Reviews - Updated on April 14, 2022

We are used to the fact that games about survival and search for resources are like two drops. Therefore, something more noticeable against the general background immediately attracts special attention. In this sense, everything is in order with Kona: it is an interesting cocktail of The Long Dark, Firewatch and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and in spirit and atmosphere, what is happening is somewhat reminiscent of the movie (and TV series) Fargo and Twin Peaks.

The game is actually built on the principle of an open world – you can move freely, as and anywhere.

Museum of Ice Figures

The events unfold in 1970 in northern Canada, where private detective Carl Fobert arrives in one of the snowy provincial cities (or rather, in a village) – he was hired by a local rich man, the owner of a mine and a hunting estate, William Hamilton, to investigate a series of acts of vandalism, committed with the property of the entrepreneur.

Upon arrival at the meeting place, Karl finds the corpse of his customer and soon finds out from various notes and clippings from the local press that the locals did not like Hamilton, considered him a swindler, and shortly before his death, he himself tried to contact representatives of the special services in order to expose “enemies democracy.”

At the same time, almost all the inhabitants disappeared somewhere or turned into ice statues – if you touch them, Karl begins to see ghosts and strange scenes repeating the events of the recent past. It is not necessary to reconstruct them in the correct sequence, as was the case in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but you need to remember what the ghosts did – this will help when solving puzzles and finding important items for passing.

Also, from the notes and diaries found, you can learn about local legends associated with wolves, and about the fact that some residents were tormented by nightmares. And from time to time we stumble upon some strange, unnaturally blue blocks of ice. As a result, a purely production detective quickly turns into a mystical thriller.

Winter detective

Investigating these mysterious events, our detective most of the time moves by car or snowmobile from one empty house to another, studies them, finds new records, photographs evidence. And periodically solves simple puzzles in order, for example, to start the generator and raise the car in the garage or pick up the code for the safe, focusing on the clues left within arm’s length. A couple of times there are more serious puzzles, but in general this is more of an atmospheric “walking simulator” than a quest.

Inventory is limited, but items can also be stored in the trunk of a car or snowmobile.

There will be a lot of walking – some places cannot be reached, so we run, panting, through the snow through an impenetrable blizzard and try not to get into the eyes of the wolves. We run because Karl can freeze in the cold. And having reached the nearest house, we heat the stove there with the help of firewood and matches. In other places, let’s say in a couple of caves that we have to visit according to the plot, we make fires – such foci are concurrently also save points.

In addition to body temperature, our hero has other seemingly important indicators – the level of health and stress. The latter affects the accuracy when shooting (as we progress, we will find a revolver and a rifle and meet wolves a couple of times), as well as running speed. Health is maintained and restored by first-aid kits and painkillers, and we relieve stress by lighting a cigarette or drinking something. And smoking at the same time reduces health.

Accordingly, throughout the game, Carl collects various resources, ammunition and supplies. Some items, such as bolts, a hammer, crowbar, a can of gasoline, a magnet, are needed to solve various tasks – build a makeshift bridge, fix a snowmobile, get a key from an ice hole, and so on.

On the snow trails of “Fargo”

However, elements of survival are introduced into Kona “for show”. Supplies are always more than enough, although some of them are practically not used. The batteries in the flashlight do not run out, wolves rarely attack, they die with one shot, and in fact the only serious mess that can send Karl to the forefathers ahead of time happens at the very end – first-aid kits will be needed mainly only there.

It will not work to melt these figures by simply lighting a fire nearby.

As a result, in order to die or freeze, you need to try very hard – if, say, you poke your head into an ice cave without a warm jacket, which you can exchange for self-brewed moonshine from some old man with a gun (this is practically the only living soul encountered in the game).

The authors apparently used survival elements to draw additional attention to the project, trying to give it a more relevant look, but in fact this game is not about survival, but about history and atmosphere. The investigation conducted by Karl Fobert is addictive – here it is interesting even just to read the hero’s diary, comparing the facts and records found, building versions and guessing what’s what.

In addition, the melancholy snowy mood of Fargo is clearly felt here. On the one hand, there are murders, crime and mysticism, on the other hand, some irony and quiet madness that embraces people locked up in a provincial northern town, in this prison of boredom and eternal snowstorms. William Hamilton, as I said, was looking for “enemies of democracy”, and a local mechanic, as follows from an inspection of his house, was obsessed with aliens and even built a flying saucer in his garage. It is also very interesting to learn such details about the inhabitants of the empty houses.

And all this is complemented by a good presentation of the story, atmospheric music that sounds from the radio, well-aimed and sometimes ironic thoughts of the protagonist and authentic comments of an invisible narrator.

In this wilderness, and not such a dream …

***

Kona is a great example of how you can turn an ordinary survival game into a story game with mysticism, riddles and a rich atmosphere. True, the actual survival-elements turned out to be sewn to all this with white threads.

Pluses: a mysterious mystical story; exciting research; interesting puzzles; nice graphics.
Cons: elements of survival are not brought to mind.

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