Kona Xbox One Review

March 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Xbox One, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Game: Kona  Publisher: Parabole, Ravenscourt  Developer: Parabole  Genre: Puzzle, Horror 

Players:Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: PS4, Switch 

Related Sites: Parabole, Kona


Set in snowy 1970’s Quebec, Canada, Kona sees Private Detective Carl Faubert unravelling the mystery of a small deserted ghost town. Kona has been compared to a walking simulator, but personally I believe there is too much interactivity for the game to be defined as a true walking simulator. Those games have the most minimal of interaction, if any, but here you are collecting items, notes, diaries etc and interacting with the environment for the majority of the game. There’s even some shooting to be had, something you definitely won’t find in a walking simulator.

Events unfold to the tune of witty, tongue-in-cheek third-person narration as Carl explores resident’s abandoned houses and discovers the secrets within. Kona can be described as a horror puzzle game (or rather a fetch quest game) with Carl collecting items, then using said items in other locations to progress. Kona is a bit of a collectathon as Carl can also pick up random items that you might think would be used for crafting, but you don’t actually do a lot of that at all; you can’t combine items yourself, you can only do so at designated areas. It starts to feel as though Carl is collecting items for the sake of it, and that items were placed in the game to pad it out. It really starts to feel excessive, especially when you can collect so much that you need to use the extra storage space in your car or snowmobile. Carl can collect screws and hammers, used for building simple bridges, ammo for his weapons, and health items, such as first aid kits and painkillers, but a lot of items feel unnecessary and you might find yourself with a lot of unused items by the time the game ends.

As well as collecting items, Carl can also take photos, but, again, this is yet another mechanic that feels unnecessary. The camera is mostly used to accomplish achievements, such as finding and photographing all of the glowing arrows you’ll find shot about the place, for heat signatures of areas of interest for you to investigate, and for photos as keepsakes in your journal, but I found that I wasn’t taking many photos, and feel it’s not an idea that has been very well incorporated into the gameplay.

Kona

The strange mystery begins when Carl is called in to investigate a death.

As Carl roams around, exploring houses, he’ll come across people who have mysteriously died encased in thick ice. This leads Carl to having visions of that person’s final movements, red glowing footprints indicating trails to follow or places of interest to search which helps Carl to uncover more of the story. Carl can also view interactions between people, them showing as glowing red silhouettes as a scene plays out before him.

Being set in the cold snow, as you play you have to keep an eye on Carl’s vitals. If he starts to get too cold, he’ll freeze to death. To stave off an icy death yourself, you need to find a building with a fireplace or a campsite with a fire you can light to help yourself warm up. However, before you can do this, you have to make sure you have the appropriate items in your inventory to light a fire, such as matches and wooden logs. These items are essential to collect. Carl can also get headaches, which will result in his accuracy being affected, meaning you won’t be able to aim your gun with precision at enemies.

And there are enemies in the game, the main ones being wolves. These mysterious wolves glow blue and emerge from the snow – a quick blast from your gun is enough to put them down. Thankfully, bar a section towards the end of the game, you are never bombarded by hordes of enemies, with gameplay and plot taking centre stage, which helps to keep you immersed in the game. The story and your snow-covered surroundings successfully builds up a sense of isolation and intrigue, and manages to keep you hooked throughout. I found it especially fun having a nosy around the empty houses.

I enjoyed playing Kona overall. The narration gives the game a quirky tone while still managing to capture a feeling of cold emptiness and wonderment, and it’s that fascination with what has happened which keeps you playing. In hindsight, KONA feels like it was intended to be a walking simulator, but changes were made at the last minute to make it more interactive. It feels somewhat incomplete, with areas of the map looking like you’re able to travel there but can’t. Kona was intended to be a trilogy, but there has been little information, with Parabole’s KONA Twitter having been silent since 2018, and their own Twitter last being active in late 2020, though their last tweet does confirm they are still working on the game.

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