Xbox One, PS4, PC, ,
March 17, 2017
Emerging out of Steam Early Access in mid March, Kona is an exploratory narrative game that will have you battling the elements as well as your own wits to solve a mysterious series of events. Played from the first-person perspective, Kona will have you explore a small town, scavenge for supplies, and sleuth around, looking for answers to the many questions that your surroundings ask. Whilst there is an interesting story to be found within Kona, the journey to uncover that story is riddled with inventory management, heat management, and slow walks whilst you wait for your character to regain the ability to run.
The game takes place in Northern Canada during the 1970’s. You play the role of a detective who is sent to investigate a simple act of vandalism, although when you reach your destination you find yourself intertwined in the middle of a much bigger story.
The story of Kona is good, but the way the game handles story telling is where it really stands out from the crowd. After arriving to this small town, you discover a lot of questions that demand answers. Who was the guy that ran your car off the road? Why is the area going through a mysterious cold period? Why does it appear like the entire town has fled? And who has killed the proprietor of the general store?
What is fantastic about Kona is that the game won’t hold your hand or tell you what to do. It provides all the information you need within its setting, and your character will scribble down all of the important details within his journal. At no point are you told “go here and do this”, instead you look at all the details you have and try to figure out what the next best step is to make. As you progress deeper into the game you will need to explore every inch of the area, find more details, and immerse yourself deeper within the mystery.
“…the minimal mechanics that Kona does offer just weren’t fun or engaging, they were tedious.”
The problem I found with Kona is the way the game wanted you to interact with its mechanics. I don’t mind games that slow things down and give you minimal interactions as long as there is an engaging enough narrative to push me through. But the minimal mechanics that Kona does offer just weren’t fun or engaging, they were tedious.
Cold management and inventory management, for instance, slowed the game down to a crawl, and really only served the purpose of prolonging the game experience.
It’s not fun to have your character need to turn around and go back to a fire because they are too cold. It’s not fun to have your inventory fill up and have to go back to your car to dump supplies, only to discover you need one of the supplies to progress, so you once again have to go back to your car to get it.
What was particularly frustrating about Kona is when you reach the end and discover that so many of the items you held on your person or within your vehicle actually weren’t needed at all. The game actively punishes you for being a good detective because the more you sleuth, the more stuff you find, and the more junk you end up accumulating. There were moments within the game where I found an item early on, hung onto it for a while, finally found a place that it was required, but low and behold, another one of those items was right there anyway. Then the opposite effect occurred, where I needed an item to progress but only 1 of them existed within the world, so I had to hunt around the entire game area to find it hidden on the top of a hard to access shelf.
- An engaging narrative
- The game doesn't spell things out for you, you play like a real detective
- Not much on offer outside of a narrative and mystery
- Resource management / inventory management
- That damn cold weather system
Kona is one of those games that looks to tell a story first and foremost, and that story is where the game wants to get its hooks in you. If a narrative isn’t enough on its own to carry you through a game, then Kona isn’t the experience for you.