So, a game about Stalinism in four parts.

Part 1 was not so bad. Although the passage of time is a little odd, and suggests that you can indeed harvest a full bag of grain in 5 minutes -- and that your entire harvest can be done in under an hour -- I am willing to suppose that the timing is only figurative, and that in fact your actions here represent your activities over the whole of the year. Pretend it works. This wouldn't be the first game to do so. Those other games tend to also be resource management things, as I recall, as this part of the game essentially was.

Part 2 was a somewhat different flavour. Here was a different protagonist, one who seems to have swallowed the Stalinist propaganda whole. It is possible to speak out against the regime while speaking to Yulia Churov (sic), but it felt very much out of character; still, the conversation seems pointless and unsatisfying unless you do ... and that kills you. This is actually a good thing, I think. It's always nice to know that something is going on in the background, especially if it doesn't figure in this particular playthrough.

Note: I am not a Russian, but I think Yulia Churov's name should be Yulia Churova. This would be in keeping with the Russian tradition of feminising surnames for women.

Part 3 could have been much, much better than it was. The initial mission, to take away or hide all subversive material in your office, turns out to be both trivial and pointless: trivial because all you can do is move the material to another room, pointless because the whole thing is on rails. No matter what you do, you wind up in the same situation, with the same pressure being applied on you, and, in order to go on to Part 4, the same person winds up a scapegoat. It left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

Part 4 ... is barely IF at all. It's a long, inescapable conversation, with menu choices that do nothing. It seems clear to me that each "choice" in the conversation is accompanied by a chess move (finally culminating with "checkmate") but it's also obvious that the different choices in the conversation do not represent different chess moves. Which would have been cool if it had happened. The long, inescapable conversation was annoying, though, particularly as it occurred immediately after the conversation that ended Part 3. Having made what I thought was a mistake in Part 3, I was forced to play through all of Part 4 before I was even allowed to undo my action or restore a saved game or even quit. Infuriating. (I should also note that a lot of this conversation is just Stalin talking to himself; where other people enter the office and speak to him, their part of the conversation is completely left out, leaving us with chess moves unaccompanied by conversational text, responses to blank space. In Part 4, you are playing inside Stalin's head.)

Still, there seems to be an artistic theme going here. while the social class of the protagonists rises from Part 1 to Part 4, so too does the amount of interactivity lessen to nothing. Part 1 ends with something of a triumph for the protagonist, when he saves a neighbour and is in turn shielded from the corrupt official by his friends and neighbours; Part 2 ends with the protagonist blissfully sidestepping gross treachery, all unaware; in Part 3, it is the protagonist who is forced into acts of treachery against the very man who warned him of impending danger; and in Part 4, you are playing inside Stalin's head, and Stalin is playing chess with himself -- in essence, checkmating himself. In the end, it is like that joke about Soviet Russia: in Soviet Russia, IF plays YOU.

Also, recognising the names of the arrested officials in Part 4, from the previous 3 parts, gave me a bit of a chill.

Yoghurt, followed by a loaf of bread.