Kena immediately touched me when the match was announced. First of all, the graphic style and the ridiculously cute Rock appealed to me, but the genre and the gameplay also made me very happy. It reminded me vividly of the PlayStation 2 era, when this kind of adventure platform was rampant.
Graphically, Kena is the most beautiful indie game of all time. The game is created by developer Ember Lab, who mainly focused on making animated shorts and commercials for Kena, and this is reflected in the game. The characters and environments are beautifully designed with a lot of details and the Rocks (the little black creatures) are to die for.
The game certainly doesn’t reach the graphic splendor of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, but Kena was created by a very small team on a presumably much smaller budget. For an indie game, however, it’s amazing how beautiful this game is and in no time at all you’ll be falling head over heels in love with all the characters, the world, and the story.
I don’t want to spoil anything about this gripping story, but I can say that Kena is a self-styled spirit guide. With her magical powers, she can help deceased characters make the crossing to the afterlife and she can also come into contact with little spirits, the Rock. These creatures can help him in battles and puzzles by moving objects, for example.
Upon entering an area that was affected by a tragic event hundreds of years earlier, Kena can use the Rock piece by piece to rid the area of dark forces and restore it to its former state. In her quest, she soon meets two young children in search of their brother, who wanders like a spirit. This is where the adventure begins and along the way you learn more and more about who Kena is and where she came from. The history and construction are top notch and are masterfully revealed.
While the story, characters, and graphic style are refreshing, the gameplay is actually quite old school. Kena is a very traditional platform adventure that has been copied well from older games from the PlayStation 2 era. We’ve seen just about all the gameplay elements already and the game doesn’t add much. again, but it’s pretty much perfected. So if you like to jump on platforms, climb and scramble and puzzle here and there, you’ve come to the right place with Kena.
What really sets the game apart from other genres is the combat system. Kena is a fiery aunt who can kick ass with her magic staff and rule the Rock. The combat system only really comes to life after a few hours of play, when you have unlocked additional features. For example, you unlock a bow and arrows and you can give the Rock more hints to help you during battles.
Unlike the cute appearance of the game, the enemies are dark and here and there quite difficult to defeat which creates a nice contrast. The game looks very innocent, but the combat can be pretty fierce, especially at the higher difficulty levels. The game is harder than you might think and I personally like it a lot. It sounds like a snap, but it definitely isn’t.
I had a great time with Kena and secretly hope more games like this come out in the future just like in the past. In fact, I’m so in love with Kena that I really hope this will be the start of a new franchise for developer Ember Lab. The gameplay may not add anything new, but it’s so wonderfully packaged and elaborate that I can’t get enough of it.
What really disappoints me is the finish of the game. As mentioned, Kena: Bridge of Spirits was made by a small team and you unfortunately notice it by the lack of a thick polish. There are quite a few bugs in the game. For example, I got stuck twice with Kena and had to reload my save, at one point I couldn’t open any more boxes and I even lost a times all my Rocks, so I had to restart the game. It even seems to have some revolutionary bugs, which I fortunately did not encounter during my gaming sessions.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is magical despite this. Interaction with the Rock is a lot of fun, the fights are very dynamic, and the characters and environments are beautifully designed. The gameplay isn’t very special, but there is one great adventure that you absolutely don’t want to miss. The game is certainly not technically perfect, but I enjoyed browsing it a bit and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope this is not the last time we see Kena and the Rock because I fell in love.
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