Saturday Crapshoot: GAG: The Impotent Mystery

Richard Cobbett

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, a Russian adventure that's not as porny as it sounds, but whose surrealism might make you gag in a very different way...

Sorry. Normally I try to find something interesting and a little bit unusual for you. This week though, I'm afraid we're going to have to resort to that most tired and cliched of gaming staples - secret agents struggling with sexual inadequacy after being bitten on the penis by a poisoned penguin.

And they say zombies are overplayed...

So... yeah. GAG: The Impotent Mystery. It's a rare example of a Russian adventure that got an international release, but only technically. It seems that there were only about twenty copies sent out - three for the Dutch, seven for the English, nine for the Germans, and one for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie. If more people have come into contact with any sticky part of it, it's because one of its minigames was cut out and released as freeware - an erotic Tetris clone. Erotic as in naked people for blocks, not sexy blocks. Unless you're into that.

(And, you know, it's not like people aren't turned on by much weirder stuff. Why, even now I'm sure there's a guy sitting on a bed while a prostitute eats several tins of fruit salad so that she can be sick all over his naked body and call it Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dream Coating.)

Nothing like that happens in GAG of course. There doesn't even seem to be any actual nudity in the English version, though apparently there is some in the original Russian one. (Edit: Apparently not, though there was a soft-core expansion - no comment - called Gary's Vacation.)

It's... ah... an odd adventure, to put it mildly. The title screen alone is head-tilting, as a naked woman in silhouette slides back and forth over a line, before being knocked off it by the falling game logo and turning into a waving penguin. With me so far? Good. It won't last.

From there, we find out that the main character, Gary Tusker, is a member of an agency charged with - and I quote - the Prevention of Sexual And Religious Perversions. From there, a spooky introduction more suitable for a horror game kicks off, with graves and zombies and scantily clad ladies being beamed around... and then talking to demon creatures about plans to kidnap a girl called the Marquese. Then our hero wakes up and has a hallucination based on Doom in which he blows up his telephone with a rocket launcher, and also is a cut-rate virginal Fabio whose hobbies include using a telescope to peek at and film girls in other buildings and porn. And that is all.

That is just the introduction! Watch it and the first area here.

It gets weirder. Go to bed, and you can sleep - a narrator intoning that "Gary slept. But he knew he should wake up at the first click of the mouse. That was a habit developed over the years." Instead, it takes a couple, after which he groans "Okay, stop that clicking, I'm up already!" You can also opt to have a wet dream, which consists of him dreaming about a race between some racing cars, tribal warriors, elephants, rhinos and buses. The TV - tuned to Horny News, as if there's any other kind - has an announcement about the game's designer being declared the Sexiest Man In The World. His name incidentally is pronounced "Cop off" by at least the English dub. Narrative determinism, ho? Maybe! Then there's a mini-game where you stab flies on a table with a fork because... yummy protein?

Also, he owns these...

Head... hurting...

The actual plot kicks off by returning a call from Gary's boss. "If I never hear from you again, scumbag, it'll be too soon," she growls, despite having phoned him. She assigns him to the Marquese case, responding to his question about whether she's hot with "What's it to you, limpo?" Also, the phone/fax machine burps out print-outs because... I don't know. On the wall, flies are having sex. One of them poops on Gary's diploma. You also have to cook the flies you already gathered in a microwave.

Oh, and this is in the toilet. If you get the reference, award yourself a point.

Anyway, all detectives have helpers. Gary's is Lao, the kind of Chinese stereotype that... oh, I have no words. Not only does he have a 'comedy' accent, his face has been run through Kai's Power Goo or similar just to really get its racism on. Anyway, he swaps voyeur porn for items, including "North Korean Passport", "Globe Of Taiwan" and "Huge Pack Of Dodgy Second Hand Luminous Condoms." What he actually provides are a gynaecologist's ID and some house keys. You can also flick through a porn mag where the topless ladies are censored by a penguin and I think I just went insane.

(checks)

Yep. That was it. Hurt less than expected. I can now hear fuchsia.

Wow. Even the caption I wrote refuses to be associated with that picture.

Heading out to what I vaguely remember being an assignment, Gary finds himself at a spooky castle with en suite teleport hole to THE FUTURE. Blue portal in. Orange portal out. It reminds me of something, but I can't put my finger on exactly what. You're then mugged by a guy in a robot mech, who will only let you into the castle if you prove you're a member of the military Corps of "Ginaecologists" using that convenient ID from earlier. Confused? You should see some of the stuff I'm leaving out. Like the flying turkey in Gary's microwave. I'd mention it, but it would be a distraction.

Or how about that minigame? Yes, you obviously need to match up the rutting couples. It's tough going though, and you don't know exactly what the game wants you to match up. As with Tetris, the drop rate is brutal, and you need to get a seriously high score to win an item you need to finish the game. Unlike Tetris, not winning ultimately results in the completion of an evil scheme, because past a certain point in the game a bug means that you're not allowed to play it any more.

Nnnngh. I've never been drunk, but this is what I imagine it would be like to play Myst after a whole crate of absinthe. The castle isn't as overtly wacky as the apartment, but it's still got levers that detect your mouse pointer and lock you out, codes written under mats that trip you up while you're standing on them, random military equipment just sitting around, and of course, this professional blockade...

In fact, I'm just going to copy a few things from the walkthrough I found myself using after about five minutes. I think the snippets say more than an attempt to explain ever could.

"When you wake up, you are facing a guillotine and only have your iberium in inventory. Quickly look down at your feet--you notice a candle burning the rope that holds the guillotine up. You now must spit accurately to dampen the candle. When you have success, you are taken a little closer to it. Trial and error will get you there. Finally, you reach out and put out the flame between your finger. You then realize you weren't even tied up!"

Or:

"Use the lingerie on the area below to make a bungee cord. You have to calculate how many bras and panties to use to reach the motorboat without overshooting it. It has an instant do-over if you fail, so don't worry about experimenting. You are given a drawing board schematic. There are three combinations that work: 3 bras and 5 panties, 4 bras and 3 panties, or 5 bras and 1 panty."

And let's not forget the finale:

"Pick up the spell book. The Marquise appears, ready to do you in. Quickly throw the spell book in the fire. The evil is banished, the castle and the Marquise destroyed. This leads to the first end sequence cutscene of a war machine hoedown!"

Incidentally, they're Satanists. Or something. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. I'm just grateful that at this point, both of the game CDs were suddenly snapped in half by an unseen force you cannot prove does not exist. Luckily, I have this clip of the ending on hand, which should explain everything...

...or, y'know. Not. Though I doubt it'd be any better in context.

GAG only officially came out in Russia and the Netherlands (where this English dubbed version also hails from) though I've been told there was a German release as well. The scary part? Crazy as is it is, GAG did well enough to get at least one sequel. I shall repeat that. There is a sequel and it is real!

I think I'd rather eat the game discs. Both at once, as a hyper-crunchy ham sandwich. Only with a baguette instead of the CDs. I'd also like Kit-Kat. Excuse me. Trip to the shops beckons.

Sorry about ruining fruit salad for you, by the way.

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