Jeffrey Koch is a porcine crime lord. And he’s in deep trouble. Forced into his safe house by hostile forces tipped off by an informer within his own organisation, he has a week to root out the mole and somehow survive against the odds. Developed by Wooden Monkeys and published by Over Gamez and originally released on Switch in the spring of 2020, we’re a little mystified as to why it’s taken Save Koch this long to hit PS4.
We got a similar gameplay feel to Through The Darkest Of Times in terms of the fact that you assign your gang to assignments on the city map. Though you’re more likely have an operative killed than have them arrested. We were also reminded of the noir raccoon gumshoe-em-up Backbone, not just due to the animal protagonists, but also the general feeling that we’re along for the ride. Save Koch also reminded us a little of the minigame in Assassin’s Creed:Brotherhood where you send your acolytes out to complete side missions unseen.
Each playthrough begins the same, with you ending up holed up in your safe house and taking a call from your security chief. This day then ends abruptly as all the others do, with Jeff theatrically yawning as the malt liquor he’s steadily imbibing throughout the day takes hold as he falls into an alcohol-induced stupor.
It’s at this point that you’re introduced to the core gameplay loop. You wake at 0800, try to assign your crew of four to various tasks. Invariably as the day progresses, you’ll have more tasks to complete than you do time to do them, so you have to prioritise. Come 2100, Koch falls asleep and your day ends. Your rodent security chief is a dab hand at combat for example. There’s an alcoholic detective who’s good at investigating crime scenes. There’s a horse who only communicates by saying variations on clippety clop. We’re still not entirely sure what his role is, other than being killed prematurely in each run. Your final accomplice is a dog who specialises in torture and coercion. It makes sense in context, trust us.
We mentioned being killed, invariably it comes when you least expect it and you can expect your run to be compromised until it ends due to being short of one operative’s unique skillset. You can attempt to fill the gap with some of Burmy’s operatives (she being your security chief) but they’re more of a blunt object when you require finesse half the time.
There’s several distinct factions that you have to contend with during a playthrough. There’s the Mould who are a gestalt entity who say they mean no harm, but they will happily assimilate one of your operatives into their collective if your paths happen to cross. Then there’s Die Metzgerei who are ostensibly your group but you’ve the inept slaughterhouse manager who fucks things up without fail. Then there’s the government types including the police chief and one particularly tricky barista. He’s an obvious analogue for Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, all low-key malevolence.
Either way, things are against you from the outset. Initially you’ll have to inspect crime scenes and speak to people on the ground to unlock new investigation opportunities. Try as you might you won’t be able to cover everything so you’ll have to make hard choices in terms of which paths you prioritise. It feels a little like Murderous Muses in terms of the way you have to make a guess as to who the mole is after a certain point. Only in this case, if you guess wrongly, you’ll trigger a game ending state.
We’ve played probably a dozen thirty to forty minutes playthroughs and each time we’ve failed. Saving Koch is no mean feat. If anything, it’s arbitrarily hard. The fact there’s no save states beyond the current playthrough autosaving when you quit to the menu is a definite flaw. It feels like one bad choice condemns you to fail. You’re not so much looking to succeed, more seeing how you fail. We’ve been sniped on a rooftop. Had our safehouse busted into. Poisoned ourselves. Become such a minor player in the grand scheme of things that we topped ourselves. It’s unrelentingly bleak.
Therein lies our frustration with Save Koch. It’s so damn tough that you’ve no idea if the path you’ve taken is a good one or not. The aforementioned barista seems to spell death for whatever operative he crosses paths with. And if you decide to be rid of him, his whole faction brings its entire force to bear down on you. All the while you’re bombarded with phone calls from various people in the city, most of whom want to end you.
In conclusion, Save Koch is fun enough but the feeling you’re merely delaying the inevitable is something you won’t shake. There might be a light at the end of the tunnel, but in this case it’s sure to be an oncoming train. There’s a good feeling of cause and effect thoughout, but you feel doomed to failure if you make a bad choice. There’s something intriguing here, but the fact that we’ve not had a single successful attempt is a bitter pill. Get used to failure if you try saving Koch anyway.
+ Lots of factions to contend with and storylines to uncover
+ Every action has a consequence
- Feels like your doomed to fail after one wrong choice
- No save system to speak of so one action can doom a run without you knowing it