • Dangerous Workplace: Department P is no less hazardous than the slums and mob hangouts you'll encounter.
  • Dialogue Tree: You often have three or more options (sometimes in different categories) while talking to someone.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Vovlov ostensibly answers to Uncle Vanya, but is really a triple agent: he pretends to have infiltrated the New Birth project as a double agent to inform on them, but he actually supports the coup against Gorbachev. When Protopopov is kidnapped and Rukov shows up, Vovlov realizes that the whole plan has gone to shit; he thus makes a last-minute attempt to switch sides, and probably claim that he prevented the conspiracy and receive all the credit.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: Despite the game's accuracy to how things were done in the Soviet Union, there is an odd slip-up where the Russian main character gives his estimate of an object's weight in pounds instead of kilograms.
  • Enemy Mine: Greenberg dislikes the KGB, but is willing to cooperate with Rukov if it's in the interests of his own investigation. Also, he's Jewish and particularly hates Pamyat.
  • Establishing Game Moment: While cooling your heels waiting to be seen by Vovlov, you can choose to make chat with the clerk on the first screen. He'll either react with extreme suspicion to your inquires, or speak in measured communist slogans.
  • Everybody Smokes: You can either offer or bum a cigarette from any NPC you meet.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The steadfastly communist New Birthers are opposed by the neo-nazi organisation Pamyat, an equally-crazy faction within the same Soviet power structure.
  • Fanservice Extra: There are some pictures of naked young ladies in the hotel.
  • Fast-Forward Mechanic: You can click the hourglass icon to advance time. Luckily, the game makes sure to stop when an event occurs.
  • First Person Snapshooter: During the second chapter, you are supposed to take photographs of a meeting. However, it turns out your KGB-issue camera is broken.
  • Flushing-Edge Interactivity: You can flush any toilet you find in the game.
  • Follow That Car: You have to ask a taxi driver to follow Agabekov's car. While the driver loses him, you order him to patrol the area, eventually reaching the Rogov Institute.
  • Gay Option: Rukov can flirt with Yuri, a male bartender. Nothing ever comes of it.
  • Genius Cripple: Uncle Vanya, Rukov's wheelchair bound uncle.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Savinkov offers Cuban cigars to people he is close to, notably Agabekov, his minion.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The USSR's number is almost up, as evidenced by Moscow now being awash with American dollars.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Uncle Vanya tends to complain about things changing in the Soviet Union and is generally coarse.
  • Hint System: Rukov's father's ghost in the Conspiracy re-release. You can call him up any time for advice, and he's even nice enough to let you know if you've bumbled into a no-win situation.
  • Hobos: Referred to as "Down and Outs"; one of them is actually an agent in disguise.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Chapkin attempts to stab you with a Truth Serum. You can use the syringe on him instead—but it kills within minutes, so make your questions snappy.
    • Your encounter with Professor Tsibulenko begins with him locking Rukov in a padded room and trying to convince him that his personality isn't real, and that the whole game is a delusion. It's pretty easy to lure Tsibulenko in his own cell, then torment him via intercom until he has a claustrophobic fit and collapses.
  • Honey Trap: Chapkin made it so Tamara would seduce her clients and take them to room 416 and later have them be recruited for snuff films, but when that stopped working, they'd just record information.
  • Hypocrite: Naturally. Pretty much all your coworkers are doing the same things they will frame you for, given a chance.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: There is a timer with a nearly 1:1 timeflow. Days are quite action-packed, but travelling and the "wait" option speed things along.
  • It's Cuban: Agabekov's possession of Cuban cigars is one of many clues that he's corrupt. This in spite of how the U.S.S.R. was a close ally of Cuba and never imposed any trade embargo against them; Cuban cigars were the kind of luxury a Soviet bigwig would be most likely to possess.
  • Just Following Orders: Averted. Rukov does a lot of crap because his bosses will kill him if he doesn't (and also because playing along is the only way to ferret out worse criminals). But even then, some things- like murdering a innocent man who can't fight back- can never be justified. The only way Rukov can survive to (presumably) see the end of the Soviet regime is to reject its selfish ideology himself.
  • Kill and Replace: The New Birth conspirators want Protopopov to appear on TV and announce his retirement (while the real Gorbachev has been kidnapped) so they can replace him with a hardliner communist. He was nabbed by Pamyat before the scheme could be carried out.
  • Language Barrier: There's a German guy drunk at the bar in Hotel Syervyernaya Zvyezda. He only speaks his language and doesn't understand Rukov speaking in English.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The Enthusiastic Progress Club, a front for a snuff film studio.
    • The Motherland art gallery in Leningrad. The manageress is of the twitchy sort; she's probably in the pay of Pamyat (if not actively working with them) and is involved in the kidnapping of Protopopov.
  • List of Transgressions: Getting grilled by Vovlov results in one of these, right before a game over. The game recalls every single time you botched the mission: the more colorful examples include "denied approved historical facts", and "showed inconsiderate playboyism."
  • Living MacGuffin: Protopopov. The game ends when he finally speaks.
  • Mad Doctor: Professor Tsibulenko. He's in charge of a project seeking to overwrite a person's identity with an artificial one.
  • The Mafiya: Appear prominently during the first two chapters.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Although Galushkin acts friendly towards Rukov, he only wishes to use him as a pawn for the New Birth conspiracy, and in the past ordered the assassination of his parents. He claimed that it was a terrorist attack and he personally executed the killers- in reality, the "terrorists" he killed were unrelated to the crime.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: "Protopopov", the sad wretch at the center of this mess. His face has been remodeled to turn him into a Mikhail Gorbachev lookalike, and his personality has been erased by mental reconditioning. He sits silently in a comatose state, programmed to recite a resignation speech when the correct trigger word is used.
  • Manchurian Agent: The Rogov Institute is secretly experimenting on "personality restructuring": they eliminate the personality of a subject and replace it with a fake one, switching between them via a trigger word.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: The Department bigwigs enjoy plush chairs and fine cigars- which wouldn't normally be bad, but society is falling apart right outside their door. Talk about wasteful...
  • The Many Deaths of You: Rukov can die thanks to several different people, but there are also several game-ending states where he is sent off to a different position or otherwise fouls the mission up.
  • Mean Boss: Major Vovlov. Doubles as a Game-Over Man in most instances.
  • Mole in Charge: Colonel Galushkin thought Rukov was a good pick for this mission because he would be easy to control. Likewise, Major Vovlov is using you as a means to destroy all the evidence.
  • Mysterious Informant: "Cut-Throat", an anonymous informer sent to put Rukov on the track of the New Birthers.
  • No Name Given: A quarter or so of the cast doesn't have a known name.
  • One-Letter Name: Mr. X, who is Obukov's partner.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter: You can sleep with several prostitutes throughout the game. You don't gain anything from it, and it usually makes the game harder.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Rukov Sr.'s ghost actually does appear in the unedited Amiga version, as a hallucination inside of Tsibulenko's booth.
  • Playlist Soundtrack: The game's soundtrack isn't particularly tied to locations or events. It usually switches between two tracks.
  • Press X to Die: Use the gun at yourself and accept wasting a human resource and the game kills you off, commenting "prashchay."
  • Repetitive Name: Yegor Yegorovitch, the man who can't speak and follows Vanya.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Mechulaiev owns an attack dog named Stalin.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • To distract Chapkin, you have to hide the recorder in the bedroom, set it up, and once he leads you to the bathroom, tell him you're ready to "talk" to set him for a chance to distract him and seize the opportunity to attack... Or you can explain that's just the recorder.
    • Once a taxi arrives, you can ask the driver to follow Agabekov's car... Or go to the V.I. Lenin Museum of Socialist Accomplishment.
  • Shown Their Work: There are no As Long as It Sounds Foreign Russian names and surnames. Even Vovlov is a very rare, but real last name.
  • Smart People Play Chess: A chessboard rests on Uncle Vanya's lap.
  • Split Personality: Tsibulenko specialises in giving them to people. Golvbev has two personalities as a result of his experiments — one is Bolshevik and one is anti-Bolshevik. They can be switched between with the trigger word "saliva", but he's still an imbecile. Rechetov also has two personalities which have the trigger of "Pavlov", even if they're identical.
  • The Speechless: Yegor. For unrevealed reasons, he has had his tongue cut out some years ago and can no longer speak, making him the perfect bodyguard.
  • Taking the Bullet: Vovlov attempts to kill Rukov and Vanya, but ends up getting tackled by Yegor and shot in self-defense.
  • Tested on Humans: Most of Tsibulenko's human test subjects are disasters: one patient is a catatonic imbecile, lying in a fetal position and oblivious to the world around him; another has two personalities which are virtually identical (except one is Bolshevik and the other anti-Bolshevik); a third patient is able to talk, but none of his sentences make sense. Even Protopopov is kind of a joke; he can only spout rhetoric for a few minutes and fall back into a coma.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Pamyat features heavily in the final chapter of the game.
  • Tongue Trauma: Yegor had his tongue cut off for unknown reasons before the game's events, so he can't speak.
  • Truth Serums: Chapkin tries using one of these on Rukov. Rukov turns it around and applies it on Chapkin. It turns out it is lethal; Chapkin drops dead after answering several questions.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Tsibulenko was meant to check on and reinforce the programming of Protopopov, whose old personality had already been erased by New Birth. However Protopopov is kidnapped before that can happen, and Tsibulenko was not given further details, thus leaving him totally unaware of the conspiracy taking place.
    • Rukov himself.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Being an adventure game in the '90s, it was inevitable. In fact, this is considered to be one of the very hardest of the genre, if not the hardest.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: According to Greenberg, Agent Wallace preferred "the old days." She has a vested interest in the coup New Birth is preparing.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Galushkin and Savinkov eventually become liabilities to Vovlov as they know of his involvement, so he kills them.

Alternative Title(s): Conspiracy Starring Donald Sutherland

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