Kena: Bridge of Spirits — out now on PC, PS4, and PS5 — is the primary recreation for California-based studio Ember Lab, which was beforehand within the enterprise of creating animated shorts and commercials. No marvel then that essentially the most profitable factor about Kena: Bridge of Spirits is its character designs and animations. The titular protagonist Kena (voiced by Dewa Ayu Dewi Larassanti) looks like a Studio Ghibli heroine designed by means of Disney, Pixar, and Laika. Kena is accompanied in all places by tiny cute little creatures who will be finest described as furry black-coloured Minions (although they don’t seem to be bumbling fools). Some facet characters are actually cute too. And all of them are at their finest in Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ picture mode, the place they pose, say cheese, and are available alive.
That is all set in a world impressed by Asian cultures, primarily Japanese and Balinese. Inari fox statues dot the panorama, torii gates are pulled from Shinto, and the sport’s pretty background gamelan orchestra rating (extra so when Kena is exploring) includes a collaboration with Baliense ensemble Gamelan Çudamani. However Kena: Bridge of Spirits by no means actually justifies its setting, in why its story must borrow from — a cynic may say “applicable”, as a substitute of borrow — the cultures that it does. In any case, Ember Lab is completely satisfied to stay with Western English accents in all places, which does not sit nicely with its love for all issues visually Jap.
Talking of the story, Kena: Bridge of Spirits would not ever actually pull you in. That is largely as a result of its characters aren’t fleshed out, with Kena herself being short-changed, so you are not actually motivated to do what the sport desires you to. And although the sport has some sturdy thematic constructing blocks — it is about grief, therapeutic, and shifting on — Ember Labs is unable to give you mechanics that may illustrate that by way of gameplay on Kena: Bridge of Spirits. For essentially the most half, it is a typical motion platformer counting on the identical instruments that energy Sony’s greatest franchises (from God of Battle to Horizon Zero Daybreak) meshed with its apparent Zelda inspirations. All merged in a single. The one good factor is that it isn’t bloated, coming in at eight to 9 hours.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits opens with a textual content crawl, telling us that it takes place in a world the place individuals construct wood masks to honour those that’ve died and assist information their spirits to the following world. However some spirits get caught at instances, manifesting into tree-like contortions and corrupting the world. That is the place Kena is available in. Like her father, Kena is a spirit information — she is bestowed with a magical workers handed down the household for generations. Kena heals the misplaced souls (learn: bash them repeatedly on the pinnacle) and clears out corruption. She is a bridge for spirits, figuratively. However she’s not doing the job alone.
The aforementioned furry black Minions often called Rot comply with Kena round, and so they additionally assist her in a number of methods. Rot can unlock new areas — both by carrying objects one place to a different that in flip resolve environmental puzzles, or by reworking into a big sealion-like creature for a restricted time to clear away corruption. Rot can assist you in Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ fight too — by smashing into enemies, or distracting them that can help you get in some licks. However Rot want “braveness” to emerge in battle, which Kena should construct by attacking and selecting up golden spheres that enemies drop. (The one downside with Rot is that they’re known as Rot, which is objectively a horrible title. I suppose Ember Labs wished them to be a personification of decay, however “rot” just isn’t a great phrase.)
“Braveness” needs to be judiciously utilized in Kena: Bridge of Spirits although, because it has different assault and defensive functions too in fight. You should use it to heal your self with the assistance of therapeutic areas activated by Rot inside each fight enviornment. “Braveness” can be known as upon to have Rot destroy enemy spawn factors. And lastly, it additionally powers Kena’s superpowered talents — from a “Rot Infused Arrow” that offers mighty harm, to a powered “Rot Hammer” that does area-of-effect harm to all enemies round. Staying alive in Kena: Bridge of Spirits is about deciding the perfect use of the “braveness” accessible to you. All of the extra necessary given Kena cannot take plenty of harm.
The particular talents — Rot Hammer, Rot Infused Arrow, slo-mo archery, defend increase, and dash assaults — accessible within the ability tree all want that aforementioned “karma” forex which is earned by combating enemies and restoring the corrupted atmosphere round you.
That is all supplementary to Kena’s main combating abilities that do not want “karma” or “braveness”. You’ve got acquired a lightweight assault, a heavy assault, defend, dodge, block, parry, and bow and arrow. You will want to make use of a mixture of these, together with all of the particular abilities, to get by way of the enemies that Kena: Bridge of Spirits throws at you. As the issue scales up with new enemy sorts, Kena: Bridge of Spirits pushes you to adapt as nicely. Whereas I may get by with gentle assaults early on, in opposition to greater enemies, I discovered myself utilizing dodge extra typically, dispatching Rot to tie them up, after which capturing highly effective arrows from a distance. However since Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ arenas are typically on the small facet, fight did find yourself being button mashing at instances — which isn’t enjoyable.
Exterior of that, fight is interspersed with bits of platforming and traversal puzzling. This principally includes on the lookout for switches that Rot or your bow can hit, big flowers that you could latch onto along with your bow (similar to a grappling hook), or climbing rocks and ledges which might be marked conveniently with white paint (is it chicken droppings?). In case you’re caught, you possibly can put on these aforementioned wood masks to see the world by way of the angle of different spirits — it highlights objects of curiosity. However the options to sure Kena: Bridge of Spirits puzzles will be obtuse. I acquired caught at one sub-level for half an hour as soon as, solely to encounter an answer that also would not make any logical sense to me.
Although Kena: Bridge of Spirits encourages you to discover, this isn’t an open world. Similar to the outdated Zelda-type video games it is impressed by, its world is break up into zones that unlock one after the opposite. Every zone has the identical final aim: free a spirit. That normally includes buying a set quantity of some merchandise. Doing that in flip would require you to fulfil sure subtasks. It is all very simple. As you make your means by way of every zone, you will come throughout infestations that block your means. You may clear these utilizing Rot after you defeat the enemies that may inevitably spawn. There can be mini bosses alongside the best way, and a significant boss on the finish. Sport design 101 primarily.
You may as well select to sit down down wherever and play with the Rot. Kena will even do that on her personal for those who let her be for some time.
That stated, the world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits is admittedly attractive and vibrant — at the same time as the sport is crammed with decay, being caught, and loneliness — from its darkish lantern-lit caves to brilliant forest outside. And that is from my vantage level on the bottom PlayStation 4, the place easy efficiency comes at the price of graphical element and visual aliasing (extra so when Kena is working). It is not as if the sport is pushing for realism although, with its cartoony textures. And despite the fact that I did not expertise Kena: Bridge of Spirits at its peak, that is how most console players will invariably play it, given Sony’s struggles with manufacturing sufficient PlayStation 5 items to go round. To not say something of the additional provide points in India. In case you’re on PC, you get a significantly better deal due to Epic’s regional pricing efforts.
In the end, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a by-the-numbers 3D action-adventure recreation. It would appear to be a contemporary Zelda recreation however would not play like one. It is largely only a sequence of arena-based fight routines, stitched collectively by lengthy stretches of traversal, and cutscenes which might be well-designed however really feel like a forgotten Hollywood B-movie. Too typically, Kena: Bridge of Spirits reminds you of higher video games you have performed and that it is borrowing from — which isn’t a great signal. There is no hurt in studying from others, it is definitely nicely made, however it’s missing in originality. There’s little persona to Kena: Bridge of Spirits, for it is adopting the sheen of others. For a debut title, that is undoubtedly a great effort — however I concern Ember Labs have performed it too secure.
- Character design
- Beautiful world
- Brief and candy
- By-the-numbers title
- Cultural dissonance
- Bland storytelling
- Missing originality
- Obtuse puzzles
Ranking (out of 10): 6