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User Review : Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Kena Bridge of Spirits Review

Kena Bridge of Spirits

Console: Ps5

Release: Sept 21st 2021

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a mixture of 3rd person action and combat, with some light exploration and puzzle elements. You definitely don't need to spend too much time with it before you start to see where it gets it's inspiration from.

Developer Ember Lab's timed Ps5 exclusive clearly draws heavily from well-known games that came before it, most noticeably the Zelda franchise. Indeed, if the protagonist were male instead of female- I would almost expect them to be wearing a green cap and wielding a sword and shield.

But this is not another of Link's adventures- instead it focuses on Kena, a spirit guide who helps wayward spirits pass over to the other side after death.

Despite featuring all the staples of an open world game- a world map, a hub area, fast travel points etc- the game is actually linear by design, presenting you with only the next mission to push towards rather than giving the player freedom of choice. Whether this is a good thing or not probably depends on your preference- but the linear nature of the quest does suit this particular adventure and ensures no time is wasted on side quests designed purely to bloat the game's length.

The world map is not big, and Kena's missions and actions are very purposeful. This kind of focus can only really be maintained by taking away the player's ability to go and do side missions or capture checkpoints for a couple of hours like they might do in Far Cry or Zelda. Kena's journey sees her traversing through the forest collecting relics and assisting wayward spirits as she goes.

There are certain points during the quest where it's not always obvious how to advance. It might be that you need to climb the branch of a tree that doesn't look at all climbable, or jump across a gap that looks too wide. I'm all for figuring things out on my own, but I definitely felt that hints/ tips to help with progress at a couple of seemingly dead ends would've gone a long way here, especially for younger gamers who will inevitably be drawn to the game's cartoony 'Pixar' feel.

We don't really find out too much about Kena herself, and when the end credits rolled i still found myself wondering about her backstory and who she was. Whether this was done intentionally or not, it does mean that there is some distance between the player and Kena which can't really be closed.

The story and setting has a really unique tone and feel. The forest in which the game is based is beautiful and danger lurks round every corner. This aesthetic is perfectly complimented by a haunting soundtrack, with heavy use of windchimes really helping to capture the mood and get you into an almost zen like state at times while playing.

On her travels, Kena befriends a group of forest creatures called 'the rot'- cute little black blobs which wouldn't look at all out of place in a Pixar movie. Aside from being cute though, they do actually prove valuable as she can use them to do various things such as move and interact with objects, or utilise them in combat to distract the enemy giving her the upper hand.

Aside from the rot mechanic, the gameplay is largely nice and straightforward- it seems a growing number of developers are adopting a more simple approach to combat which allows them to focus on tight, responsive controls, and it works well here for the most part. Kena has all of the expected moves in her repertoire- a light and heavy melee attack; a dodge, and a bow for long range. She can combine some of these to devastating effect, and of course she can also upgrade them using currency she finds around the world.

Certain elements of her movement are slightly sluggish however- most noticeably the double jump. Jumping for a 2nd time in mid air is a staple of 3rd person platformers over recent years and is designed to improve movement and distance covered, however, here it inexplicably slows your momentum almost to a halt. This makes jumping long distances a lot trickier than it should be. Her running animation is also a little rigid, and at times she gets caught in a falling animation when she just misses a jump and lands between 2 surfaces.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits undoubtedly shines brightest during it's many boss encounters. Dark Souls wouldn't necessarily be the first thing that springs to mind when you're playing this game, but these brilliant and varied boss battles are definitely pulled straight from the Fromsoftware handbook.

Almost all of them are a test of skill and patience, with the difficulty growing with every encounter as the game progresses. It's refreshing to be able to play this game on standard difficulty and not just stroll through it as you can with so many games today. These battles have clearly had a great deal of thought put into them, and it really pays off.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 9 or so hours spent with Kena. Not every game has to be a 40 hour marathon- and Kena is an example of a tightly-woven single player experience that has had all the fat trimmed off it, with no pointless filler- it deserves to be commended for that (as well as having a reduced price point to match!).

While it isn't ground breaking in any way, and covers very familiar ground- it's a great example of the benefits of sticking to a winning formula.


- incredible visuals

- memorable soundtrack

- simple, effective gameplay

- brilliant boss battles

- compact game length ensures no filler side quests


- re-treads very familiar ground

- clunky movement at times, especially the double jump

- Kena herself lacks backstory and distinguishable character traits

- couple of seemingly dead ends with no hints or tips to help.

Summary: With it's eye catching visuals, a haunting and memorable soundtrack, and incredible boss battles- everyone should experience Kena: Bridge of Spirits for themselves. Despite a lack of originality, a couple of clunky movement/ design issues, and a protagonist who isn't properly fleshed out- it is still well worth your time.

Verdict: 8/10

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VenomUK33d ago

A good succinct review and I really like the idea of a succinct game! Kena looks fun but... this is the second person to make a comparison to Dark Souls! I really don't like overly tough games, especially for something that looks cutesy, so I might just wait and see if it gets a bit cheaper over the Christmas sales.