fri 03/04/2020

Kholat/Neon Struct | reviews, news & interviews

Kholat/Neon Struct

Kholat/Neon Struct

Terrifying orienteering and synth-box sneaking await you in these two polished pebbles...

'Kholat': The truth is out there, but so is something else...

Kholat

Kholat

Fancy a trip up the Ural mountains some time in deepest winter circa 1959? No? Me freaking neither, especially when nine bodies have been found variously mangled on the "dead mountain" of Kholat Syakhl, and your mission is to retrace the steps of the investigating team who found their corpses. With naught but a map, compass and torch to guide you, you are thrown alone into the thick of a Soviet winter in the woods, and expected to hunt down scattered pages of journals and long lost artefacts from both the victims and the investigators and piece together the truth of what really happened out there.

Kholat IMGN.PRO gamesScared already? Well you should be, because there’s something more than falling rocks and howling wolves out there in the moonlit snow storm, and it’s far from happy to see you. Prepare to run. A lot.

With your map in hand you are hinted at to follow particular coordinates to key structures on the mountain and pick up any clues you might find. Every now and then the dulcet tones of Sean Bean will interrupt your loneliness with some thought-provoking prose, and as if that wasn’t terrifying enough, a huge orange mist will attempt to engulf you and a strange shadow entity will stalk you until it hears you step on a twig. Then it will kill you.

It’s a shame that after so much promise in the opening scenes – the amazing graphics, the wind howling, the first few genuine jumps, Sean Bean! – the developers have turned what ought to be a rollercoaster of terror into more of a B-road of spook.

It’s a superbly dressed game, but it’s all frill and no knickers; with the age-old frustrations of doors you can’t open, foot-high ledges you can’t climb over, but 20-foot ones you can fall off, un-poetic translations which turn probably quite thoughtful speech into poorly recorded gibberish, an over-reliance on the spooky factor to get you through endless minutes of wandering in the dark…

KHOLAT IMGN.PRO gamesDon’t get me wrong: the game itself is beautifully atmospheric and genuinely scary, it’s just that the scares don’t change, and neither does the scenery. The real novelty for me was the game’s ability to make map-reading terrifying.

 

Neon Struct

So your agency has turned against you, you’ve nowhere to turn and nobody believes you when you cry "super villain conspiracy!" Unfortunate fall-guy Agent Jillian Cleary is on the run after discovering that her crazy sexist boss has been secretly implanting tracking devices in people, and has plans to control the world etc.

Agent Cleary must clear her name, avoid detection and uncover the truth and blah blah blah... Let’s not get too hung up on plot here: developers Minor Key Games certainly haven’t, and that’s not necessarily an insult because the entire aesthetic of Neon Struct is minimalist, so it makes sense the plot would be too, right?

Neon Struct, Minor Key GamesSneak, sneak, sneak is the name of the game here. In this futuristic neon world of hover cars and robot guards, you have to hack, steal, lie and hit people over the head from behind in order to find the truth behind the conspiracy against you. Oh, and don’t forget the running away part, there's a lot of that too.

As Cleary follows leads and tip-offs from her still loyal friends and some nefarious criminal types, we experience locations that feel as though they are built out of solid blocks of texture, tunnelling through them like Minecraft.

Hitting people over the head and running away are key parts of your strategy here because, even though you’re a secret agent, you can’t be trusted with a gun. Exploding scrambler grenades you can be trusted with, or popping various stims which make you invisible or silent, but no guns, little lady. Instead you get an abundance of tech to play with, which all comes in use, although a really savvy player need only know when to switch off a light and listen for footsteps.

The subtle use of sound is both a blessing and a curse here because the developers have clearly gone to a massive effort with musicians The Home Conversion to create a super-cool cyber-punky soundtrack. However they’ve cursed themselves because the game relies on stealth and silence so you hardly ever get to hear it!

Another nit-pick is that the AI of the guards can be temperamental to the point of ridiculous, with too many incidents of them walking right past me, standing right under their noses shouting "I’m right here!"

Mech, Neon StructIt’s very easy to compare this game to others, and unfortunately it doesn’t have the finesse of plot and character to give it an independence that will last. The minimalist aesthetic creates a clinical, steely cold world of straight lines and the faceless shapes of people. It does have a great soundtrack though, and if you love a good sneak, and don’t mind style over substance, then give this a whirl.

 

  • Kholat was developed and published by IMGN.PRO and is available on Steam
  • Neon Struct was developed and published by Minor Key Games and is available on Steam
  • Read more gaming reviews on TheArtsDesk
  • Follow Helen K Parker on Twitter
A superbly dressed game, but it’s all frill and no knickers...

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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