By Thom Compton 16.04.2017
Anyone that lives where it snows will know that there's something hauntingly beautiful about it. Snow lights up the streets at night, permeating a sense of life where there is only death. Trees rot, grass dies, and carcasses freeze, and the snow makes sure, no matter what time of day it is, you can witness it all with the best lighting Mother Nature could give. Kona offers a snowy horror that creeps up on you. Unfortunately, it doesn't manage to do much else.
Kona tells the story of Carl, investigating the small town of Atamipek Lake. The game mixes many elements together, though nothing that hasn't been seen before. There's point and click components, as well as FPS horror and survival components. What stands out is the world players are dropped in, and how it's barely hanging on. That's not meant as a positive assertion of how the story unfolds, but the technical issues the game suffers from.
The story is definitely intriguing, and begins with a bit of a scuffle between two cars. Kona allows for first-person driving, and depending on how good players are at that, they may find that the best way to get around. For the rest, walking around the town is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with the commute.
Walking around, however, comes at a cost. It's really cold in Atampiek Lake, and Carl will need to be kept warm. The ever present narrator will make players aware of this, as well as other facets of the story as progress is made. Fires will need to be frequently created, which are a blessing in disguise. They also act as save points, and once a fire is made, it can be returned to to save again.
There's malice in the air, and there are things that want Carl dead. Fortunately, the game gives a few options when it comes to dealing with foes. Everything from shoot it to run away. Okay, so the options aren't endless, but they are still a decent enough range that one can be sure to be able to improvise should they need to.
In all truth, Kona should be a fantastic game. The use of a narrator to tell the story, the beautifully realised Northern Canadian town, and the decision to give players a choice in how they handle various components of the game all spell success. Unfortunately, it is just short of a technical mess.
First off, players will need to interact with various objects quite often, and they will need to be practically on top of these a lot of the time, looking at the icon in order to interact with them properly. There are times when you will need to stand against a door, look down at the handle, click it to open it, and then step away just to leave a room. It's frustrating, to say the least.
While not a technical issue per se, there are certain things in the environment that when interacted with, will display text on a wall. This means players will need to quickly look around the room for text, as it's not always within their line of sight. Even when you do get to read articles, they have a nasty tendency to include grammar errors. This are all relatively minor grievances compared to the biggest issue Kona suffers from.
Atamipek Lake is presented as sort of an open world. While the game generally steers players where it wants them to go via visual cues, the town can really be explored however one likes. As various areas are traversed, you will get cues when you are in a new location, sort of like how Skyrim does it. However, as you traverse the town, you may notice that suddenly control of Carl is lost. This isn't the controller timing out, or some sort of glitch. This is the game actively loading the next location. There's a loading circle on the screen and everything.
Now, this wouldn't be a huge deal if it didn't happen all the time. In the span of an hour, it can easily happen four or five times. It's hard to believe so much work was put into this world, and even on a powerhouse like the PS4, the game needs to stop and load so frequently. In fact, despite the graphical beauty presented in Kona, it's almost inexcusable.
Kona has a lot of potential, and with it being the first part of a series of games, hopefully its missteps won't squander its future potential. There's so much beauty dripping from every corner of this game that everything feels genuinely special. Kona only falls because of its technical issues, but it falls hard. With a bit of refinement, this could be a modern classic. Right now, though, it's a lot of potential that never quite cuts it.