Ever since seeing Kena: Bridge of Spirits back in June 2020 it instantly gave off Jak & Daxter and Zelda vibes with a Pixar or DreamWorks visual. Big shoes to fill, so does Kena manage to raise a bridge to greatness or simply crash and burn?
Let’s kick off with the visuals, they look fantastic, both realistic and surreal at the same time, except they are fully believable. The fantastical elements all coalesce to one of the best artistically designed games out there. It helps that the developer Ember Lab made CGI content before making games. Stunning 60 frames per second detailed gameplay, sadly let down by 24 frames per second CG videos, albeit in even more detail. It is obvious and jarring, and I would urge the developers to re-render these in 60fps.
You play as Kena, a spirit guide whose purpose is to aid the deceased to move from the physical world onto the spirit realm. She is basically an avatar that progresses the story, and it was a huge shame that you never get the chance to connect with her in a meaningful way. You barely find out about her throughout the whole game. Instead you are directed more towards the stories of the ‘lost souls’ who you need to guide. However, you experience similar issues with them too. You are urged to care about them early on, before you are give a reason or a back story for, and by the time you care you’ve already defeated their physical evil form and caused them to pass on. Which in turn reveals another spirit to free, and the cycle continues again.
Thankfully ‘The Rot’, some small spirit companions you find in the game accompany you and are both ugly and cute at the same time. The more you find, the greater your chances of survival are. Not only do they play a key role in the combat, but also in puzzle solving. The puzzles are fantastic, posing enough challenge that you don’t always instantly figure out what you are meant to do, some trial and error always helps show the way. The addition of unlocking hats and having all of the Rot on screen during gameplay really gives them a personality even though they never speak. They add a sorely needed comedic element to the game, it is good, but there needs to be more to lighten the mood of this very serious game.
Voice acting is on point and brilliant. Accompanied with a subtle but lovely sound design for the world itself and the background music. If I was being a little harsh, it maybe needed more distinctive tunes, but there are just enough to make it serviceable.
The biggest saving grace is the gameplay. It is nearly flawless with the perfect level of challenge and leaning towards the more difficult spectrum. Each encounter is challenging and the boss battles are what this game is all about. Character designs in the entire game are amazing, but the enemies are even better. A woody and almost naturally grown enemy design is a unique look, although you could compare to Groot from the Marvel world. Bosses pose the most and best challenges in the game and it is up to you top use your arsenal to it’s best ability and find their weaknesses. I find being bold is often the best practise.
Constant unlocks allow you to upgrade your move set alongside ‘The Rot’ too. Unlocking a bow also adds combat options as well as traversal. All of these things can mean you can fight in so many ways. Stay back and use arrows, or even use the Rot powers. Or dive in and fight and dodge, or a combination of all of those is ideal. Even your shield pulse can be used as a parrying mechanic, however this is very tight, and I think I used it twice in the whole game, one of those by chance.
This game has many minor flaws, but overall it is fantastic. Made by a team of just over a dozen people it is actually a mind-blowing achievement to how good this game is. Which I find, whenever a game is so good, you want it to be even better, so the smaller issues pile up quite quickly, one more to mention is the check point system. Constantly after deaths having to re-watch a cutscene or do some platforming to get back to a boss fight over and over is obnoxious.
Having said that all, it was still highly entertaining, and as a budget title at £32.99 and it clocks in at around 10 hours for your first playthrough I would highly recommend any fan of platformers and those who want challenging but fair boss battles.
- Replay Value