Kholat, created by Polish developer IMGN.PRO, is a horror game inspired by the likes of Slenderman and its many imitators — but one that is based upon true events and a real-world mystery. The result is a creepy, supernatural foray into icy, frozen wastes that may not terrify, but still delivers plenty of chills and a well-written story.
And though the barrier for entry into the “find-the-notes” styled Horror genre started by Slenderman is relatively low,Kholat succeeds far more than it fails.
Their tent was found ripped open from the inside out, and the hikers were found—some barefoot—dead and frozen in the snow. Many had strange and unexplained injuries, including broken ribs and a cracked skull. For reasons unknown, the hikers madly fled their tent in the middle of the night, scared enough to abandon all safety precautions and flee into the freezing, deadly conditions on the mountain, where they all died.
You can read more about the actual incident at the Dyatlov Pass Wikipedia page (it’s quite interesting).
In Kholat, you play a lone investigator following in the tracks of the 9 hikers to learn what happened to them. Your only clue is your map with numerous marked locations, and a compass to help guide you to them.
Terror in the snow
If you like atmospheric, scary games, then Kholat may be perfect for you. It delivers tension and atmospheric chills in spades. The weather itself feels like an entity—there is rarely a time when your vision isn’t obscured by snow, and the wind constantly howls angrily.
The sense of isolation and the inhospitable environment already add considerable tension to the game. And that’s before the haunting whispers, the baying of wolves, and other mysterious noises (and voices) begin tormenting you.
Your main goal is to use the map and compass to help you find your way to the marked locations and find whatever note, journal, or other piece of information is there waiting for you. Sometimes an apparition may help guide you. Other times you may encounter…well, things best avoided.
You don’t need to discover the notes in any specific order, leaving you to unravel and put together the mystery of what happened to those 9 hikers however you see fit. Narration is provided by Sean Bean, and all of the voice acting in the game is top-shelf quality. As long as the story and overall atmosphere of the game entice you to keep playing, you should enjoy the experience.
The only place Kholat falls down a bit is that it can leave you a bit unsure of what to do or where to go. The map doesn’t always make it clear exactly how to get from point A to point B, and you may get a bit frustrated trundling through the snow in circles looking for your next location to further advance the story.
My complete lack of any sense of direction or compass-skills did not help me. (Whatever skills I may have learned as a boy scout have long since died.) I didn’t even realize right away that the aim to finishing the game was to visit all the marked locations on the map and collect the notes. Kholat doesn’t really explain this to you, nor does it offer much direction, which adds to the fun of discovery but can frustrate as well.
Kholat relies on its strong story and environmental cues to sell the scares. You probably won’t jump out of your seat much (or at all), but it also doesn’t resort to cheap cat scares or shock effects.
Instead, the terrifying but beautifully realized environment beckons you to explore it and find its secrets. Then weird, unpredictable sh*t starts happening, and keeps you on your toes for most of the game while telling you a good story. (And yes, you can “die” in a few places courtesy of some wraith-like creatures you’ll need to avoid.)
Once you’ve finished the game, however, there is virtually no replay value, and Kholat only takes around 4 hours to complete (give or take).
Generally, the “find the notes horror genre” has a pretty low barrier for entry, but Kholat rises above many of its peers visually and in overall quality. If you like this particular breed of horror game, Kholat is an excellent example of the genre.