Gag: The Impotent Mystery

Developer:  Zest Studios
Publisher:  Auric Vision
Year Released:  1997

Review by Steve Ramsey (February, 2005)

Emanating from Russia, and as far as I know only available in English via a Dutch release, Gag is a somewhat outrageous little number. It could certainly be said to have something for everyone, at the same time as having something off-putting for everyone. Gobsmacked best describes some of my reactions. It does a good line in parody, and is probably best enjoyed with your tongue firmly planted in the cheek.

You get to play Gary, a Special Agent for the Prevention of Sexual and Religious Perversions. Gary looks like Fabio and lusts after his boss, but unfortunately has been rendered impotent as a result of having been bitten by a poisonous penguin. His other current worries are the Dark Brothers, and a powerful spell book which may be up at the castle of the drunken Marquis de la Bourbon and his lascivious wife Lucy.

If that is not enough to give you the tone of some of the material, Gary's apartment, in which you start the game, certainly will be. Suffice to say it is adolescent male, and occasionally adult, in content. But outside Gary's apartment, with the exception of Gagboy (more of that later) the content is far more (though not completely) mainstream, albeit a different stream.

Shish kabob and satay
You certainly won't have seen, and are unlikely to see again, some of the puzzles in Gag. In what other game have you sat on a flying crocodile trying to prevent an uncooked chicken from chewing the flesh from your toes? I think I was using a broom, but it might have been a sharp stick; I can't remember. The sight of my first metatarsal distracted me somewhat. The puzzles are not all as bizarre as this, but some come close. I found many of them to be quite good, and very rarely obtuse. Quite a few are humorous, none tedious. There are three or four little arcade type puzzles, not overly onerous with perhaps one exception.

That exception is Gagboy, the pinnacle of different (and adult content) puzzles in this game. Think Tetris with naked male and female bodies in different poses. You have to get them to "pair up", in order to win the game. Just like in Tetris you can rotate them, and move them around as they descend from the top of the screen.

I understand that there is a Russian version in which a bottle of body lotion is added to the game. I found it hard enough as it was, but having picked myself up off the floor, and after receiving a strategic approach from a fellow player, I confess I chuckled my way through its completion. The little sound effects added to the overall experience.

No, it won't be for everyone. But nor will the rest of the game, so it's contextually valid :-).

Gag is first person point and click, and intersperses full motion videos and little chalk board animations into a predominantly slide show set of quite detailed and graphically not-too-bad screens. Cursors and arrows will indicate where to go and what you might do. Some of what you can do is simply for effect or amusement, or perhaps even something else; little animations will occur just because they can. Some were silly, others tasteless, but I didn't stop clicking.

Beasts and vermin
You collect and use inventory items, and solve a few pen and pencil type puzzles. There is a sewer maze, but it's straightforward if you have the map. The sewer denizens are also no great drama to get past, but the rats took a little practice to defeat.

Not surprisingly, you enter the sewer via the toilet. The toilet is also the scene of an excellent sight gag. You might also spot a number of sight gags and other references to some classics of the adventure game genre as you make your way through Gag.

There was a plot, based on getting the spell book, but I confess I wasn't paying a lot of attention. It was second or even third-ary to what was happening on screen.

One final word on penguins. There is one in the conclusion, and as well as being the cause of Gary's impotence they are used at certain times to protect modesty, although in the Russian version referred to above they are absent. Why the attraction to penguins I cannot say.

Gag must have done well in its native country as there are at least 2 sequels, neither of them in English. It will be a matter of taste, and it's an up and down affair, but those people I know who have played it had a bit of fun. So long as you know what to expect, you might too.

Thanks to Dmitry for letting us know that there are Penguins in the Russian version of Gag.
And thanks to Betje who tells us that the lotion is indeed used in the Russian version, although it's not used in Gagboy. Good thing too! rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2005. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Pentium 75, 16 MB RAM, 4x CD ROM, 5 MB disc space.
Operating system not specified but I played in Windows 98.