Northern Quebec, 1970. War veteran turned private eye Carl Faubert is called to a small rural town to investigate a bout of vandalism. As he approaches the town’s outskirts, he is involved in an accident and later awakens to find that not only has the other vehicle fled the scene, but that heavy snow has settled across the wilderness and the town now appears deserted. Carl quickly comes to realise that something far more sinister is afoot than a simple case of vandalism. Something dark. Something primal. Something … something.
Following in the vein of Firewatch (2016) and steeped in narrative influences from the likes of Twin Peaks and Fargo, Kona is a detective-survival offering from Canadian Studio Parabole.
Driven by a sardonic voiceover that represents Carl’s thoughts, the mystery unfolds precisely as intended but without restricting the player’s sense of free will and control. The decisions feel open, but you will ultimately arrive where you need to be, just as you need to be there. Even on a second playthrough, plans to deviate are unconsciously abandoned as you discover that you didn’t actually do anything different, despite your best intentions.
The survival aspects are also well crafted. Since the game takes place over a single day, there is no real need to monitor food or water. You will not need to eat 300 wheels of cheese every 24 minutes to stay alive. Rather, the cold is your enemy, and mapping out your path through the wilderness will require sufficient rest at the campfires and lodgings that dot the map. It is perhaps only Carl’s superhuman ability to carry so much firewood that breaks the otherwise realistic depiction of surviving a blizzard.
Whilst the underlying mystery is captivating and should certainly be experienced at the cost of the 4 or 5 hours of playtime, the one noticeable downside is a lack of originality in the puzzling. Reach a high item. Find a safe code. For a detective, Carl is not tested. Ultimately though, the case Carl is trying to solve will grab your attention, and the simplicity of the puzzling mechanics can easily be forgiven in favour of uncovering the real secrets of Atamipek Lake.
If you only play one game this year, play Cyberpunk 2077. Supposing that like me you’ll play quite a few however, carve out some time for Kona. You’ll come away equal parts intrigued and enchanted. You’ll also think twice about that long-planned trip to Canada.
– Travis Geldard, AV Technical Manager
Check out Kona on Steam.