Kholat is an indie survival horror video-game developed in Poland by IMGN.PRO. The player controls a character who is following the 'real-life' steps of a group of nine Russian college students who went missing in February 1959 on Kholat Syakhl (aka Mountain of Death - marked on map below).
The game is based on the Dyatlov Pass incident, a true event that involved ten Russian students, nine of which went missing on Kholat Syakhl and were found dead in the time span of four months (the tenth student had felt unwell and returned earlier).
The player's task is to locate several pages of the journal of one of the hikers. These pages include excerpts from the investigator's report and passages from During the adventure the player is chased by several shadow-like creatures as well as a powerful flaming apparition (there is no chance of escaping this once it pops up in front of you).
The story of the Dyatlov Pass incident is told via ghoulishly graphic illustrations at the beginning of the game and then it begins. You are at a deserted, run down, railway yard/station. There are trains and carriages on the tracks but you cannot enter any of them and they are not going anywhere as can be determined by the fact that there are more than one set of rolling stock on the same rails.
The snow is falling and the ground is white, virgin white for the majority of the landscape - no footprints or car tracks, nor any hoof or paw/claw prints. It is up to you to find out what happened and why, if you can - in the true story no real conclusion was reached.
Over a number of days all nine bodies of the students were found. Tents had been ripped open from the inside, the campsite had been rampaged through and the students had suffered injuries more akin to being run over by a train than from dying of exposure to the freezing weather. The weird problem about the student's injuries was that the damage was all internal, nothing showed on the outside to suggest a severe beating or savaging.
If knowing this is based on a 'true' story and learning how the student's died, doesn't put you off investigating, then perhaps the awful weather conditions and the continuous streaming of heavy snow falling on your screen and making visibility way below par will make you think twice.
If you have reached this far then you are brave enough to continue in the game.
You head out from the trains into a deserted land of white, the snow blowing stronger and swirling along the ground and piling up along the picket fences and wooden frames of isolated houses. Walking around these houses you notice that each is surrounded by a wooden fence with no way for you to reach the houses and explore. Throughout playing you will meet similar experiences where the game is not actually leading you, but it is saying "Not this way!".
From hereon until you find the 'rabbit hole' you can wander around going in all directions, being blocked by barriers, trees and mountains but otherwise roaming freely. You aren't led by the nose but eventually you will find a path through a mountain pass, under a tunnel and by now your adrenaline should be pumping - you are finally getting somewhere.
There's a light at the end of the tunnel and ....... you almost reach it, but then you fall and, well you get the impression that you die. This is where you have to have patience. I waited a minute or two as I went through multiple thoughts and then I thought the game had frozen - it was, after all, extremely cold and snowy wherever I had fallen - so I quit and restarted. This time going straight to the fall.
I realised I could move through the dense snow but I couldn't see anything except white. As I continued to move the screen stuttered once or twice as if the game sequence was reloading, and again I thought the game was broken - it felt like I was just going on and on until the program reset.
I quit again, five minutes of doing nothing and going nowhere was now bothering me. I gave it one more try, down the hole/portal/whatever and running round and round circling out then going right, circling further going right, expanding my search. This time I found something. I'm not going to say what, I am just letting you know that once you hit the snowstorm don't give up.
There are no real clues as to what is and what isn't the right way to go, you have to somehow mentally map out your journey from the 'what you found' until the fiery golem-type creature finds you. If you see this in the distance turn and go the other way. If it catches you there is no fighting it - you lose!
I don't know why but I got the feeling the fall was through a time portal and I was back in the past at the time of the students going missing.
A voice occasionally calls to you, expecting you to come towards it. It's up to you whether you do or not.
The snow stops falling but it is dark and gloomy. If you are not careful you may go over an edge, fall and 'die' - if you aren't already dead. I'm still not sure as this is a game viewed in the first-person perspective so you never get to see what you look like and there are no health or stamina bars etc.
Sometimes you will glimpse a burning person, looks like a man at first but as you get closer it could be female - he or she is definitely 'hot'. Other times you may see the tops of buildings, but finding your way to them is not as straight-forward as traveling as the crow flies; the way around is mysterious, as is the entire game.
I thought I was getting close to an answer - you know when you get that 'a-ha!' feeling - but all I was doing was wracking up the dead-ends until once again I became one.
There is a clue to you being alive after the fall just after the fiery demon gets you; the screen goes black then up comes the legend as shown below - "YOU DIED"
'Continue' and so it begins again .....................