ReviewsReview: Kona

Review: Kona

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2022 is going to see many released titles receiving their “Next Gen” updates! This is a wonderful thing, as anyone who has made the leap will finally reap the rewards. The latest game to receive this treatment is Kona. A previously listed Game Pass title, I had the pleasure of looking at it in 2020. Roll on nearly 2 years and let’s see what’s changed!

Developed by Parabole and published by Ravenscourt, this is a walking simulator with detective and survival elements. It combines ideas from Blacksad and Alan Wake, with elements from Firewatch and The Long Dark. You’ll experience puzzles and problem solving alongside survival mechanics and an immersive open world.

Kona offers an open world with a linear storyline. 

The world of Kona is a cold and mysterious place that is beautifully representative of the Canadian wilderness. It uses everyday survival mechanics of health, temperature, and stress, and this juxtaposes the supernatural moments in the plot. You must explore the surrounding environment while picking up clues to assist your investigation. Furthermore, the action is brilliantly supported by a warm and distinctive narrative that describes each scene as it unfolds.

Kona takes place in the 70s in a snowy town called Nord du Quebec. This quaint place was once a thriving location, but recently things have taken a turn for the worse. You control a private investigator known as Carl Faubert. He arrives in a deserted Nord du Quebec with no idea of what’s happened and an eerie suspicion of sinister activities.

The gameplay revolves around Carl’s investigations and your ability to find clues, solve puzzles, and manage the survival mechanics. It beautifully blends detective and survival skills with a free-flowing point and click adventure. To this end, it will appeal to fans of many genres.

Where is everyone?

Don’t venture too far. 

The beauty of Kona is the freedom to explore as you wish. Yet, the central plot demands certain events happen before you can progress. This was wonderful, as you could venture into the wilderness without losing focus on the story. 

If you wished to take in the Canadian landscape, you can use your flashlight to explore the snowy world. However, you must be aware of your stats and the wolves that vie for your blood. The cold can be tackled with fires or entering buildings. Whereas wolves can be shot or distracted by meat. Furthermore, stress is debilitating and accidents, upsetting moments, or tough situations make things worse. Therefore, calming your nerves is essential, and beer and cigarettes are the cure.

Everything was perfectly balanced, and no element felt overwhelming or out of place. Subsequently, the intricacies between realism and fantasy were enjoyable. Consequently, it lacked the expected cliched moments and the acting never ventured into the realms of absurdity. 

Are there any clues hidden here?

Kona is much improved on the Series X

One of my original complaints was the buffering issues, as the game would take between 3 and 20 seconds to load the environment. Unsurprisingly, this was unacceptable and made the original unbearable. Fortunately, however, this problem has been rectified, and this makes it much improved and more immersive. Therefore, it was easier for me to overlook its other shortcomings.

Kona is an older game and its graphics are of distinctly “Last Gen” quality. Yes, they have received a modern polish, but they are dated, nonetheless. This was evident in the textures of the landscapes and buildings. Sadly, it was distracting and I would have hoped for a better finish. 

The graphics may not be perfect, but the audio is! The blend of music, silence, sound effects, and narration create an atmospheric title. There are few games that deliver audio to this standard. Subsequently, this makes Kona’s shortcomings that bit more disappointing. If the other layers were as good as the audio, this would have been a phenomenal title. 

Where are you going?

Easy to control. 

It’s easy to grasp the fundamentals thanks to the clean UI and the first-person perspective. Set out brilliantly for use with a controller, so you won’t struggle to master the commands. Therefore, it was easy to explore the world and use every survival tool at your disposal. Thanks to the improved loading times, the game feels smoother and more responsive. 

Though the finale is fantastic, and the build-up to the end game well thought out, there are no alternative endings. Sadly, this hinders both the replay value and its longevity. Moreover, this was impacted further still because of the linear storyline. Unfortunately, there are limited reasons to return, unless you are a completionist. 

Kona: Jack of all trades, master of none! 

Blending genres and elements isn’t a bad thing unless it’s detrimental to your identity. Kona doesn’t know what it wants to be, and this undermines the final product. It has so many great moments and is worthy of your time. However, it could have been much better if it focused on one style. I enjoyed it and I recommend you to buy it here! The “Next Gen” update has improved the visuals, and it will appeal to fans of many genres. 

SUMMARY

Kona is a mysterious point and click adventure set in the Canadian wilderness. You must explore a deserted town while searching for clues and surviving the conditions. Sadly, none of the obstacles are challenging and only the story and great narration will keep you playing.

+ The "Next Gen" update improves the buffering issues.
+ Atmospheric audio.
+ Excellent narration.
+ A wonderful representation of the Canadian wilderness.
- Dated graphics.
- The problems won't test you.
- Limited replay value.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Mac, Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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