Game Preview: Kona

There is something odd going on in these woods. Can you get to the bottom of this mystery before the cold gets to you?

Take a strange trip into the wilds of Northern Quebec (that’s in Canada in case you are wondering). Kona is a survival game framed within a noir detective narrative. You step into the shoes of detective Carl Faubert who has been hired to investigate strange occurrences, though it quickly becomes clear that Carl’s expedition to Atamipek Lake is going to be more complicated than a simple vandalism case.

Kona begins the same way all good detective stories do, with a mystery… and a murder

Parabole has created an intriguing mystery in this remote small town. Although its inhabitants have vanished, it has its own character. There is a chill here that extends past the curious and relentless winter storm. If you can survive the elements, you may just discover what is really going on.

Gameplay

From the very beginning, there is something very wrong with this town. Everyone appears to have vanished in the middle of their very busy lives, and there is something sinister about these woods. The abandoned homes and curious artifacts that have been left behind paint an eerie picture that begs the player to delve deeper.

Kona Weird Screenshot
Something is not quite right here.

The mystery is not the only challenge you will find, because Kona is also part survival game. Your biggest concern is cold, venture too far into the woods for too long and you risk a serious case of hypothermia. So far it’s a forgiving system, adding just enough challenge to the game without making it frustrating. Collect supplies throughout the environment to help you survive. Stave off the cold by starting fires, repair broken objects, or simply arm yourself against the lurking damage.

Kona Polaroid tracking Screenshot
Seriously, this place is weird.

There is little in the way of direct hints to help you solve puzzles. Instead, you will have to carefully consider the notes and letters you find. They will provide vital clues. Skipping past them may result in you freezing to death because you couldn’t find the key to the garage because you couldn’t be bothered to read a note. Kona is very hands off, which makes some puzzles challenging but increases the immersion.

As you explore you will uncover more about the strange happenings with strange ice deposits and even stranger visions. It is an interesting mechanic that points to a supernatural cause to this town’s troubles. Although we were only able to try a small part of the game, we are very interested to know how this device develops the story.

Kona is narrated in the third person in a manner that resembles a vintage detective novel. Occasionally it’s a little contrived, but it is hard to say whether that is intended or an issue with translation. It grows on you, however, and soon you find yourself clicking around the environment to hear Carl’s musings.

Kona screenshot Frozen Character
I really need to get out of here…

It seems as though the only thing still alive around Atamipek Lake are wolves. They are deadly, and a little creepy in their own way, but definitely not responsible for whatever is going on. This only intensifies the suspense. What is scarier than wolves and why can I only track it with my Polaroid?

Final Thoughts

There are a few things I would like to see improved in the final version. First, the inventory system is very simple and offers no good explanations for any of the items you collect. Also, it’s unnecessarily difficult, beyond Carls basic supplies such as his map and flashlight, to access items. There is no way to quickly select usable items such as weapons. The loading times between areas are also quite annoying, but perhaps I have just been spoiled by sandbox games from larger studios.

All that being said, Kona is fascinating. Mixing survival mechanics with mystery refreshes a genre that has been overrun with generic post-apocalyptic entries. With only a few minutes of play, I was unnerved, yet deeply curious about where this story was going. It’s like a classic noir detective thriller that makes you want to know more.

Kona is currently available in early release on Steam and GOG and is scheduled to be released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One in March 2017.  It should also be noted that Parabole says that Kona is the first of a four-part mystery, so there may only be more questions in March.

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