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) appears like a Studio Ghibli heroine designed by the use of Disney, Pixar, and Laika. Kena is accompanied all over the place by tiny cute little creatures who will be greatest described as furry black-coloured Minions (although they are not bumbling fools). Some facet characters are actually lovable too. And all of them are at their greatest in Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ photograph 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 beautiful 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 would possibly say “applicable”, as an alternative of borrow — the cultures that it does. In any case, Ember Lab is completely satisfied to stay with Western English accents all over the place, which does not sit effectively 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 means of gameplay on Kena: Bridge of Spirits. For essentially the most half, it is an ordinary motion platformer counting on the identical instruments that energy Sony’s largest franchises (from God of Struggle to Horizon Zero Daybreak) meshed with its apparent Zelda inspirations. All merged in a single. The one good factor is that it is not 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 folks 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 referred to as Rot comply with Kena round, they usually 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 clear up environmental puzzles, or by remodeling into a big sealion-like creature for a restricted time to clear away corruption. Rot can help you in Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ fight too — by smashing into enemies, or distracting them that assist you to get in some licks. However Rot want “braveness” to emerge in battle, which Kena should construct by attacking and choosing up golden spheres that enemies drop. (The one drawback with Rot is that they’re referred to 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 phrase.)
“Braveness” must be judiciously utilized in Kena: Bridge of Spirits although, because it has different assault and defensive functions too in fight. You should utilize it to heal your self with the assistance of therapeutic areas activated by Rot inside each fight enviornment. “Braveness” can be referred to 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 vital 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” foreign money which is earned by preventing enemies and restoring the corrupted setting round you.
That is all supplementary to Kena’s main preventing expertise that do not want “karma” or “braveness”. You’ve got received 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 expertise, to get by means of the enemies that Kena: Bridge of Spirits throws at you. As the issue scales up with new enemy varieties, Kena: Bridge of Spirits pushes you to adapt as effectively. Whereas I might get by with mild assaults early on, towards greater enemies, I discovered myself utilizing dodge extra usually, dispatching Rot to tie them up, after which capturing highly effective arrows from a distance. However since Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ arenas are usually 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 largely includes in search of switches that Rot or your bow can hit, large flowers that you would be able to latch onto together with your bow (similar to a grappling hook), or climbing rocks and ledges which can be marked conveniently with white paint (is it fowl droppings?). For those who’re caught, you possibly can put on these aforementioned wood masks to see the world by means of the attitude of different spirits — it highlights objects of curiosity. However the options to sure Kena: Bridge of Spirits puzzles will be obtuse. I received caught at one sub-level for half an hour as soon as, solely to come across 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 purpose: 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 manner by means of every zone, you may come throughout infestations that block your manner. You may clear these utilizing Rot after you defeat the enemies that can inevitably spawn. There shall be mini bosses alongside the best way, and a significant boss on the finish. Sport design 101 primarily.
You too can select to take a seat down wherever and play with the Rot. Kena will even do that on her personal when you let her be for some time.
That stated, the world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits is de facto attractive and vibrant — whilst the sport is crammed with decay, being caught, and loneliness — from its darkish lantern-lit caves to shiny forest open air. 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 operating). It is not as if the sport is pushing for realism although, with its cartoony textures. And although 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. For those who’re on PC, you get a a lot better deal due to Epic’s regional pricing efforts.
Finally, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a by-the-numbers 3D action-adventure recreation. It’d appear like a contemporary Zelda recreation however would not play like one. It is largely only a collection of arena-based fight routines, stitched collectively by lengthy stretches of traversal, and cutscenes which can be well-designed however really feel like a forgotten Hollywood B-movie. Too usually, Kena: Bridge of Spirits reminds you of higher video games you’ve got performed and that it is borrowing from — which isn’t signal. There is not any hurt in studying from others, it is definitely effectively made, but it surely’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 effort — however I worry Ember Labs have performed it too secure.
- Character design
- Beautiful world
- Quick and candy
- By-the-numbers title
- Cultural dissonance
- Bland storytelling
- Missing originality
- Obtuse puzzles
Ranking (out of 10): 6