Kona Review

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I love a good mystery. I enjoy one that has me wondering from start to finish about what is going on, and how it will end. Uncovering details bit by bit can be so fun if done right. So can Kona offer a mystery that will leave me hooked and wanting to know more? And how will it do when played in VR?

Kona is developed by Parabole, and by all means what you would class as a walking sim if anything. You play as private investigator Carl Faubert, and head to a small town in Quebec to look into some vandalism. However things turn bad when a couple minutes in, we come off the road and pass out. When we come back around, everywhere is covered in snow.

As I mentioned, the game is generally what I would class as a walking simulator. However it does try to be slightly different, the game adds a small selection of survival elements to it. You will need to take care of 3 elements within in the game: Health, Warmth and Stress. Now these are here to add to the game, and they manage to do that. They managed to add to the feeling of being in an extremely cold environment. They never come across as a burden to manage, as I was never really worried about them dropping by too much. They simply added to the situation we are in. Refilling the meters is pretty easy as well, as you find a fair bit of stuff to help; plus setting a fire where possible helps raise the warmth and the stress meter to an extent as well.

Kona has you exploring the area, which the main part of this is accessible pretty much from the start. You will be travelling around, exploring the cabins and houses. Now having pretty much everywhere to explore straight away can be good. However, I felt more at times unsure of where I needed to go or if there was a particular order in which would be best to explore. However the order doesn’t really seem to make too much of a difference, it just may mean travelling back and forth to certain locations.

As you play you will uncover other little things going on, other mysteries if you will, all linking together. Some of these will require you to go off the beaten track at times to try and find all the clues. To complete the story, this isn’t required too much. I never found all the clues to the mysteries that were in my journal.

At times Kona reminded me of Everyone’s gone to the rapture, with one of the ways it tells its story, that of “visions” seeing an event that took place within that area, and sometimes being shown something that is hidden.

The game play is fairly simple, explore, gather information either through some of the visions you will have, or by reading information left by people. You can at times take photos of particular things, and a narrator will give you some information about what Carl is thinking. You will also gather items from around the locations you visit, which you may need to use to help solve a somewhat simple puzzle. Now this at times is not that bad, however it can sometimes be a slight issue if you overlook something that you could have picked up, and having to figure out if the item your after is at a place you have been to, or yet to explore. This again can be annoying when it happens.

This is where I just feel other games of this type, may have had the right idea of a more linear path. Everyone’s gone to rapture, Firewatch and Dear Esther. These were great little games that had the feel of openness, however made it so you followed a path. That said I can appreciate what Kona was trying here, and for the most parts it works.

There are some other issues I had, one of which was the combat. This was something that I felt could have been left out. It didn’t feel good, and was very basic. Luckily it is something you hardly have to do, which just adds to the feeling that maybe not having it would have been better.

The game manages to look nice at times as well. The snow storm and how we can only see so far in front of us is great to add to the feeling unknown. However other things just seem less so, simple looking in detail, cabins and the items that are in them don’t seem to standout, and seem a lower quality texture wise. While travelling along the road, at times I couldn’t help but notice straight lines, more than likely where the road textures had been joined together. It just seemed to add to the feel of a low-budget game.

In VR however, it seems that objects have jagged edges. A real shame. It’s a fun world to explore in VR, but like other things within the game, for all the really nice things, there just seems to be smaller things that let it down slightly.

It’s the same with the sound. I loved 90% of the sounds and the soundtrack used. However when it came to the combat, the sound from attacking wolves, well didn’t sound up to par with the other sounds within the game. Again, the majority is great. However just something small remained with me, and I couldn’t help but feel that if combat wasn’t a part of the game, this issue would not have been in the game.

The controls for the most part are simple and are responsive. However when it comes to the VR side, yep you guessed, it kind of lets itself down slightly. The options for VR are limited; you have the option of moving from node to node, free roam teleportation or free movement. Now these in themselves are not bad. However you have no options for the way you turn. In Exorcist Legion, you could choose the way you wanted to rotate, whether that was free rotation or by rotating a set amount of degrees. Kona is just set to a set amount of degrees, with no way of changing this. Even in Free movement. A small detail that would have been nice if added, and may help some players feeling either motion sick or getting headaches, and allowing to tailor the experience best for the player.

Overall, Kona is a decent adventure game, with a nice sound track, and a good story. I enjoyed the light survival elements added into the game. However the back and forth at times, and a not so good combat system, on top of the times when the game pauses to load the next section at times abruptly, and still having to listen to the sound of say a running engine, it just becomes annoying at times.

It’s the same with the VR aspect of the game. It would have been a world I would have loved to experience in VR, however jagged edges, and limited options again just seemed to stop me enjoying this game to the max. I would love to see what this developer can do if they had a bigger budget, and made another game similar to this. They really made survival elements work, without making the player feel burdened by them.

It seems like Kona tried to do a little too much to try to stand out from the crowd, and in my opinion, this game would have been better if they maybe just had the light survival elements. It’s still worth a go and if you have VR, give it a shot in that as well.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to press@4gn.co.uk.

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Kona Review
  • Gameplay - 6/10
  • Graphics - 6/10
  • Sound - 6/10
  • Replay Value - 6/10
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