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Since The Sopranos, crime families are cool. Fictitious ones, of course. From the GTA series through to the more literal Mafia 2, playing one of the bosses in one of these most feared families gives you enormous power and control. That is unless you are being hunted down with only so long to live. Enter Save Koch.
With a title such as this, I was expecting a political piece fighting for men’s rights, but instead, you need to solve the inevitable murder of the crime boss Jeffery Koch. If you’re a good enough sleuth, you may just save his bacon. He’s a pig, so that’s why that joke is funny. It’s in the intro too.
Anyhoo, Koch is an anti-hero, well, he’s not even that as he’s not remotely likeable and in some respects, I wanted him dead. Yes I know, that’s pretty cruel of me. Perhaps I’m the mole in the game? Perhaps not. There’s no need to muscle in on this guy and infiltrate as he’s pretty careless and burning relationships left and right. So, how do we stop this assassination attempt?
Koch’s second in command, a rat named Burmy, informs him that there will be an attempt on his life within the next 6 days. After announcing this news, they then expect you to go back to sleep and then start the next day again. This doesn’t pose a problem for Koch as he’s an apparent narcoleptic, though falling asleep on cue at 9 pm every day. Not ideal when you’re facing death. Still, each to their own.
Locked up in his panic room, Koch uses his command centre to send out his minions to investigate and intimidate rival gangs for information so that he can pinpoint who the perpetrator is. He has three areas of attack: his board which lists a hierarchy of suspects that he can eventually target for an assassination, the telephone that incessantly rings and a tablet with a city map to send out his orders. And that’s it.
With the countdown of 6 days, you also have a timer on screen that is relentless – forget about time to think about your next action as the timer never freezes. In some respects, you’ll miss out on some of the options or even miss a phone call if you don’t react in time. Another frustrating point is Koch had a TV screen in his panic room, and every time a breaking news segment pops up, the phone rings and the screen is often filled with an image of the other person on screen. You can usually read the subtitles on the TV, but you do have to get used to multi-tasking on the fly. The commands aren’t taxing; it’s just that they happen all at once.
When using the tablet, points of interest will pop up, and you can assign one of four agents to investigate. When you start the game, you only have a choice of four, but when you progress with each playthrough, you’ll unlock new characters each with their benefits. For example, you can send a detective to attack a rival, or send a heavy to investigate a crime scene. You should play to their strengths as you can end up losing characters, which I often did. As there are more than four events on screen at once, you can’t always send out an agent to investigate so need to choose wisely. Equally, there’s a timer on each new event. Once the time is up, the event disappears and is considered a failure, but your agents can also fail a task.
As you progress, the board will fill up with clues, and you can start compiling evidence as to who is the mastermind of your future demise. Interestingly, the perpetrator changes with playthroughs, so no one game is the same. There’s a lot to choose from too. In my first playthrough, I sent my minions after the mayor as I had unlocked all of her clues, and she seemed to be on my case. As a result, my foot soldiers were all killed, and I lost an associate that was unrelated to the task. Losing the associate meant I lost an area on the map and Koch was murdered 3 days prematurely. It didn’t make sense and was so sudden that it irritated me. Left with a black title screen, the game said that Koch was dead and I had failed to unlock any new characters, though unlocked an ending. Strange as the screen froze before the title, so I went back to the main menu and the gallery to see what I had unlocked, and the game crashed.
This wasn’t a good start as I was already irritated that I had died so abruptly. Jumping back into the game, the experience differed, and the clues changed. You see, Save Koch is a procedurally generated story, so no one game is the same. It’s a novel approach, but equally frustrating as the suspects change each time, so you don’t always feel like you are making the right progress. The dialogue adjusts accordingly, and there are often multiple choices responses. Do you push your way through to the last day and strike once you have enough evidence, or strike while the iron’s hot? The best choice would be the former as I found that I would play through multiple times and die just before the 6 days were up, having to start again. There are no save game options or checkpoints, so you can understand the frustration.
While there is downtime with your agents scouting out locations or carrying out numerous missions, you can pick up the phone and call characters in the aim to uncover clues. For your crew, you can ask them their opinion on who the suspect could be – including asking your girlfriend and daughter, but nobody can be trusted. You have to flush out the mole before your time is up, otherwise… it’s back to the beginning once more.
Save Koch is in the style of a film noir. The music is played on repeat endlessly, but it doesn’t get monotonous and offers a good backdrop to the theme. There is a certain lack of options though seeing as you’re isolated in a panic room. However, piecing together the clues is an intelligent process, and in many ways, the gameplay is enjoyable, despite the restrictions. The story has potential, but there are so many paths and subplots that you’re going to need to invest in a bit of time here. The game itself isn’t incredibly long, but it’s expected that you’ll have repeat playthroughs, unlocking new characters along the way. Sometimes these characters appear randomly, and that adds a bit of energy to the game as you think you’ve met everyone then someone new appears, but there’s not much room for error and having to restart each time is a pig.
The concept is a good one, and I think that if there were a bit more slack and more room for error, Save Koch would be a bit more enjoyable. However, gameplay can be a bit too much to juggle at times, and Koch’s not a likeable protagonist, so in reality, I don’t want to see this little piggy go to market. I want him dead.
TBG Score: 6/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 06/03/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Simulation, Puzzle, Strategy
Developer: Wooden Monkeys
Publisher: Over Gamez
Download link: eShop