Rarely does a game get me to explore every nook and cranny like a scavenger trying to find that rare piece of treasure. Kena: Bridge of Spirits connected with me in a way not many games do and I found myself traversing every inch of land there was to find even if it meant getting lost along the way. It also helps that this game is absolutely stunning on the next generation hardware. With very few games to actually test the true capabilities of what the Playstation 5 can do, it was a welcome breath of fresh air to see the lush environments and fluid animations come to life in this game.
There was something different about this game as soon as the opening sequence appeared. The animations were different. The environment looked astonishing. It was as if some extra love was put into every detail throughout. Ember Lab, the developers of this title, have been known for their development of characters in commercials and movies and you can tell because the cut-scenes in Kena are like nothing I have really ever seen in a game before – my eyes could not look away and I felt like my mind was interacting every step of the way. It is one of those “you have to see it to believe it” type realizations.
The main character is a girl named Kena, a spirit guide that handles a staff that transforms into more than you expect. Kena is asked to do two things: help spirits pass to the afterlife and rid this world of a dark corruption. From the get go, Kena invites you into its world by giving you the power of a magic ability that pulses much like one you would find in other games that help you discover and interact with elements in your surroundings. This ability not only aids you in puzzle solving and item discovery but can also act as a shield to protect you from enemy actions. Additionally, throughout your journey, you will fight monsters, jump, dash, grapple, and climb your way through a puzzle filled world that becomes addictive from the very first instance. You will even gain the ability to use bombs to change time and space and help you traverse across areas that a jump is not enough.
Speaking of fighting monsters and solving puzzles, you are not alone in doing so. Adventuring a vast world can be a lonely one at times and nothing is better than having some small cuddly friends with you – specifically if they smother enemies like a wet blanket giving you that edge in a fight. These little critters are called the Rot and reminded me of little Pikmin in their cluttered demeanor. You collect individual Rot throughout your exploration and the more you collect the more unique abilities they bring to the table. Why is it so addicting to collect so many of them? Well the easy answer is you can equip them with cute hats, which are the main collectable in the game. They can lift heavy environmental objects to help you reach difficult areas, they can cleanse corrupt plants to make the environments more green, they can distract enemies to give you the upper hand, and they can also form into objects to do different attacks. These guys are the real deal and having more of them is always a good thing.
The world is quite large and it is one that I did not want to leave. After finishing one area I was immediately pulled to keep going much like you would do after watching a cliffhanger in a television show you just can’t stop watching. Whether it was exploring the dense villages, strolling through the lush forest, or creeping along the corrupt underground, I always wanted more and that is something that not a lot of games bring to the table these days. You may get lost and do some backtracking but this isn’t always a bad thing when there are hidden secrets to uncover. Be warned though, there is no guiding star to tell you where to go next in a direct manner like we are used to in other games – yes you have a map marker but it will take some creative thinking to get to that marker sometimes. There was an instance where I was asked to go back to the main village to continue the story so I fast traveled there and wandered around aimlessly for a long time until I realized I had to travel there by foot from where I was originally asked to do this from. This was extremely frustrating but luckily only happened once.
The enemies in Kena are aplenty but they do become repetitive as the game gets closer to the end. You will find that you use all of your abilities to down them with more ease as you learn their weaknesses – it is kind of like a “Eureka!” moment that fills you with positive and rewarding dopamine. The boss fights were unique and engrossing, which made the game feel even more rewarding when you took down a boss while using everything in your arsenal in the perfect way.
I really enjoyed Kena: Bridge of Spirits from start to finish. Whether it was from a captivating story, jaw-dropping visuals, or fluid combat mechanics, Kena kept me wrapped in a world that I believe everyone should explore if they have the chance. This game is easy to pick up and hard to put down.