02/07/2018 at 12:29       Chris OToole       0 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - PSVR, virtual reality, PS4, Puzzle, First Person

Review by Rich Boulton.


Any Playstation VR owner will know that you need to be careful in selecting titles to buy for the platform. The promise of VR has inevitably led to a number of low effort, or at least low achievement, titles that will be a sure fire waste of your cash. So what to make of the new VR update for Kona, a low key title from Canadian developer Parabole, originally released to the console in tired old 2D in March?

The game itself first though, which is described as an ‘interactive tale’. You’ll play as a detective brought to a remote, snowy, French Canadian village in the 1970s by a wealthy client. It’s difficult to say more without going into spoilers, but everything goes predictably pear shaped and leaves you alone in a harsh environment with little clue about what has occurred here and no resources to speak of that could help you leave.

Kona’s structure is intriguing. If you see clips or screenshots you’ll identify it quickly as something near to a walking sim. However it does veer closer toward the mechanical than that label would ordinarily imply. You are rapidly abandoned in the snow, needing to find warmth and shelter, and items to get your truck back on the road. After a small initial area to explore, you find yourself free to drive your truck around the thinly spread village, stopping at houses, as well as other buildings and points of interest. Each one is a relatively self-contained set of detail to uncover and light puzzles which will allow you to slowly piece together the ongoing mystery.

Along the way you will need to keep an eye on your warmth, as well as a handful of resources to keep you safe and continue your item hunting. The mechanics are not overly intrusive, but they are successful in drawing you further into the desperate situation of your detective. The result is a pleasant and engaging mix of interactive story and ‘gameplay’, making the most of that interaction in support of the narrative being told.

Of course that is key to the whole piece - a weak narrative could see the entire enterprise fail. The good news is that while this is no Firewatch, Gone Home, or Edith Finch, it’s only a step or two down from those, and is successful enough to warrant the time and attention it asks of you. The story itself is in the end relatively simple, though does lend itself pleasingly to some basic thematic scrutiny, touching on notes of guilt, responsibility, and grief. Most interestingly, the tone is somehow varied yet consistent. While the game engages with these themes unironically, the ever present third-person narrator is often tongue in cheek, and the residents whose lives and secrets you uncover, along with the nature of the central mystery, border on the surreal. The balance may not be one universally enjoyable, but it is out of the ordinary within gaming, and well managed enough to be compelling, certainly to this reviewer. Given the particular choice of location and period setting, it feels as though the developers are tapping into a specific local vein of storytelling, like certain types of Russian, French, or Spanish literature.

The VR implementation is perhaps slightly patchy. Though Move controllers are supported allowing free use of each hand separately, this is the less intuitive control method. Buttons used for movement on the waggle-sticks do not make nearly as much sense as the equivalent setup in Skyrim, for example. Use of the Dualshock is recommended here, actually increasing immersion thanks to the way it fades comfortably into the background, allowing the player to focus completely on the environment and discovering interactable-items. Free movement is available and is mostly comfortable, though occasional framerate drops can make nausea a more likely outcome. Holding on to degree based turning at least is a good idea, with little disadvantages in this low-action setting. 

You could simply choose to play without VR, and the highlights of the game will still be present of course. However this is another example of the immersion of the medium adding definite value to the player experience. In the end then, Kona is an interesting experience and worth checking out especially for PSVR owners as something unique.

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Better late than never, eh Ror?
Khanivor - In response to: Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review - 247day(s) ago.
Enjoyed this, cheers!
evilashchris - In response to: Reflecting on the Life of a Tomb Raider - 332day(s) ago.
Looks who's back. Shady's back.
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Micro Machines was my favourite!
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i agree chris, the Aliens table makes the others look bad.. because its so goood!! but they arent that bad.. haha! ...
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