Once in a while, a new IP releases that shows great promise and now that I finished Kena: Bridge of Spirits, I can say that it's awesome.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits tells the tale of the titular Kena who's a spirit guide that helps lost souls move on to the realm that they belong. After the brief tutorial area, you're introduced to a little empty village with branching paths leading to various lands and throughout the adventure, you'll help 3 groups of people including a few siblings, a secluded couple, and a headstrong warrior. In order to assist these folks, you'll need to find artifacts that act as rewards for completing lengthy stretches that are usually filled with puzzles and enemies.
This formula provides one memorable adventure as each scenario that you slowly watch unravel is beautiful in its own unique way and you even get to watch bonus scenes that flesh out the characters more after discovering memories that are shown through visions of the past. In fact, out of the many collectibles within Kena: Bridge of Spirits, I found these story tidbits to be the most rewarding.
Of course, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is far from a mere fluffy emotional tale as its gameplay is outstanding in almost every conceivable way. First, let's discuss the combat. From the get go, you can attack with your staff, parry incoming blows, raise a shield, and dodge. However, as the campaign progresses, you'll acquire many more abilities that you'll have to utilize in order to take out the variety of enemy types. For example, flying foes are best slain with your bow and arrow, shielded opponents can be exposed with a hearty strong attack, bombs will break apart certain otherwise invincible fiends, and a dash move will solidify spirit-like enemies so you can fight them in the physical realm. As you can tell, that's a big arsenal so stylishly juggling all of your moves before claiming victory will make you feel incredible.
When you're not fighting enemies, you'll run around large intricate environments, many of which feature impressive verticality with tall towers and deep tunnels. As you do so, you'll solve lots of clever puzzles by performing actions such as blowing up weak rocks that then suspend in mid-air to form platforms, shooting crystals in the correct order, commanding your adorable army of critters known as Rots to carry objects, dashing through portals, and much more. The fact that the exploration and puzzles can be just as satisfying as the challenging combat provides the perfect counterbalance to make for one consistently exciting campaign that's difficult to put down.
A big part of Kena: Bridge of Spirits is clearing poison which manifests via gnarled roots, grey lifeless ground, and red glowing patches. As soon as you defeat an arena full of enemies then send your Rots to return life to the area, it looks absolutely breathtaking. It's hard to fathom how much effort the developers poured into details like this. I mean; wherever you go, your army of Rots is almost always there and seeing them sit in pots, fall asleep on ledges, splashing around in the water, or simply staring at Kena with big grins on their faces is absolutely delightful. You can even push a button to sit with your Rots so you can watch them dance around and even give Kena a little kiss on the cheek. The enemies are sinisterly animated, the NPCs show great emotion, and everything is bursting with wonder.
On top of the wondrous visual treats, Kena: Bridge of Spirits features some of the best audio that I've ever heard in a video game. For starters, its soundtrack is downright mesmerizing whether you're listening to frantic percussion or enchanting vocal arrangements. The effects are incredible, too, and a few parts were highlighted with deep atmospheric bass that I didn't even know my speakers were capable of outputting. Plus, each effect enhances the onscreen action seamlessly and the DualSense does a great job with that, too.
I could talk about Kena: Bridge of Spirits all day but I should really wrap this up and discuss its downsides which are thankfully marginal. First, combat could have been improved in a couple of ways. Specifically, parrying enemy attacks is too tricky because some enemies hold their charge position for much longer than others so an onscreen prompt would have helped with this. Also, enemies can sneakily attack you from behind without you realising it so again, a prompt would have alleviated frustration in this department, too.
Although the puzzles and platforming segments are refined and great fun, my only issue with them is that I got a little lost on a few occasions. You do have a map that shows your objectives but figuring out how to actually reach them can be frustrating because you're sometimes required to approach a location from an unintuitive angle. Finally, there are collectibles such as hidden Rots, health extensions via meditation spots, and currency that you can redeem for cosmetic hats for your Rots. You could spend a good chunk of time trying to collect everything but to be frank; I didn't feel compelled to search for any missing collectibles after completing the campaign.
After playing a couple of great AAA 3D platformers earlier this year, I'm absolutely blown away that I enjoyed Kena: Bridge of Spirits even more. With thoroughly challenging fast-paced combat, rewarding puzzles, and a breathtaking world; it's one phenomenal game.
- + Outstanding combat and brilliant puzzles
- + Gorgeous game world, adorable characters, and awe-inspiring music and sound
- + Loads of variety / steady learning curve
- - Combat has a couple of issues
- - Some parts may leave you feeling lost
- - Collectibles aren't all that enticing