Setting the Tone
KONA’s mix of mystery and survival helps to give the player an interesting and memorable experience. In a game where survival is key you must collect various items, solve puzzles and clues, and brave the elements and wildlife in the small quiet town of Atamipek. The start of the game puts you behind the wheel of an old pick up truck on the way to meet your employer Hamilton. You play the role of Carl Faubert, a detective who always gets the job done. This is told to you by the soothing voice from above that follows and guides you through your adventure.
KONA takes place in 1970s Northern Canada and does a great job at making you feel as though you are really there. The attention to detail in this game is remarkable, considering this game started out as a Kickstarter project a few years back. It is great to see how much time and effort the studio put into making this experience feel real; it was all the little things that really helped draw me into this world.
The tone of the game is eerie and unsettling — but by no means uninviting — and is set by the use of great music and a well-spoken narrator. The music in KONA made me feel on edge for a duration of the game, which to me was something I haven’t felt from playing a video game in awhile. It made me want to keep moving through the game, but with the notion to always look over my shoulder to make sure nothing could sneak up or jump out at me. I was never fully scared, just anxious, which made me see KONA as more of a suspense game rather than a horror game.
The narrator helped to ease my nerves and calm me down when I started to feel uneasy. The way the narrator describes the setting of the game, explains lore of the town, and details what is going on around you helped to drive the game forward; It almost felt as though I was playing through a mystery novel, which was a very cool aspect of KONA. The more I played, the more I felt that I was in a sort of Fargo, Silent Hill, Stranger Than Fiction movie/game crossover.
Collect to Survive
The semi-open world of Atampipek is hit by a strange and unexpected snow storm in which you are stranded in and must survive by navigating through the town and staying warm. You find this out in the first few minutes of the game as the screen starts to form frost on it and the narrator tells you that Carl is searching for a way old of the cold. Luckily you will come across houses or camp sites where you can get a quick fire going to warm Carl up. This is where collecting items comes into play. To start a fire you must have some matches, a fire starter, and a log, which you can find almost endless amounts of throughout the town. One thing I noticed is that once I had a fire started I didn’t need to make a new one in that location, and that helped me to save materials.
It’s not just about collecting fire starting items, though; you can also collect weapons, food to heal yourself, keys, and different tools or equipment to make things easier for you as the game progresses.
I am the type of person who scours every corner of a game to find all the items, so KONA was fun for me because most of the game you spend looking for the next item or key used to solve a puzzle. Sometimes I would have already found an item that I needed for the next puzzle before I even got to it, keeping me from having to go back and look over an area again.
It’s Cold in Quebec
Although I have really enjoyed playing KONA, it still has its flaws that are a little hard to ignore. I played through KONA on my Nintendo Switch mostly in docked mode because it is a port from PC and I felt that the game should be played on a big screen. One thing that bothered me about KONA was when I would be running or driving through the world the game would stop and take time to load. This happened more often than not, and even though the in-game load times weren’t too long, they still took away from my experience.
Aside from the occasional narration, the game doesn’t have much direction. This isn’t bad for a semi-open world survival game, but I found myself running around in circles trying to figure out what I had to do next. The other thing I noticed was that not all of my gear or equipment worked correctly. This became frustrating when I was not only lost and stuck on where to go, but was faced with a pack of hungry wolves that I couldn’t fight off because my revolver wouldn’t fire. In handheld mode, it felt like the frame rate of the game dropped a decent amount, and the loading times felt even longer than when docked. Thankfully, the story had enough to keep me wanting to play and finish the game.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for KONA was provided by Tinsley PR for Deep Silver.