If you’ve ever been in a brutal snowstorm, then you know just how terrifyingly isolating it can feel. I myself remember a time when I was a kid with my family driving out of New Mexico. We were, unfortunately, catching the beginning of a brutal snowstorm, one that a small shrimp from Texas had never experienced since then. At the time, I remember being fairly calm, despite my parents yelling back and forth through a walkie-talkie to their friends in the car ahead of us while the blistering cold was smashing out car back and forth. Looking back on it, I didn’t truly comprehend the sheer violence of nature that was happening outside our seemingly protected car windows. Kona 2: Brume shows people exactly what this natural occurrence truly is at its core: painful.
The sequel to the 2017 game of the same name, Kona 2, throws players back into the hellish snowstorm covering a fictitious city in Canada. Throughout the game, you’ll come to question the very essence of your character’s being, as well as his sanity. Combine a bit of extra-terrestrial mumbo-jumbo, a cover-up story involving the United States’ old enemies, and a spooky specter always around the corner, and you’ve got yourself the beginnings of our story. This, is Kona 2: Brume.
Brave the Cold and Find What Lies Within
Players find themselves once again in the boots of private detective Carl Faubert just moments after the ending of the first game. With the man who hired you, William Hamilton, now deceased, Carl is attempting to escape the rural mining village in Northern Quebec with his life. Furthermore, while he attempts to escape, Carl finds himself at the center of a massive avalanche. The only problem is, that this isn’t your everyday snowstorm. In between the snow is a mist-like substance called ‘The Brume’ that has been causing dismay to every living thing in the region. It’s up to you to find the cause of it all and put a stop to it if you can.
A Story as Thick as the Snow
We’ll do our best to stray away from any spoiler territory, but we will be discussing the story and how it plays out. Throughout your time in the land of Manastan, players will come to learn all about this seemingly normal mining town. What seems like a simple copper mine in northern Canada hides a truly disturbing and gut-wrenching tale underneath the surface. And at the center of it all is the man who originally hired Carl to investigate some issues of vandalism: William Hamilton. Kona 2 takes place towards the tail-end of the Cold War in 1970, and while Canada in the real world had already made their way over to the Allies side, the game paints an idea of secret Soviet Union agreements with a private Canadian mining corporation.
The story of Kona 2: Brume is one of intrigue and mystery. It encourages players to read every letter, note, or file pertaining to characters or the story at large. What’s more, every character with dialogue talks in their native tongue, so you’ll be hearing a lot of French-Canadian with a sprinkle of English in between. Small things such as this really make you feel like you’re out in the frigid cold of Canada and play well into the idea and overall setting of the story.
Survival is Paramount to Success
Gameplay-wise, Kona 2 implores a mix of open-world survival aspects with the normal walking-simulator story aspects. Think The Suicide of Rachel Foster meets Resident Evil. Only in this game will you be face-to-face with the wolves, bears, and even elk roaming the Canadian wilderness. Plus, thanks to the Brume, players will experience these mist-like enemies that mirror their real-life animal counterparts. However, part of me wishes they leaned more toward the story aspect of the game rather than the minute-to-minute trudging around the snow. You’ll also need to manage a health bar, stamina bar, and temperature bar. Focusing on the latter, the temperature bar drains the longer you’re out in the snow, only replenishing when you start a fire (which is also the game’s main save point).
The game gives you three main ways to traverse the environment: walking, using a boat, and riding on a sled pulled by six of the best dogs around. Certain areas require a specific type of traversal, and there are even ice climbing axes you’ll need to get around obstacles.
Combat is not Concise
There are weapons in the game players will obtain throughout their time in Kona 2: Brume. Sadly, combat in Kona 2 feels like a second-hand thought when compared to the overall game. There are 4 guns players can get and a few melee weapons, but you’ll normally only ever end up swapping between two of them. And since the game pauses time when you swap the object in your hand, a brutal bear barreling at you can be taken care of with a well-placed shotgun shell.
It’s a blessing and a curse when the story is as good as it is in Kona 2 because it can tend to detract from the actual gameplay in this situation. I found myself hanging onto every new piece of story information while simply going through the motions of the survival aspect of it. Not only that, there are materials from all around the map that would be used to craft items in another game. However, in Kona 2, the materials are only ever used for a few repair jobs during story moments and unlocking rooms that have…you guessed it, more materials. By the end, I amassed such a smorgasbord of materials Carl could have crafted an entire plane to fly out of Canada.
The Real Puzzle is Finding Out Where to Go
As a detective, our main character, Carl, is tasked with deducing the minutia within the story of Kona 2. As with the first game, our omnipotent narrator is back and beautifully describes the settings and feelings a person would feel when faced with the horrors lurking within this game. You’ll also come across a few puzzles throughout the game, with some requiring little to no brainpower and others that will have you backtracking for hours. In regards to the latter, the game does very little hand-holding, with players able to view Carl’s journal at any time to get a refresher on what they’ve been up to.
Unfortunately, you’ll spend an exorbitant amount of time running around certain parts of the maps, wondering where you need to go or trying to find the right person to talk to. Having an option like NPC markers on the map can help those who might not remember when a character said they were going somewhere without compromising the overall nature of the game.
Why You Should Buy Kona 2: Brume
If you’re someone who really enjoys games like Firewatch or other story-only narrative adventures, then Kona 2 is for you. There are almost “dream sequence” events that happen in the game that truly felt like the game was at its best when these occurred. What’s more, there’s a big spooky wendigo-looking creature that comes out of the Brume occasionally to chase and torment you a-la Mr. X from Resident Evil 2. This, to me, was when the ‘gameplay’ perfectly mirrored the vibe that the story tells. You can’t hurt it, you can only run and hope the blizzard is too thick to see behind you.
Something else that makes walking around the cold more exciting is the fact that you never know if you’re approaching the stump of a tree or a lifeless body slumped over and frozen solid. It’s times like this, as well as when you receive these almost ‘visions’ of the past, that make me want to see this game through to the end.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Kona 2: Brume
I really wanted to like the overall gameplay that developers Parabole tried to create with Kona 2: Brume. However, I found myself constantly wanting less. That might sound nonsensical, but I believe this game would have been a better overall package if it was a more linear-driven story experience. There are very few times that you’ll actually need to fight animals in Kona 2: Brume (including an achievement for not killing any animals), so the times when the game calls for it make the combat feel like a second thought.
As we stated prior, most enemies go down after one or two shots of a gun. Furthermore, enemies never really posed a real threat and felt like they were mostly there because they had to be. The same can be said for the NPCs in the game. You’ll receive a ton of useful info from them regarding information needed to further the story. Sadly, that is about where the realism ends with the remaining people of Manastan. You’re left feeling like you just pushed a button on an animatronic at a museum, with them spouting the same dialogue over and over. I wish the characters had a bit more flavor to their dialogue, but it just seems that they are there to tell Carl what they know and then blip away into the snow as if Thanos had come back.
Overall, Kona 2: Brume is a story game first, with gameplay tacked on the side. This might not bother some people, but for others, walking around the snow for hours looking for a specific interactable object is not their idea of a fun time. You can brave the combat, as Carl Faubert braves the storm, but can you find yourself satisfied in the end?
All Platforms and Game Length for Kona 2: Brume
Kona 2: Brume is out now on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and Series X, Steam, and Linux. For people wondering about the game length, Kona 2: Brume takes around 6-9 hours to complete.
We hope you enjoyed our review of Kona 2: Brume. Make sure to follow our Facebook page to stay up to date with Gamer Journalist. You may also want to check out our other articles like ‘Review: Long Gone Days is Well Worth the Wait‘ and ‘Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Is a Scary Good Time‘.