1953: Phobos KGB Unleashed or however it’s called (the title screen is confusing) is a very good first-person puzzles akin to the newer Safecracker. It’s not a very welcoming game for newbies but seasoned puzzlers will find several enjoyable brainteasers.
The graphics are crisp and serviceable, it’s easy to know what you’re looking at and hotspots are easy to identify.
Voice acting is okay and most of the plot is inferred from scattered pieces of paper and is irrelevant to the game. If you want a good story, this isn’t the place to look.
Movement is node-based with free panning at nodes. This is bundled with the usual node issues, objects you can only approach from a specific angle and view hunting. Luckily the locales are rather small, so a typical room only has 2-4 nodes, so you don’t find yourself running around the room looking for the magical angle to get you where you want to be.
The game excels at the puzzling aspects. They’re of the “organic obstacle” style, where the game tries to give convincing reasons as to why you need to rewire this mechanism or operate that piece of machinery.
Unlike Myst, you have an inventory, which lends itself to the simpler puzzles in the game. It’s not cluttered, and yet the game makers saw fit to include some red herrings, which ratchet up the difficulty somewhat.
The puzzles themselves are also “hardened”. For instance, you often get no feedback upon success - you need to trust yourself, so to speak, and then go out and find out what changed about the world. It’s somewhat more realistic, but since some outcomes aren’t entirely logical (why did this button open this door and not that door?) it’s not entirely fair. Still, the game world is small so navigation doesn’t take long.
Other situations are just as difficult and less justifiably so. For instance, you can see wires coming out of a certain device, but the game won’t let you trace them to see what it operates.
For me the worst curveball was a lock that was governed by two separate mechanisms, neither indicating success if only that one is solved. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, I’m a very experienced adventurer, including puzzle games. This one managed to stump me several times, and one time I even resorted to a walkthrough. You can probably rush through the game in 15 minutes or so, but if you need to actually solve the puzzles, it should take about 3 hours + “getting stumped” time.
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Time Played: 2-5 hours
Beyond just being difficult, the puzzles do make sense and can be figured out, so overall this game is highly recommended to puzzle gamers who are looking for a challenge.