While it may seem like a bit of a cop out, getting VR support for a game that has already seen a release is no bad thing – especially when it has been implemented as well as in KONA VR. I have always been intrigued by the game, but I was yet to set foot into the 70s world of detective Carl Faubert and very much looked forward to experiencing it for the first time in VR.
While KONA is a mystery adventure, it’s more akin to a walking sim, which makes it a perfect fit for PSVR – imagine if Everyone has Gone to the Rapture got a VR edition…
The cold confines of Northern Quebec means you need to fight against the elements, lighting fires to keep yourself warm and save your progress. These cold temperatures restrict you from exploring too far from safety without the necessary tools and resources to make a fire, but this is a short-lived shackle.
Soon I found a warm coat and plenty of fuel to make a fire whenever I came across a stove or campsite. While it’s a neat mechanic it’s underused and by the end of the game I had enough fuel to burn the whole place to the ground. The narrator also warned me of needing to eat – but at least in the VR version – it never caused me any concern; I finished the game without ever needing to eat or use a medical kit.
The story, which like many walking sims, is pretty darn intriguing – think Firewatch – and is told via a narrator who offers up clues as to what you need to do next. Annoyingly, subtitles get in the way at the bottom of the screen. Along with a desolate environment, the narration creates an awesome unnerving feeling that something is about to jump out and shout boo! While I can’t say that never happens, the place is practically deserted, which not only intensifies the eeriness, but it also makes the world rather sterile.
Homes have been evacuated in a hurry and many clues and items are left lying around in the open, which makes the whole puzzling element rather too straightforward. Sure there are a few puzzles to solve, but their solution rarely needed much thought. Instead, a drawer that could be opened or an object I could pick up didn’t reveal itself the first time I looted an area – you need to pause momentarily for useful items to be highlighted.
The biggest hurdle in the game is working out where you must travel to next, which is done via some rather squiffy driving controls. It’s also made all the more difficult because the text on the map and within the case notes are so hard to read. Several clues, letters and news clippings have the option of an overlay that reveals clear easy to read text; it’s frustrating the same mechanic wasn’t extended to the map and journal.
With multiple story threads to discover (and solve) at your leisure, the main story quest will see you through to completion in around 4.5 hours. As you unravel the game, scenes jump from one to another and as I tried to piece together the series of clues to try and make sense of what is happening, I got the strangest impression that overall the game plays more like a huge escape room.
KONA VR may dable into other gaming genres but the game firmly hangs its fur coat on the walking sim genre’s peg, which is certainly no bad thing. It’s immersive and looks great, but it’s a shame that while the narrative is rich in content, the world is absent of life, something that many titles in the genre also suffer from.
While KONA has received a VR patch, it plays like it was built for VR – I just love the immersion that these kinds of games offer – a wonderful world to explore and investigate. I enjoy walking sims, but in VR I think I may love them that much more.