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Game Info:

Kona
Developed by: Parabole
Published by: Parabole
Released: March 17, 2017
Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, PS4
Genre: Adventure
Number of players: 1 
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you, Parabole, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

When I started playing Kona, one of the things that struck me right away was how much the game felt like home. Blizzard conditions, deep forests, wolves willing to tear your face off, supernatural creatures stalking the woods, conspiracy theories... the only thing that makes this different from life in northern Idaho is that, in Kona, all of the writing is in French.

In Kona, from Parabole, you step into the shoes of a gumshoe named Carl Faubert. It takes place in a region of northern Quebec, Canada in 1970. A wealthy industrialist has started a mining operation, but it has been plagued by a string of vandalism, so he hires Carl to investigate. Although it is a crisp autumn day when he drives to the area, a blizzard suddenly hits. On top of that, one of the first things Carl discovers is the body of his employer, lying dead on the floor of the general store. You have to guide Carl around the village and the surrounding forest to uncover the secrets of those living there, all the while trying to avoid freezing to death. 

Kona
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent graphics, music and sound effects; compelling story; intriguing game mechanics
Weak Points: Lots of loading times, including frequent, mid-game interruptions; occasional graphical glitches
Moral Warnings: Murder mystery, with minor instances of blood; language issues; references to adultery and revolution against the government; violence against wolves

The game is balanced remarkably well. There are many mysteries to discover as you investigate the journals and papers of the residents – who, for the most part, have all mysteriously vanished. You also will find evidence of supernatural happenings, from bodies frozen in solid ice to strangely aggressive wolves. On top of that, you need to maintain your supplies of fire starters, matches and heavy logs in order to build fires, either within the stoves of the houses, or in specifically designated campsites in the woods. The freezing mechanism is done quite well, too. There are three meters to monitor – Carl's health, his temperature, and his mental state. As the first two go down, the mental state can go down as well. This leads to Carl moving slower, his vision wavering, and his ability to notice things becoming more sporadic. The game has the presence of alcohol and cigarettes, which Carl can use to manipulate his different states. For example, drinking beer will make him feel warmer, but lower his mental acuity at the same time. The game is presented from a first-person perspective, and seeing things through Carl's eyes really adds to the immersion and feel of the game. Getting blinded by blowing snow is a common occurrence, and sometimes the only way to navigate is by the map.

The graphics in the game are wonderful, with blowing snow whipping everywhere. Smoke will blow in the direction of the wind and, with the right settings turned on, the branches and leaves of the trees sway, and shadows dance in the firelight. The sound effects are fantastic as well, with howling winds, branches cracking underfoot, firewood popping, and wolves howling. This is combined with a gentle-voiced narrator, who provides commentary about what Carl is seeing and feeling. There is a lot of reading in the game, but aside from the narrator, there is only one other voice in the game. The catchy music fits the mood well. It is easy to get immersed in the game, and Kona is a wonderful experience in this regard.

Kona
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 75%
Violence - 8.5/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Despite all the strengths in the game, there are a few drawbacks as well. For starters, you can expect lots of long pauses while the game loads the surrounding areas. This can be especially harrowing while you are driving the car around a narrow corner. There is an occasional glitch along the top of the screen, where a menu bar would appear if playing in windowed mode, but this is infrequent. Speaking of the graphic options, when initially starting the game all the features will be turned on. While this can make the game gorgeous, it also can make it unplayable for those with a weaker graphics processor. I actually had to tweak the settings before I could do anything in the game, since it stuttered and froze too long. Also, when throwing steaks to wolves, the beasts will pause unnaturally, as if it takes a while for the computer program to decide how to respond. Basically, Kona has a tendency to lapse into long pauses which disrupts the flow of the game and breaks the immersion factor. Perhaps this is just limited to my Macbook or the integrated Intel graphics processor it uses – those on different systems may have a different experience. The only other thing I will point out is really a minor nitpick – in order to take photographs, you need to hold down the right mouse button, then click with the left. This isn't a problem with the mouse, but when using a one-touch trackpad on a MacBook, this isn't an option. I had to break out my mouse and plug it in whenever I needed to take a photograph.

There are a few moral considerations to the game. Kona is surprisingly bloodless. When wolves do attack, your screen flashes dark when you take damage, and when you kill a wolf, the animal merely falls over, again without any blood. You do come across a few dead bodies and evidence of dead bodies – it is a murder mystery, after all – but again, there is very little blood, and no gore. There are a few language issues, but nothing terribly harsh. D**n is written a few times, and God's name is taken in vain a couple times as well. Being a private detective, Carl has no issues snooping through people's belongings, or even taking items that don't belong to him in order to solve some of the challenges he faces. The biggest issue may be some of the documents you'll come across. Many of the people of the town have secrets, ranging from Communist affiliations and efforts to overthrow the government, to adultery. Some of these may not make sense to younger players and there isn't anything terribly detailed in the documents, but it could lead to some interesting discussions.

Kona is a wonderful experience and a great environment to get lost in. The graphics, the music and the storyline all add up to make an addictive and compelling mystery. While there is plenty to do, there isn't much replay value to it once everything has been discovered and all the achievements have been unlocked. As long as you don't mind being interrupted by frequent pauses with game loading, you will find this game well worth the price. 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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