Posted: September 26
Kena is a young soul guide.Kena travels to an abandoned village in an attempt to find a sacred mountain shrine. But instead, she stumbles upon a region torn apart and consumed by a mysterious infection that stands in her way. Fortunately, Kena can deal with her. She can communicate with deceased people and their souls, helping them to pass from our world to the afterlife. Thanks to this, the protagonist not only controls a number of her own interesting abilities, but above all joins forces with small, cute and handy companions who assist her in the fight and in the transformation of the environment that needs to be healed. The manipulation of the surrounding world is one of the nicest parts of the game, when you gradually unlock new areas and at the same time restore them to their former beauty.
In battle, Kena herself can skillfully wield a stick, which she learns to turn into a magical bow over time. Her inner strength serves as a defensive shield and she is also a skilled acrobat. The gameplay is a mixture of action, platforming, puzzles and sometimes surprisingly challenging boss fights. Some critics accuse the developers of borrowing so many ideas from other games that Kena comes with few original elements of its own. And the truth is that authors really rely on many popular titles and series in an attempt to gather first experience with their own project. In some places, Kena is reminiscent of Pikmin, Zelda, Ico, Shadow of The Colossus, Ori or Beyond Good & Evil. At a glance, it looks like a mix of the Disney movie Raya and the Dragon and the anime from Studio Ghibli. It is a conglomerate of many worlds and influences inspired by the nature, culture, music, architecture, history and legends of East Asia.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean that Ember Lab is just copy something, in my opinion. Their gradually opening semi-open world hides a number of pleasant surprises. At first I found the combat to be straightforward and simple. But over time, the authors will harden, we will acquire new abilities, upgrade our equipment and encounter enemies against whom we must apply a diverse strategy. Of course, this primarily applies to the mentioned bosses, of which you will meet a whole crowd, but even ordinary opponents will gradually make you use all available techniques in action and not rely on one universal attack. In addition, the option to transform so-called companies into snake-like monsters, archery or bombs is not only used in combat. Even more often they find use in solving puzzles. At first I also mistakenly considered them very easy to banal, but the authors just try to teach you all the skills gradually, which you then have to combine effectively.
Your companions open the way for you and can carry objects that you can jump on or activate something with their help. Their strength, and therefore yours, grows as you gradually find more and more little toothy helpers in the environment. As already said, you don’t only use the bow in combat, but you can also use it to pull yourself to a greater distance. Bombs can be thrown at enemies, but even more often you transform the environment with them, as they can temporarily move rocks to allow you to continue on your way. In this sense, I like how the authors have connected logical spatial puzzles with rather demanding acrobatic passages in which you have to act precisely and quickly before the magic wears off and the rocks fall to their original place. In addition, using the bow you can sometimes change their position and orientation, which also applies to some puzzles based on rotating objects.
On the technical side, I don’t have much to complain about the title. The game not only has amazing styling and art, but is also very well cleaned. Perhaps only the heroine could move more smoothly. The title is powered by the Unreal Engine, which makes it look like a real Pixar movie. It offers two graphics modes, traditionally one favors performance and the other details. In both cases, however, the digital world and its diverse characters are a joy to behold. It’s one of those games that really pays to stop and look around. And not only when you meditate in predetermined places to increase your health. One of the few titles where I once again used the photo mode, which otherwise leaves me cold, to enjoy the expressions of the characters and the smallest details. Like when I got some new cosmetic accessory for the companies. I also really like the soundtrack influenced by Balinese music and the dubbing also deserves praise.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a visually stunning debut from a small and relatively inexperienced studio that surprisingly manages to compete with big games from huge teams. And what’s more, it is sold at a lower price. Although it is not always strikingly original, it borrows an idea from the best with a sense, and the authors have avoided possible plagiarism. And that the game has an old-fashioned and outdated design? That alone makes me happy in today’s often standardized mainstream production. Overall rating 8/10
Unfortunately, I was forced to shorten the review
Tested on PC,PS4,PS5