The rise of digital distribution has also brought exploration-type games (sometimes known as “walking simulators”) to consoles, and with Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Firewatch the PS4 already has two solid entries in a genre that’s filled with dozens of (indie) titles on the PC. Kholat adds another title to the PS roster, and it’s an incredibly atmospheric one at that.
Based on the famous Dyatlov Pass incident in which a group of hikers died under mysterious circumstances, Kholat sees you navigate through a cold, wintery landscape. Despite (or perhaps because of) the relatively slow pace at which the game plays out, this is a suspense/horror title – and it stands out when it comes to a fitting presentation. Visually, the game looks fine – though the environments aren’t too diverse and aren’t filled with a lot of small details. Much like the real thing, we suppose.
No, the real gem is the audio element of the presentation. The sound and music mixing does a great job at creating a feeling of suspense – making this a great game to play with the lights turned low. Adding on to the already excellent audio mix is the narration by Sean Bean – known for his work in the Lord of the Rings movies and the Game of Thrones TV series. The narration, sound effects and musical elements go hand in hand to create a superb mix of tension and storytelling.
The story itself – based on actual events – is interesting to follow, but doesn’t live up to the level of quality that’s in the sound mixing. Also, with a game that’s fairly linear and only had one storyline, there isn’t too much to do once you’re done with the game. Knowing how the story ends takes away some of the suspense as well, and there aren’t any alternative paths to take either.
Still, there aren’t that many games that get second playthroughs, so how much fun is Kholat to play? The answer’s not as clear-cut as you might like. As a videogame – it’s lacking. There isn’t too much to do, replayability is limited, and other games in the genre have done a better job already. However, as an interactive narrative experience, Kholat is an extremely interesting title. If you’re interested in The Dyatlov Pass incident then you’ll definitely want to pick up this piece of interactive storytelling – even if you might want to wait for a sale.