Sunday, March 11

Review: Kona [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One of the genres I’ve been thrilled to see coming back into classic form of late is the Adventure game. Though it had slumbered a bit in terms of relevance indies who have been more willing to take chances with it have managed to thrive. Of course, while some of these games have followed the more classic PC adventure template, lacing the gameplay with a sense of humor and unusual characters, there are others that have ventured into less familiar territory. KONA is one such title, the result of a curious blending of adventure and survival games topped with a mystery… and a bit of mysticism.


You’ll play the part of a detective who has been summoned to a remote part of Canada by a wealthy man. With the region hit by a terrible winter storm things go off the rails pretty quickly and you’ll find yourself a bit stranded, disoriented, and forced to find materials to help you stay alive. Once you get your bearings you’ll discover things in the area have gone horribly wrong, the population of this remove area pretty well all dead through means both traditional and mysterious. Using only the clues you find along the way, your own intuition, and a lot of back and forth exploring you’ll slowly put the pieces together to discover the secrets behind what has happened.

If you’re not ready to meticulously search every location you visit, opening every cabinet and scanning around the area with a fine-toothed comb I’ll warn you that you’re not likely to enjoy it much. In the tradition of most classic adventures you’ll need to be thorough and the solutions to some of your problems will require leaving an area to find the means you need to progress before returning to move on. Thankfully, for the most part, the game takes it easy on you with any object you can interact with marked on-screen as you explore. You just need to get close by and you’ll then get a prompt for a designated action, whether inspecting, picking it up, or manipulating it in some way. Overall there’s not a set course to follow and thankfully some key items you’ll need in specific situations are present in a variety of places on the map. In addition as you find clues you’re often given leads on where you need to go next, consulting your truty map to find the way and reviewing the details in your journal if need be.


Probably the most aggravating thing about the game is simply the load times, which are pretty lengthy. They also tend to be a bit jarring as when you transition between areas the game will suddenly lock up for a little while as the assets for the next area load. Considering the game’s pacing, and that these events typically happen at the edges of areas, there’s no specific penalty you take on when these happen, they’re just a bit time consuming and suck the excitement out of the game at times. While the survival aspects of the game can, on occasion, get irritating for the most part the game has an abundance of key supplies strewn about as long as you’re willing to search for them. In particular the elements to start a fire are crucial as the fire will help you warm back up (to prevent you from eventually dying) as well as provide the means to save the game.

I’ve deliberately been vague about the game’s story as some of what happens is much more interesting and mysterious the less you know about it. I appreciate the lore and the way revelations about what has happened reveal themselves to you, though at times it can also be disorienting as you try to understand what is going on. Though the ultimate finale to the game might not be as satisfying as I would have hoped KONA has a story to tell and uses a unique means to do so, making it a terrific addition to the diverse Switch indie library.



Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A mystery with elements that slowly unfold in interesting ways
  • Exploration is a key to survival
  • The overall design of the game seems to be pretty resilient and you aren’t locked into a set path for success so you’re able to explore things in any way and order you like

Cons:
  • The load times can really suck the life out of things as you wait for the next area to get rolling
  • For the limited number of action sequences in the game the controls are a bit on the noodly side
  • If you’re not prepared for a somewhat slow and plodding overall pace the game will likely be aggravating