|Fancy pants 3D logo|
No, Cryo did actually release 2 games during 1992. And - as if that wasn’t enough - 92 was also the year the company was founded. How’s that for ambition? Well, to be precise, they only formally founded the company. They’d been working together as a development team since 1989. But still. As you are undoubtedly aware, the other game released was Dune, the game based on the movie based on the book by Frank Herbert.
|Not sure where the name Cryo comes from, but the logo is allegedly depicting a woman in a cryofreeze tank.|
I did play the Amiga version a long time ago, probably around the time of initial release, and I have quite fond memories of it. Well, I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it. Or maybe it was horrible, and I’ve just repressed it…. Or maybe maybe the memories were planted by a foreign, three-letter organization. Nevertheless, I’m very excited about giving it another go and finding out all over again.
I’ll mostly be playing on Dosbox, but I still have the Amiga version and a working Amiga, so maybe I’ll fire up that one as well, for comparison. Dosbox is probably easier for blogging purposes, though.
The game is set in the summer of 1991, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. Our protagonist is Maksim Rukov, a 25 year old agent who used to be a part of Spetznaz, an elite military special force under GRU, an intelligence agency, like KGB. - I tried to find out how the two agencies differed, and apparently GRU was military in nature and dealt with external threats to the USSR, whereas KGB was more secretive and dealt with threats from within ( at least that’s what I came away with after some extensive Googling).
Rukov has just been transferred to Department P, a new division under the KGB. Department P was established to uncover corruption and foul play within the KGB itself. It’s unclear who arranged the transfer, but they probably had a good ( and/or sinister ) reason for doing it, which should hopefully become clear to me as I play. Rukov’s parents were allegedly killed by Afghan terrorists. Rukov’s father was a colonel, so there’s a good chance that someone who knew him will play a part in the story.
The manual is a strange mix between a being technical guide for the player and a primer for Rukov. It does its best to confuse you, by wavering in and out of context. I haven’t decided yet whether I think it’s clever or just weird. Take this example:
|The “Olga” never became a huge success. It was powerful enough to run four floppy drives at once, but the exhaust made it impractical to use inside.|
Fun fact: In the manual for the CD-ROM version ( Conspiracy ), they’ve replaced all the occurrences of “KGB” with “CONSPIRACY”, even where it doesn’t really make a lot of sense:
“….and the MGB became the CONSPIRACY : the `Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti’, or Committee for State Security…”
“...The CONSPIRACY headquarters, as you know, are based in…”
“...because of its political importance the CONSPIRACY is still an unwaveringly secretiveWhat, did they lose their official KGB endorsement or something?
Enough dilly-dallying. Let’s fire up the game itself.
LOOK AND FEEL
So what does it look like?
|May or may not be the address of Department P|
|We couldn’t afford a professional film crew, but we had this roll of red cellophane lying around, so we thought…|
|There are 5 meters to this guy, I’ve got a full revolver, a half-arsed trenchcoat, everything’s red and I’m wearing sunglasses. Hit it!|
|Somehow this guy reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld trying to act serious on his show.|
|Rukov obviously didn’t request the transfer to Department P. Someone else must be pulling the strings here.|
Developer A: We should have an intro to the game
Developer B: Yes! But… we spent all of our money on the 3D logo...
Developer C: Hey! My dad has a video camera!
Everyone: Ooooh!Anyway, moving on:
The in-game graphics style is quite cartoonish, but with a brown overall feeling ( can brown be a feeling? ), at least in the beginning.. The interface itself is also metallic brown. Conversations are often ( but not always ) accompanied by a close-up of the person you’re talking to, superimposed on a sort of zoomed-in/pixelated section of the screen they were in. This effect was also used to some degree in Dune.
|Yes yes, so we recycled the effect. Did you know recycling was invented in the USSR?|
|Dune. For reference. Also brown|
One of the things I remember from playing this on Amiga years ago is the music. Or at least some of it. It was a sort of clever, mysterious electronica soundtrack that looped through the whole game. But for some reason I never got bored of it. I think. I guess I’m about to find out.
When starting the game on Dosbox, I don’t recognize the music at once, so I wonder if it might not actually be the same. After some digging I’ve found out that the music is in fact slightly different between the two versions. According to Mobygames the PC music was made by Stéphane Picq, and the Amiga music was made by Alexandre Ekian. Essentially, there are some songs that cycle throughout the game. On PC I found 6 titles on Youtube and 4 on Amiga. But 3 of them overlap. So I don’t know who made what, but the PC then has 3 unique songs and the Amiga 1. The overlapping ones also sound different, though, due to the different sound chips being used. I believe PC’s at this time were mostly using SoundBlaster soundcards, where before they would need MIDI devices if they wanted something other than that bleeping infernal… I mean internal speaker. Based on the samples I’ve heard, I still prefer the sound of the Amiga to whatever the SB-cards could produce at that time, though it could be the nostalgia speaking.
For those interested, here’s a link to all the songs, both Amiga and PC on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFB61FF275319821B
The game is point and click-based, but using the keyboard is possible. By using the arrow keys, the pointer cycles through hotspots in the area. I’m probably going to stick to the mouse, but it’s nice to know you have options if a pixel hunt should ensue. The pointer is of the smart variety, in that a verb is displayed based on what you’re hovering over. Every interactable object has a default action, like “talk” for a person, but “look” for a closet, but you can override this by right-clicking and choosing from a list of 9 verbs ( or back to smart pointer mode ). Sometimes the default action will change after you interact with it. ( Say the default action for a phone is “look”, but after you’ve looked at it, it changes to “use”. It seems like not all of the verbs can be used with all objects. By this I mean that sometimes, if you have the “wrong” verb active, the cursor acknowledge that you’re mousing over an object.
|Knocking on the guard produces little result. Also, the corridor ignores my attempts at starting a fight with it.|
The inventory is a separate page, accessed by clicking on the mini version of it at the bottom of the screen. It shows Rukov along with all of his stuff. The pointer allows only 4 actions here, one of which is “Destroy”. Yikes! Use with caution…. “Take” lets us pick up an object, so it can be used with something else. Pretty self-explanatory, really.
|Rukov, Maks Rukov.|
If memory serves me ( it does, I checked ), time will be a factor in this game. The clock in the lower right corner keeps on ticking, and there’s an hourglass on the menu that makes Rukov “wait” 30 minutes. There’s also a replay sub-menu that I can access to review previous actions and events. It doesn’t let me do anything over, though. It’s just a log.
Since time is of the essence, chances are there will be ways to possibly dead-end myself, or at least miss stuff that’s happening somewhere I’m not. To mitigate this, the game is divided into chapters, and it’s always possible to restart the current chapter. There’s also a backtrack option, which I think is a checkpoint to when we entered the current screen. I’m not a 100% that’s how it works, but there are only 4 save slots (!), so I suspect I’ll have to find out at some point.
Finally, I’m provided with a map of the locations I’ve been to. It can’t be used for quick travel or anything, but it’s nice to have.
|Only four rooms, but I can still never find my car keys when I need them|