Exploring the Enchanted Paths of Kena: Bridge of Spirits - A Review

James Walsh


Exploring the Enchanted Paths of Kena: Bridge of Spirits - A Review

Embarking on a Familiar Journey in a Vibrant World In the lush, immersive environment of "Kena: Bridge of Spirits," players find themselves cast as Kena, a dedicated spirit guide tasked with aiding wandering spirits to find peace. The game quickly introduces its premise, setting the stage in a beautifully crafted forest teeming with spirits, some content and others trapped by their past regrets. Kena’s role is pivotal, as she seeks out these restless souls, combats the physical manifestations of their negativity, known as rot, and guides them towards resolution and rest. Alongside this, the rot creatures she discovers become allies, aiding in combat and puzzle-solving, adding an interesting dynamic to her journey.

Gameplay Mechanics: Combat and Puzzles

gameplay screen

The gameplay of "Kena: Bridge of Spirits" alternates between combat and puzzle-solving, with the latter often involving the assistance of the rot creatures in transporting objects to unlock new areas or facilitate further exploration. Although these puzzles tend to be straightforward, they offer a break from the more action-oriented segments of the game. Combat, on the other hand, feels like a significant portion of the experience, with encounters against common enemies and more formidable bosses. This cycle of exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving frames the core of Kena’s adventure through the forest.

Encounters with the Bosses

As Kena ventures deeper into the forest, she faces various bosses, though the game sometimes blurs the lines between regular encounters and these more pivotal battles. The dropping of a spirit’s memento upon a boss’s defeat acts as a key to progress, allowing Kena to confront the spirit and assist in its transition to peace. This mechanic integrates the game’s narrative with its gameplay, although the distinction between ordinary and boss encounters could be clearer.

Artistic Inspirations and Technical Performance

"Kena: Bridge of Spirits" aligns closely with the aesthetic and gameplay styles familiar to PlayStation enthusiasts, drawing comparisons with major titles produced by Sony. The game’s visual appeal is undeniable, inheriting a rich palette and detailed environments that suggest a high production value. However, this resemblance also brings to light a lack of originality, as it heavily borrows mechanics and elements from other well-known games, potentially leading to a sense of déjà vu among experienced gamers.

Traversal, Combat, and Balance

Kena world game screen

Traversal encompasses a significant portion of the game, with Kena engaging in basic platforming and exploration. However, the game seemingly focuses less on what actions to perform and more on discovery, which can sometimes lead to predictability. Combat presents its own set of challenges with an imbalance between regular encounters and boss battles, requiring players to adapt to a steep difficulty curve. Despite these hurdles, the game’s combat system, which allows for skill upgrades and new abilities, attempts to inject variety into the experience.

Cultural Representation and Iconography

One of the more nuanced aspects of "Kena: Bridge of Spirits" is its inclusion of diverse cultural references in its character design and world-building. The game draws from various traditions, incorporating Japanese and Balinese elements into its aesthetic. However, this approach has raised questions regarding the depth and authenticity of these representations, particularly when religious practices are employed more as gameplay mechanics than meaningful cultural exploration. This aspect underscores the challenges of blending cultural elements into game design while respecting their origins and significance.

Conclusion: A Beautiful Start with Room for Growth

A Beautiful Start with Room for Growth game screen

"Kena: Bridge of Spirits" showcases the potential of Ember Lab in crafting engaging and visually stunning games. Despite leveraging familiar gameplay mechanics and narratives, the game offers a foundation upon which more innovative and original titles could be built. While it excels in graphical presentation and conceptual design, its execution leaves room for improvement, particularly in terms of gameplay diversity and cultural sensitivity. As Ember Lab’s debut project, Kena represents a stepping stone towards greater achievements in the gaming industry, hinting at the studio’s capacity for future success.