Kôna: Day One
Kôna: Day One is a first-person adventure/exploration game that takes place in the snow laden lands of a magical, faraway place known as “Canada.” Day One is the first chapter in the episodic Kôna series, tracking the adventure of Carl Faubert. Carl is set to meet with someone at the local general store, but when he arrives he finds the store ransacked and not a soul to be found. From there you put your detective skills to the test to find the residents of the village and figure what happened in the small Canadian community.
A raging blizzard is your constant companion in Kôna: Day One, creating a sense dread and claustrophobia. Even when you are outdoors in a wide open area, there is an oppressiveness to the experience. It reminds me a great deal of the fog in Silent Hill, and creates a similar mood and feel as you wander the frozen wastes. While the visuals aren’t necessarily the greatest in the world, they are pretty close to perfect for the atmosphere; a little more polish on the aesthetics and a small amount of work on the animation and the game could be stand out stylistically. The music and sound effects work, though both are pretty sparse overall.
While Kôna: Day One’s looks are pretty close to store ready, the gameplay and user interface show why the game is still early access. Interacting with objects can be fiddly, forcing you to stand in very specific spots to collect items. The biggest hiccup so far is the in-game journal that shows you your missions. Right now, every mission is the same and every mission detail is the same. I wandered around for five hours doing lord knows what as check boxes got marked off for actions I took, and even when a new entry appeared, it always said the same thing. I still feel like I managed to stumble through things pretty well just by going to every location on the map, but it all took longer than needed. Your inventory management feels a bit cumbersome, and the need to discard items is irritating because I have no idea what most of them are for and if I will need them later.
Kôna: Day One has been updated regularly as I’ve played it, showing commitment from the developers. Every day it feels a little bit better. It also comes at a weird time, as there are a lot of adventure/exploration/walking simulators around. It feels like a weird mix of gameplay and themes from Firewatch, Life is Strange, Until Dawn, and others. Parabole has, probably unintentionally, made a greatest hits album from those games, taking one or two aspects of them and folding them into this new experience. It isn’t ready for the big time yet though, but given a while to incubate, the game could really be something special. If you are a fan of the “walk around neat environments, collect stuff, and solve a mystery” genre, Kôna is worth keeping an eye on. I wandered around for hours not knowing what was going on while still enjoying it, so it must be doing something right.