Koudelka Review

For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne

Rating: Good
   Koudelka is a valiant attempt to mix two very popular gaming genres: 
RPGs and survival horror games.  The results could have been horrible, but 
Koudelka is actually well worth playing.  However, as is the case with many 
games that combine different genres, I can't help but get the feeling that 
the game would have been better as a full-fledged RPG or a full-fledged 
survival horror game.
   The biggest RPG-like gameplay mechanic in Koudelka is the battle system.  
Unfortunately, the battles are probably the worst part of the game.  Half 
of the time spent in battles consists of moving around a grid so that 
you're close enough to actually attack the enemy.  This would have been at 
least a little bit useful if you could quickly dodge enemy attacks, but 
running away from enemies results in them simply following you and 
eventually catching up.
   The graphics during battles do more to reflect the bland action than add 
excitement to the game.  All you can see during battles are the combatants 
and the grid you're standing on, which is usually made up of different 
shades of brown and gray.  There isn't even a background, just blackness.  
With the battle graphics being so simplistic, you wouldn't be greedy if you 
expected some spectacular attacks to make up for it, but you would be 
disappointed.  Some of your best attacks make it seem like small fireworks 
are exploding on your enemy, which is pathetic after you've seen games like 
Final Fantasy 8 and Legend of Dragoon.
   Even though Koudelka's RPG elements are a disappointment, the survival 
horror elements almost make up for them.  The pre-rendered backgrounds do a 
great job of adding to the game's creepy atmosphere.  The walls are always 
filled with stuff to look at, and there are also moving objects from time
to time.  The environments are what make this a survival horror game more 
than anything else.
   The voice acting is another one of this game's strong points.  It's 
easily on par with the voice acting in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and 
it's even better at times.  The voice acting in some games makes it seem 
like the actors just wanted to read the script and go home, but this is far 
from the case with Koudelka.  The actors did a very good job with things 
like sighs, pauses, and even stutters, which always seem to be funny 
instead of scary in other games.  The character models also help to bring 
the characters to life, and thank God there are more animations than just 
hands moving back and forth like in Resident Evil 1.
   The thing that makes you want to keep playing more than anything else is 
the excellent story line.  Like the game as a whole, the story is a mixture 
of survival horror and RPG.  It mixes the haunted house theme of a deserted 
church with the RPG-like relationships between characters.  If there's
anything in the game that can take your mind off of the un-impressive 
battle sequences, it's the story.
   For those of you who don't know, Resident Evil requires you to use left, 
right, and down on the d-pad to change the direction of your character, and 
up on the d-pad to move in the direction you're facing.  The developers of 
Koudelka decided to "fix" this problem by making you walk in whatever 
direction you press on the d-pad (like you would in an RPG), but this 
actually makes the control worse in my opinion.
   The problem with this control set-up is that the camera angle is always 
changing, so if you're pushing left on the d-pad to move left and the 
camera angle changes, you'll be going in a different direction all of a 
sudden.  The result is that every single time the camera angle changes, you 
have to take a moment to re-assess which direction you need to press on the 
d-pad.  Needless to say, this gets really annoying, really fast.
   Fear Effect proved that a great survival horror game doesn't necessarily 
have to be scary, but it would still be nice.  Since you enter into battles 
in Koudelka like you would in an RPG, there is never anything that pops out 
at you suddenly, nor do you ever get the wonderfully tense feeling that 
something like that could happen at any moment.  There's also no dreadful 
feeling of, "Oh no, I'm running out of ammo," which is another disadvantage 
of the game's combat system.  Last, but certainly not least, the enemies 
themselves aren't that scary (many of them are just floating tables and 
   A lot of the problems found in PlayStation games these days can be 
blamed on the system's now-ancient hardware, but you can't blame the 
hardware for Koudelka's poor RPG elements.  The sub-par battle system and 
control are just enough to out-weigh the excellent story, voice acting, and 
environments.  Still, if you're a hardcore fan of both survival horror 
games and RPGs, you owe it to yourself to check this game out and see what 
happens when the two genres are combined into one.

Send your thoughts on this review to jimmy@mastergamer.com

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