FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Kona – “Unlike Any Other Walking Simulator”


I love a good walk. I walk here and sometimes there. To the shops or the matinee, I like to do a good walk. This is perhaps why I was chosen to take a look a Kona.

“Hey Mister Mason, you like a good walking simulator?” I was asked. “Sure” said I, and before long, I was playing Kona. I have played many so called ‘walking sims’ and rather enjoy exploration with a good story attached, but I’ve actually had my eye on this Early Access title for some time.

Kona follows the story of Carl, a man who appears to be a private detective (or perhaps former) who has arranged to meet a rich industrialist in the rural town in a Canadian called Kona, for reasons unknown. As I ascended uphill toward the town, the weather turned sour rather quickly and by the time I’d arrived I was in near white-out. After a hefty drive, I parked up at the general store and found absolutely zero rich industrialists or anyone of any kind. So I put my detective cap on and started snooping.


Recently I had played another first-person detective game called Virginia, which took a slightly different view on being a detective. However, it’s impossible to compare these two games, but one thing is for certain, Kona is a deeper experience but is also totally different to Virignia, and to be honest to any other walking simulator out there.

Unlike the likes of Firewatch and The Old City, Kona mixes survival alongside exploration and storytelling elements. In fact, those who have played The Long Dark will have more in common with those who have played Dear Esther. The game’s story isn’t immediately clear and as the game isn’t yet complete. the details of the full story aren’t immediately apparent, but that is a good thing – I would rather not know the everything until the official release.

In terms of gameplay, Kona will have you exploring, searching for clues and facing puzzles, all while managing Carl’s temperature, health, stress levels and inventory weight. So far during the game I’ve explored a number of the town’s buildings, although all are not accessible at this time. I’ve also stumbled upon wolves while following tracks through the woods, defended myself with an axe and later discovered I could use meat to make them run away. Weapons do also pop up in the game, I picked up a bit of ammo (but think I missed the gun!) and toward the end of my play time I had attained a flare gun.


Kona’s graphics are gorgeous. They capture the small town aesthetic perfectly and the white-out weather effects really add to the atmosphere and the sense of loneliness in the town. Even on the lowest settings the graphics and weather effects look great. Kona reminds me of the original Silent Hill game, an unusual comparison to make you might think, but while Kona doesn’t have the dark dread of the Konami classic, the town of Kona has a familiar feeling of loneliness and desertion. Each of the townsfolk have their own stories which are revealed by reading diary entries and discovering letters and clues in their houses. This really gives the town a feeling of being both inhabited and deserted at the same time.

The music is used to great effect, blending ambient and folk style music and really adds to the atmosphere and feeling of the mystery and much like Virginia recently, it evokes feelings of small town mystery shows. The game is narrated by Forrest Rainier and he is fantastic: his charming and gruff voice really makes the player feel both within the world and also a consumer of it; other story driven first person games can sometimes make you feel like an outsider looking into the world. I’ve noticed only minor glitches during playthrough, which is fantastic for an Early Access game and Kona looks amazingly polished.


For once, it’s really nice to play a survival game which has a set story. I love survival games and I really don’t mind open ended gameplay, however the lack of an end game means they only last as long as your patience does. Kona with its story will keep you surviving to see the entire story play out. We don’t know at this point how long the final game will be and if it’ll hold your interest after the story ends, but I don’t think that matters. Survival games have enough open ended games on the market: over the past few years I’ve played The Forest and Empyrion, both open ended and both I’ve dipped in and out of. As much as I like them, they can lack focus, unlike Kona.

I’d recommend Kona to anyone who enjoys either story driven first-person adventures or people who enjoy survival games. Kona is an example of both genres but manages to feel different and fresh. Kona is already a beautiful game in many ways and even though I’ve only played the early version, I am certain there are things I’ve missed and overlooked. I really can’t wait to play the finished version. At this stage I cannot say if it will be the kind of game you continue to play after the story finishes but so far it manages to be mysterious enough to keep you playing and is what I would class as the video game equivalent of a page turner.

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