Kena: Bridge of Spirits Review: A Magnificent Start
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the first game created by developer Ember Lab, but you couldn’t tell by watching it or playing it. It doesn’t do anything dazzling or groundbreaking in terms of actual gameplay, but it’s a solid throwback to Nintendo 64 era gaming structures with a surprisingly described story you’ll want to spend a lot of time in.
Ember Lab was just an animation and digital content studio before that first game, a fact you can most certainly believe after seeing Kenathe cutscenes of. They are just plain striking, and if the game had the option to see all of the animated scenes back to back, you would think you were watching a movie.
This animation feat also extends outside of cutscenes and into the world of Kena himself. The characters and settings appear to have been taken straight from a Disney or Illumination movie – especially the adorable Rot characters we’ll talk about later – but there is some authenticity to it. Kena it is ironically absent from many official video game adaptations of films. It has all the makings of a game that’s been adapted from something without any awkwardness or awkwardness when a character doesn’t precisely align with its big-screen versions.
Take the Rot, for example, a collection of tiny, dark-haired, noisy beings who help Kena throughout the game as she finds more and more of them. The way the Rot smiles at Kena and frowns at the others looks exactly like something you’d expect from a big-eyed Pixar character. It’s like they were created by a blueprint that’s hard to ignore once you get to know them, but the decay effect is powerful in that it’s even harder to imagine. Kena without them following you everywhere.
However, a game can only do without its appearance for such a long time. As players explore this world as Kena in hopes of guiding the spirits to the next leg of their journey, you’ll shoot arrows, throw bombs, and hit items with a stick. The abilities that players unlock along the way with the resources acquired through combat and environmental discoveries allow progression paths that vary slightly depending on playstyles. Heavy and light attacks mixed with resource-based abilities create a usable, albeit somewhat repetitive, combat system. Add in a healthy dose of puzzles to solve and you will have a fairly familiar experience.
What keeps the fight from getting too stagnant is the difficulty of the game. Its animation style and the simplicity of its fights are deceptive – the game is much harder than it looks. Playing the game on “Hard” difficulty required me to use up pretty much any available cooldown with specific abilities and attacks needed to maximize damage against different types of enemies. Parries and shield management have become particularly important in both normal combat and decisive boss fights.
This is another thing Kena does well: the boss fights. These are the moments when brilliant animation and deceptively difficult combat come together. With one, sometimes more main bosses in each “act” of Kena and several small bosses scattered all over the place, Kena‘s more deserving of a boss rush mode than most games. The boss of Act 1 teaches players the importance of learning movement patterns in combat, but it’s the boss of Act 2 – the Corrupted Blacksmith – who really stands out the most. Everything from the arena to the choreography to the audio sync during this fight proves that Ember Lab didn’t just get lucky with his first match and he knew exactly what it should look like. a memorable moment.
Things get a little funky every now and then when it comes to hitboxes and physics, but that’s to be expected from any game. Enemy bosses’ grab attacks are particularly generous with their hitboxes and can sometimes seem unfair, though it’s more about learning to play by bosses’ rules rather than just being inconsistent. The way the game causes Kena to pause on impact after jumping from any noticeable height, even though you’ve stamped your landing with a double jump, also seems to violate an unwritten rule about the physics of games. video. It could also have been more useful when it comes to tutorials, as it never really teaches you how to lock down enemies, although that’s something you can definitely do.
Kena might not be perfect, but it’s nowhere near what one would expect from a studio’s first game. It’s a show to watch without being too long or too short, and it’s one of the few examples of a game that deserves a movie adaptation, and not the other way around. Perhaps more than anything else, this is a game that sets the bar high for whatever Ember Lab wants to do next.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is now available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC platforms. The game has been tested on PlayStation 5 with a revision code provided by the publisher.