Games can be stressful. Anyone who has ever tackled a Souls boss would have found themselves dying a thousand times. Or what about trying to perfect that split-second jump in Super Meat Boy or any of its hellish platform clones? It’s then when the anxiety level highs hit.
In fact, I much prefer a game where I can happily walk around without any fear of death, tension, or trouble, admiring the scenery as I go. But Save Koch is stressful – even the game title hints at it. You see, there is a time limit to the gameplay decisions and people will die. The question is, are you ready to save the big man/pig?
Save Koch plays out as a noir story set in a city full of anthropomorphic animals. You play the role of crime boss Jeffrey Koch, presented as a large pig. He has got word from his associates that there is a hit out on him and he will be killed in just under a week. Someone from your organisation has ratted on you, and so it’s up to you to work out what is going on. At the start of the game, you are holed up in your safe house, attempting to direct operations to find the truth and stay alive.
Koch’s day runs between 9am and 9pm, focusing on four associates he can send out on missions that day, sending them across the city to search for clues. He also has a phone book so he can ring people up; pestering his underlings, a strange sex worker AI or his daughter. Doing so might lead to more clues to the solution. Story wise and Save Koch is certainly an intriguing one, complete with some brilliant characters and fantastic writing.
But it’s how everything works as a game that I have been forced to question a few times.
There isn’t a tutorial as such in Save Koch and that feels strange because you need some guidance in what the hell you are doing in this game. See, you are presented with a table in the safe house, able to open the city map and send your associates out and about. You also have a phone which rings for you to answer and you can pick to ring anyone from your contact list. Further is a shark tank that every now and then turns into a TV screen showing you the latest news concerning your plight.
The main bulk of the game focuses on sending various folk to different areas across the city. You have a captain called Bunny and you can select three other characters from a list; each will have a bearing on the ending of your run. On the map, highlighted areas appear with crime scenes, investigations or gossip leads to follow up. You need to send the right operative to the right place, picking someone who might fit in, able to come out the other end with the right results. This is tricky to work out and sometimes it feels a bit random.
I guess you could think of Save Koch as being fairly close to the strategic calls of something like This is the Police. You have time limits on certain events – things start going wrong when you fail to gather up the information you need, or your operative dies. When all four die, you would have failed to save Koch.
The visuals are simple, but the cartoon drawings of all the characters are colourful and nicely done. The city map looks good and the small cutscenes that play out feel well-made and interesting to watch. And I have to say, the menus are clever and interesting as well. The soundtrack is also fun and bounces along nicely with the action.
But Save Koch is a hard game to recommend. The random nature of the procedurally generated events in the city ensures you will want to take in multiple playthroughs, but even then, you may struggle to understand what is needed for success. There is still something intriguing about Save Koch, something that hooks, mostly thanks to the writing and setup. It’s just that the gameplay loop isn’t strong enough to ultimately Save Koch.