After coming out on the PlayStation 4 early last year, developer Parabole’s first-person mystery title Kona has received a new PlayStation VR upgrade that allows players to really get up close and personal with the chilling adventure. I’ll be honest, whilst the virtual reality side of the game was mentioned a while back, I’m actually surprised it finally released – it was one of those things that flew under the radar a bit, especially since the game has been out for some time now.
After playing through the game on PlayStation VR though, I’m glad that it saw the light of day. Sure, some sacrifices have been made in the transition, but it doesn’t stop it from being the most interesting way to uncover Kona’s mystery.
Kona puts you in the shoes of Carl Faubert; a detective who has been called out to a somewhat eerie village on Atamipek Lake to investigate the vandalism of a hunting manor. An unexpected blizzard (and a car crash) set him back a bit though, as does the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any living inhabitants around. It’s up to you to uncover what’s going on, all whilst ensuring you don’t freeze to death in the process.
The narrative is the meat and bones of Kona, so I don’t want to say anymore to avoid spoiling anything for players. Just know that there’s a well-written and genuinely intriguing mystery to be solved that’ll keep you hooked in during the game’s roughly seven-hour playtime.
Kona’s gameplay consists of making your way across a snowy locale and finding out the truth behind its grisly going ons. This means investigating different locations, examining crime scenes and uncovering clues, all of which is done by simply looking around and interacting with specific objects. It’s almost like a walking simulator at times, with simple puzzles thrown in here and there for good measure.
A few interesting additions include the use of survival-like mechanics (with the player having to make sure they’re kept warm when investigating the game’s freezing locales) and small combat encounters with wolves. Neither feature is overly fleshed out nor do they ever deter the player too much, but they do give you something extra to keep on top of outside of all of your investigative work.
Thanks to the investigative nature of the gameplay and the genuinely intriguing plot, Kona is actually lot of fun to play. Add to that the fact that you’re doing it in virtual reality and it just makes the whole experience a lot more compelling. The game is perfectly suited for PlayStation VR and it never feels like it’s just tacked on for the sake of it.
Movement can either be controlled by teleporting between fixed spots of the map or through free-movement, so players of different comfort levels with virtual reality will easily get to grips with exploring the game’s decent sized open-world. Driving the car is always controlled with free-movement mind, though there’s a big vignette in place to ensure that gamers will never feel too queasy when making their way around.
The only oddity I really found with the controls was that some actions are automated, meaning you’re just watching a pair of floating hands interacting with the environment rather than doing it yourself. It doesn’t take anything away from the game, but just looked a little odd when you’ve just been controlling those hands using the Move controllers. It’s nit-picking, but noticeable.
Visually, it’s very clear that Kona has taken a bit of a hit when played in virtual reality. It’s not that the game looks awful, but there are certainly a few sketchy textures, blurry effects when looking at things at a distance, and even a few instances of pop-in to be found. When you’re in the interior locations it’s a lot less apparent, but the outdoor locales of the game could certainly do with a bit of work.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t look impressive at times though, because the snowy setting really makes for some great sights – especially with all of the grim weather effects on show. The visual fidelity might not be as sharp when playing in virtual reality, but at least it doesn’t deter from the overall atmosphere.
One thing that’s worth noting is that Kona’s virtual reality upgrade isn’t a free one, with it instead costing gamers £4.99 to purchase. I think this is a fair price, especially since the base game isn’t expensive to begin with, whilst it really adds a whole new way to play the game. Still, it might irritate some gamers, especially since a lot of other titles have been patching in virtual reality features at no extra cost.
Kona was already an enjoyable mystery-adventure in its own right, but the addition of virtual reality really adds to the experience. Getting up close and personal in the snow-filled locale just feels right, whilst being able to really feel like you’re there taking part in the strange investigation just makes everything feel a lot more atmospheric.
The visuals can be a little sketchy at times and the automation of some of your actions do hold it back a bit, though they don’t stop being Kona an easy title to recommend for those who enjoy a genuinely fleshed out virtual reality experience.
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift