Spakoyno: Back to the USSR is just an average, everyday visual novel set in the late 80’s. You’ll follow Kirill as he goes about on his normal, everyday routine. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
Alright, I’ll admit it – I couldn’t write that opening with a straight face. Spakoyno: Back to the USSR is an absolute mess of a VN that is, indeed, set in the late 80’s (around the end of the USSR). You WILL follow a boy named Kirill as he goes about his routine, but these routines are not exactly what I would call “normal”. You’ll follow him as he tries to get beer with not enough money, meets Doc Brown (I mean Doc Ippolit), travels through time to take down Jenghis Khan, and a bunch of other crazy things. If the story sounds like it both doesn’t make sense and is a bit of rip off of Back to the Future, then guess what, you would be right!
The story and the writing in Spakoyno are both a disaster. The game is poorly translated from Russian, leading to a lot of broken English everywhere. This is accompanied by the fact the story jumps all over the place, often contradicting itself on events that have happened, and you’ll end up left wondering “what in the world happened here?” more often than not. One point that really sticks out to me about the game going back on something that happened was there’s a point in which your father (the leader of the USSR, or something along those lines) has to escape from the USSR. Your father is killed at some point after escaping, but then a few chapters later Kirill mentions something along the lines of “my father was back in charge”.
To accompany this horrendous writing is some very odd art styles for the characters. All of your characters have pretty much one still model that they will use, and if something happens to them other elements are just layered on top. If a character is given a hat, instead of looking like they are actually wearing the hat, it looks just like a very poor photoshop. These character models look like they were ripped from other sources and simply slapped into here.
The character models also clash with the design choices for the background a lot, with these often being “real” images of places. If they try and show what would normally be a “CGI” image, you are simply treated with a real picture with the characters poorly photoshopped in. I also noticed that some of the vehicles seen in the background shots look like they are from a more modern era than the 80’s. Additionally, if they use a car to illustrate something, it will clash with the background images as well. This is made even worse when said background image has real cars featured in it, causing the art of the game to just look really poor.
Something that Spakoyno did very poorly was event scenes. Instead of trying to have models move about on the screen like I’ve seen within other VNs, they use a fast flashing effect to transition between the different scenes. This is extremely harsh on your eyes since quite a few of these “action” scenes will be extremely fast paced.
When you are first launching Spakoyno, one of the things that will stand out to you from the start is that the game is very much not in English. Instead of reading off the language you have set on your Steam, that game just default launches into Russian. Luckily there’s a handy button in the lower left that will change it over, but it does seem a bit odd that it default launches into Russian despite being set to English on Steam.
Something else that’ll hit you very fast when you launch Spakoyno is the music. It is extremely loud, and you will be forced to crank down your sound a lot to even get it to a manageable state. The music in the game isn’t even very interesting either, and I quickly found myself turning it off since it was just too distracting. Many of the songs in the game feature spoken words as well, something that really adds to it being very distracting to have on.
I would be very hard pressed to give this game any sort of a passing grade. The art style is extremely clashing, any elements being put together simply look like bad photoshops, and the writing is extremely hard to read as well. The game ends up trying to be some bad Back to the Future story, depending on the path you take (I do believe the “true” path is the one with the bad BttF bits). Time travel is something that is very hard to get right in writing, and doing it badly can very easily turn someone off from it. I did manage to push my way through the end, but it did end up being extremely cringeworthy. Save your money and your time and look elsewhere for actually good visual novels.
Spakoyno: Back to the USSR 2.0 Review Score