Saturday, 29 April 2017

KGB - Protopopov, Where Art Thou? (Won!)

Written by Torch

Take that, you Karl Marx-looking statue head thingy

Chapter 4 starts just as I arrive back in Leningrad after an interesting boat ride aboard the Viktor Matsnev. My growing suspicion towards my mission controller Major Savinkov has been confirmed. He is working with Obukov and Wallace, and has been instrumental in facilitating the exchange of snuff videos for drugs. He obviously cannot be trusted anymore.

Now, I had an appointment with Greenberg in the park at 7, but the boat didn’t come back until 8, so I don’t think I can make that. I doubt that I could make the boat go any faster, and the new chapter starts here anyway, so I’m pretty sure that I’m not supposed to be able to meet him, at least not at that time. I try the park anyway, just to make sure, but nothing much happens there, so I go back to my hotel, to receive a strange message:

No no, I didn’t have anything of importance. Especially not in the closet!

Apparently someone has cleaned out my room and stolen everything I had stored there, including Chapkin’s dead body! Um…. Ok, whatever. Saves me the trouble of dragging him down to the canal, I guess. At least my room isn’t filled with militia, waiting to arrest me.

There’s not much to do in my room now. I try the phone, but it doesn’t work properly anymore. If I try phoning KGB Moscow, nothing happens, not even a “No answer” message. The room across the hall from mine is open again, but there’s not much to do there either, ( except discover a bug, where some out of place dialogue triggers when I touch the phone there ).

I'll check out some other locations, then. The hotel Syevyernaya Zvyezda is still available as a destination, and so is the warehouse, but going there only triggers a message that there’s nothing interesting happening, and the game returns me to my hotel. I can also go to Department 7, but I can’t get past the guards, since all Department 7 officers are engaged in “matters of importance”. Mhm. Searching for Chapkin, perhaps..? Good luck with that.

Checking back on my earlier notes, I see that I should have a debriefing with Major Savinkov at 10 am this morning, if he didn’t show up at the scheduled meeting yesterday (which neither of us did). Hmm… he couldn’t know that I was onboard the Viktor Matsnev with him all night, so it should be safe to go. I head back to my hotel and wait for him there, but nothing happens at 10. Then, at 10.15, it’s game over:

Maybe he tried to snort the sea salt I put in his suitcase

The game hints that I might have overheard some conversations on the Viktor Matsnev. Well, yes. I did overhear a couple of conversations. I go over my screenshots and find the one where I’m listening at the door. It says:
  • Obukov will deliver the black case to Savchenko, then go to his apartment and stay there.
  • Savinkov and Wallace will deal with the crack and take the crate to "Tsibulenko" for final programming.
  • At around 9 am, the fourth member of the group will go and pick up “the package” and transport it to its ultimate destination.
Ok, I’ve been to the warehouse, but I can’t do anything there. I don’t know where Obukov lives. I also don’t know where Savinkov and Wallace went, who or what Tsibulenko is or where he/she/it resides. The final message depends on me knowing who the fourth member of the group is. Could it be Agabekov? There are some indications towards this, like the cigar butt I found in his trash, combined with Greenberg’s comment about Savinkov’s cigars. Major Savinkov has also displayed some blatant admiration for Agabekov.

I can backtrack to when I entered my room, which is well before 9, then head to department 7. Waiting in the lobby doesn’t do much, but if I’m outside at around 9.15, I spot Major Agabekov leaving in his car. He drives off, and when I try to exit the area, I can choose to hail a cab, which I can then instruct to follow Agabekov’s car (or pick something less useful, if I want to dead-end myself).

We follow his car for a while, then lose sight of him. We circle the block for a while, then suddenly spot his car parked next to a building. The major gets in and leaves again, but I get out of the cab to investigate the building he visited.

It’s either a prison... or a museum? Or both?

The plaque on the door tells me that this is the “Rogov Institute for Psychiatric Research”. As I enter, I’m halted by two guards. As the game has progressed, I’ve become quite proficient in recognizing which dialogue options are likely to end the game and which aren’t, so I identify myself as a KGB officer, pretending to be working with Agabekov. They accept my credentials and show me to the office of the institute director, Litvinov.

Ah yes, but he eh.. sent me to… take notes for him! Now where’s my clipboard…

He believes I’m an accomplice of Major Agabekov, so I go with that angle, and he tells me about the latest events. I learn that Protopopov arrived on time, and that the crate was opened and drugs administered to bring him gradually back to consciousness. So Protopopov is a person! And he was…. in the crate on the boat..? Perhaps drugged down..? He was then put in room 3 here in this facility, but a nurse - Saneyeva - who must not be part of this scheme, went into the room and saw him. She then made a phone call to someone, and twenty minutes later, she activated the alarm, causing both guards to move away from the entrance. Four masked men then entered the building and kidnapped Protopopov. Litvinov called Agabekov, who came to take the nurse in for questioning.

Side note: I’ve mentioned the backtrack function numerous times, and sometimes it won’t let you backtrack far enough that you can undo whatever it was you did to dead-end yourself, but here it’s actually a bit too “forgiving”. Even though I regain control outside the building before I go in, if I screw up while talking to Litvinov, I'll backtrack, all the way back to Department 7, before Agabekov leaves.

Anyway, I manage to find out that Tsibulenko is a professor, and he’s located through a door behind room number 3. Litvinov follows me out to the hallway and informs the guards that I should be provided full access to the facilities. Quite a convincing performance then, if I may say so myself. Before going to room 3, I check out rooms 1 and 2, and they contain a couple of mental patients. One seems to think he’s living in the early 1900’s. I can ask him various questions, but none of his answers appear helpful to me. The next patient is incapable of speaking in complete sentences, so he’s not very useful either.

The patient in room number 3 is unconscious, so he doesn’t respond to anything I do. There is, however a door at the back of the room, which I enter:

Uh oh…

I’m in what looks sort of like an interrogation room. The doors are locked, and I can’t really do anything. There are some loudspeakers and a camera hanging from or near the ceiling, and after a little while, a man’s voice is heard from the speakers. He presents himself as professor Tsibulenko and wants me to answer some questions. He obviously thinks I’m a patient. I can try to protest and argue with him, but to no avail. If I present myself as a KGB agent, he thinks I’m delusional or schizophrenic. If I resist too much, he tells me I need some time to cool off and stays silent for a while, letting me wait. If I do it again, he lets me wait even longer. At 11.30, it’s game over:

Oh, I had so much fun staring at these green walls, that I forgot the time.

I guess I need to change my tactic. I play along for a while, answering his questions.

Ooh, this is a tough one...

A few questions in he calls me Protopopov. So he thinks I'm him. Is this what is meant by “reprogramming”? If I just keep answering truthfully, he will eventually stop with the questioning, and talk to Litvinov about me. He then finally opens the door to let me in.

He’s got mad scientist written all over him

I question the professor about the nurse, Protopopov, Agabekov and so on, but he doesn’t want to divulge any information that he would deem classified, which is pretty much everything, apparently. Tsibulenko thinks that if Agabekov hasn’t informed me about these matters, then HE certainly isn’t going to. After pretty much every question, I have to defend my reasons for asking.

Classified, schmassified

I carefully avoid blowing my cover, but after the last question, I can’t talk to Tsibulenko any more, and I haven’t really learned anything useful. I look around the room instead. There’s a lot of technical equipment, including a large cabinet. The game informs me that it’s big enough for a man to stand in.

“What? It’s my vodka cooler.”

I find a button I can press, which locks the doors to the interrogation room, but Tsibulenko immediately unlocks them again. I also find a deck of cards, and the professor explains that he uses them to detect E.S.P. If you can guess a certain number of cards correctly, you may have E.S.P. potential. Well, now they’ll have to do their detecting in my inventory.

There’s a plant hooked up to some wires, and the parser identifies it as a rubber plant, but when I look at it, the description text tells me it’s a reasonably healthy plant. Healthy for a rubber plant, maybe… There’s also an intercom, that lets me bug Litvinov, but that only leads to some complaining that I’m disturbing him.

I can’t talk to the professor anymore, and I haven’t really achieved anything here, so I backtrack and check what happens when I reveal that I’m not working with Agabekov. For starters, he runs out of the room and into the interrogation room. Well, he won’t get far, since I know about certain button...


Come to think of it, Tsibulenko actually admitted to suffering from claustrophobia when he introduced himself when I was in the green room. Well, it’s time to let him taste his own medicine.

I can talk to him via a microphone on his desk. At first, he’s very reluctant to answer any of my questions, but I notice that sometimes a red light flashes after something he says. Since he seemed to know when I was or wasn’t telling the truth, I deduce that this may be a lie detector of some sort. After I exhaust all conversation options, he seems to cave and agrees to answer, which effectively resets my questions and lets me start over.

This time he gives somewhat proper answers, but the red light is blinking after practically each one, which I take to mean that he’s lying. Guess he needs some more time to think things over. I wait. After a couple of minutes, he sounds more desperate, so I keep waiting until he says he’s got problems breathing and will tell me anything. When he answers my questions this time, the light isn’t blinking, so I take that to mean that he’s being truthful now. My only problem is that I’ve got a long list of questions, but he passes out after a couple, so I take a couple of tries to discover what is hopefully the most important ones

I manage to learn that he works on eradicating people’s personalities and “installing” new ones. Sometimes multiple. The patient in room 1 has received two personalities, and you can make him switch between them by uttering the words “Pavlov” in his presence. The one in room 2 has been “wiped clean”, but has yet to receive a new personality, which explains his incoherent babbling. The passed out guy in room 3 has 2 personalities, but his initial one was erased too thoroughly, so he’s an imbecile, as the professors puts it. You can still switch betweens his personalities by saying “Saliva”. Classy, professor. Classy.

As for his relations with Agabekov, he was to check and reinforce the programming of Protopopov, who had already been provided with a specific replacement personality, but as we know, he’s been kidnapped. The professor also confirms my theory of the lie detector, explaining that it’s powered by the plant somehow. Nice.

The nurse Saneyeva is a member of Pamyat, the neo-fascist organization that Greenberg mentioned. She’s in love with a painter, who makes religious paintings.

The cabinet deals with some E.S.P. related things, apparently invoking certain memories that are hidden deep in the subject’s mind.

Like I said, after a couple of questions he collapses on the floor of the interrogation room, and I’m unable to get anything else out of him. Looking around the room again, I notice that I can now enter the cabinet. As I step in, I’m met by a vision:

Oookey… Moving into uncharted territory here, aren’t we, game?

It’s an image of Maksim’s father. He utters some cryptic messages and then disappears. The messages are:
  • Beyond illusion there is falsehood!
  • Memory’s bible is the book of death!
  • The martyr goes to his fate. The world is plunged in obscurity; the innocents alone die, bathed in Heaven’s light. 
I don’t know what all this means, but I make a note of it and decide to test out the trigger words on the patients. I say “Saliva” to the man in room 3, and he suddenly starts reciting something that sounds like dialogue between the kidnappers. Maybe professor Tsibulenko programmed him to be a recorder. The “playback” reveals that they were taking him to “the Motherland”, wherever that is. I also try saying “Pavlov” to the one in room 1, but he merely swaps between two different political stances (been there, done that), and doesn’t provide any useful information.

Running out of things to do at the institute, I decide to check out some other locations again. I go to the park, but the game throws a message at me that I really feel that I should go back to my hotel. Usually, when things are spelled out this clearly, it’s best to comply, so I do. Which is good, because outside the hotel, I see Cut-throat’s bum… ok that came out wrong…. I see the old guy who works for Cut-throat, and he's got news for me:

Thanks. I would give you a tip, but I’m all out of cameras

He also tells me that Pamyat means “Memory”. Hmm.. the vision of Rukov senior said something about “Memory’s bible”... Well, have a new lead, so I head to the address on Gorki street, Yakuchev’s apartment. With a complete disregard for my own safety I enter the apartment as soon as I get there, but it seems I’m a bit late:

Oh, you killed him… well, you’ve still got some catching up to do. I’m at three now.

It’s everyone’s favourite CIA agent, and he’s killed my only lead. Damnit, Greenberg! He managed to get his arm busted in the process though, so he’s not inclined to hang around. He agrees to answer a couple of questions, though he didn’t have the chance to interrogate Yakuchev before he put a bullet in his head. He does, however, have some input when I ask him about “Memory’s bible” and “The Motherland”. We know that Pamyat means memory, and are adhering to a fascist ideology, Greenberg says their “bible” is Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, which he conveniently carries with him ( though he probably looted it from Yakuchev ). Inside the book is a bookmark, which is an advertisement for an art gallery called “The Motherland”, located on Great Patriotic War street…. ( Geez, are these real street names… ? ). Yet another lead!

Before I leave, I search the room and find a torn photo behind an icon of some sort. The game tells me that this is the other half of a photo I found in Verto’s apartment showing Rukov’s parents getting blown up by the car bomb. This half shows a slightly younger colonel Galushkin looking in the direction of the explosion! So he was behind the assassination?! I should know better than to trust friendly KGB officers by now…. He’s got some ‘splainin’ to do when I get back to Moscow!

But for now I go to the newly acquired address. As advertised by the card, I arrive at an art gallery.

Do you think they take rubles…?

As I enter, I see the gallery manager talking to a customer, an American tourist, who probably doesn’t appreciate art the way you’re supposed to:

“Warning: Paintings may have a laxative effect”

The manager tells her that she closes in a couple of minutes. (at 11 in the morning?!) and next addresses me. I ask her about Yakuchev, and she gets visibly upset, but denies any knowledge of him and goes to sit at her desk, pretending to work. I look around, inspecting the paintings, and after a little while she comes up and asks me to leave, since they’re closing. But before she can throw me out, the American girl interrupts and requests to ask a question about the painting she’s looking at behind the corner at the back of the room. There’s a wall closet between two of the paintings, and with the manager out of sight, I take the opportunity to hide in it. The two women eventually leave, and I’m finally alone in the gallery.

Ok, so what am I looking for? I walk around and inspect all the paintings. Behind the corner in the back, there’s a large one, along with a statue.

“Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!”

I find a sword jammed in the chest of the statue and a letter-opener in the manager's desk. The painting is called “The massacre of the innocents”. Not sure if that’s a clue, but I go back and look at some of my screenshots. The sequence with Rukov’s dad had a couple of cryptic messages, some of which I’ve solved to find this gallery, but the last one is interesting:

“The martyr goes to his fate. The world is plunged in obscurity; the innocents alone die, bathed in Heaven’s light.”

Ok, the statue could be the martyr, and there are innocents in the painting. I don’t know what he means by the world being plunged in obscurity, though. And Heaven’s light? The painting is lit by some lamps at the top...

I inspect the sword I picked up, and notice that the tip seems to be broken. The letter-opener looks longer, so I try to jam that into the statue’s chest, but nothing happens. Before I can do anything else, I get a message that somebody’s picking the lock of the entrance. I can’t really do anything else before suddenly:

Oh yeah? Well I was wondering when you’d turn DOWN... No wait, let me try that again..

It’s Savinkov and Vovlov! They arrest me and send me to Siberia, on account of my complete insubordination and wild individualistic initiatives. But those are my best features! Well, alright, but I’ve got an ace up my sleeve, called… Backtrack!

This time I click on random stuff much faster. I’m starting to feel that it would make sense if I could put the letter-opener in the statue, but I’m only getting a generic error message when I do so… I mess around, taking too long, and yet again, I’m busted by the majors. Backtrack!

I return to the front of the gallery and search around, suddenly discovering a light switch. I’ve definitely learned to embrace the light switches in this game, so I flick it without hesitation. The lamps above all the paintings go off except the big one around the corner.

( “The innocents alone die, bathed in Heaven’s light.” ) Nothing else happened, but I can now insert the letter-opener into the statue’s chest, which causes the painting to move to the side, revealing a doorway behind it.

I enter an almost empty room. A man sits still on a chair in the middle. I approach and address him

I can’t believe it’s not Gorbachev

This must be Protopopov. He looks exactly like the president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. He doesn’t respond to anything I say, but we’re soon interrupted anyway.

Well, I’ve been in trouble for most of this game, yet here we are

Like a veritable movie bad-guy, Savinkov starts monologuing, revealing their whole plan to me:

The man in the chair is indeed Protopopov. Tomorrow he’ll appear on television, while the real Gorbachev is being held in custody somewhere else. The video-cassettes were no more than a cover to bait the corrupt Kusnetsov into getting involved in the crack deal, so I could investigate him and have him arrested, then possibly executed. Colonel Galushkin is also involved in this ordeal, perhaps being the orchestrator behind it.

Savinkov expresses disbelief that I would piece this together without help, and suspects that someone has been guiding me all this time. He states that he intends to find out after I’m disposed of. Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, Vovlov steps in and shoots Savinkov instead, then points his gun at me.

Vovlov claims that he was Cut-throat’s controller, and that my actions panicked Savinkov into coming to him. He goes on to explain that he was against this whole Protopopov idea, but the others went ahead with it anyway. When things went pear-shaped, and Yakuchev and his Pamyat-guys kidnapped Protopopov, colonel Galushkin panicked and killed himself. Now he thinks that we should kill poor Protopopov, to prevent the plan from coming to fruition. More specifically, I should kill him. Thinking I’ve reached my murder quota for one adventure game, I ask why the major doesn’t just shoot him himself. Vovlov says he needs to know if Rukov has the guts for dirty work…

Seriously… I mean, seriously?!

Where do I begin...

So far, I’ve killed a mugger, a drug addict and a KGB agent, beaten up others, soaked a corpse in vodka, thrown it from a second floor window and dumped it in the canal, blackmailed innocent people for info, taken a swim in the Leningrad harbour, hidden for hours in boxes and closets, smashed up a hotel room, stolen cocaine, a wheelchair and several other items, been locked in an interrogation room, locked someone else in an interrogation room until they passed out, not to mention all the things I’ve done off the record (game-ending or trying out optional stuff), and he’s wondering if I have the guts for dirty work…. Wow...

Well, I’m definitely not gonna do it, just to spite him! Instead, I notice that the cursor’s blinking over the floor, which means there’s an item there. Perhaps Savinkov’s gun! When I click it, Vovlov interrupts the action and tells me to hurry up. After I try a second time, yet another familiar character enters the room.

Vovlov’s all shook up. (Transitioning between two stills)

Uncle Vanya! You DO give a damn!

Vanya explains that Vovlov has been working for him. Unfortunately Vovlov's position didn’t allow much field work, so Vanya arranged for Rukov to be transferred to Department P instead. They’ve allegedly been investigating New birth, but it seems Vovlov has been catering to some wild individualistic initiatives himself, since Vanya notes that when Vovlov reported Galushkins suicide, he forgot to mention that the colonel shot himself twice in the head! So yeah, Vovlov’s gone rogue and now intends to kill us all. Vanya claims that he has armed men outside, but Vovlov doesn’t buy it and points the gun at Vanya’s head. As he’s about to pull the trigger….

Oh yeah, that guy’s name is Yegor. He's mute,
cause his tongue got cut off. There. Now you are emotionally involved

Vovlov’s bullet hits Yegor in the stomach, and they both crash to the floor. As I try to speak to Vanya, Vovlov gets up on one arm and points his gun at me… I quickly manage to locate Savinkov’s gun on the floor, pick it up and use it on Vovlov.. (Well ok, I died and backtracked, but the next time, I was ready)

Ok, I guess I had one more kill in me.

As Vovlov dies, he utters some last words, which seem to trigger Protopopov, who begins reciting a speech:

He proclaims that his health has weakened and that he must step down as leader. He "admits" to perestroika and glasnost having been monumental failures, and that the only way forward is through communism. After this, the game ends. The credits show all the people who had a close-up image, along with their name, which is a nice touch.

Whew! A lot happening at the end there, story-wise. Protopopov was supposed to go on TV to announce Gorbachev’s resignation. So this was New Birth’s plan to overthrow the government and return power to the Communist party, to get back the old days. Everybody always yearns for the old days… especially we retro adventure game players.

Well, this has been a heck of a ride. I’ve enjoyed this game tremendously, despite some frustrating moments, and it’ll be exciting to find out how it holds up against the PISSED rating system, which is what the next post will be all about.


  1. Поздравления! Вы являетесь Лучший офицером и приносите чести в КГБ!

  2. "the only way forward is through communism."

    Instead, Russia got oligarchs and a megalomaniac ex-KGB officer. I'm not sure, which was the better option.

    1. The plot seens to have some basis in reality. According to some other sources I checked, there was indeed an attempted coup against Gorbachev by some communist hardliners, but it ultimately backfired, and the end result was the exact opposite of what the communists wanted.

    2. Yeah, that happened in 1991. I kind of remember seeing the events on TV, when I was a kid. Yeltsin, the current leader of Russia (then only a part of the Soviet Union), was an important figure in beating the communists and later became the first president of Russia.

  3. Nitpick re title of this post: The line "Wherefore art thou Romeo" means "Why are you Romeo", not where he was. It was a matter of identity, not location. In archaic English, "wherefore" was the question counterpart to "therefore".

    1. Amusingly enough, I just googled and found out that myself last night, even though I didn't really think about Romeo and Juliet when I wrote it. It was just supposed to be a play on words, that I'm looking for Protopopov, and end up finding him in an art gallery.

      Then again, the deal with Protopopov is very much a question of identity, so "wherefore" would probably be equally fitting.

    2. You're Norwegian, aren't you, Torch? "Wherefore" has the exact same meaning as the Norwegian "hvorfor".

    3. Yes, and I totally get the meaning of 'wherefore', but I wasn't really going for the Shakespearean quote. I don't think I had a specific source in mind when I thought of it, but I was probably more inclined to unconsciously be referencing this:

    4. s/unconsciously/subconsciously

    5. Unless the title of the post was changed, it looks fine to me. I'm all about calling people out for incorrect use of "wherefore," but that isn't what the title (currently) says.

    6. The title hasn't been changed.

      I'm all for being called out for incorrect use of language, but "wherefore" was honestly not what I was going for here :)

      I probably had the movie "O brother, where art thou" lurking somewhere in the back of my head, so If I were to change the title, I would prepend "O"

  4. I remember this game playing it in the mid 90s though I didn't really understand what was going on. (and still get confused with so many characters and their motives). I love the music though.

    Have you seen this site about the game?