From the second Kena’s workers ignites with magnificent magic, the world round her sizzles with pleasure, creating a fascinating environment for top-of-the-line journey video games I’ve performed in current reminiscence. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is Ember Lab’s debut recreation, however it hits with the sophistication and wonder you’d anticipate from a studio that’s been doing this for many years.
With environmental puzzles round nearly each bend and secrets and techniques ready for individuals who can clear up them, Bridge of Spirits has a powerful coronary heart for adventuring. That coronary heart continuously kilos as new areas are found, every beat pulling you in several instructions to unearth hidden treasures and objects that can assist rejuvenate a fallen society.
Kena (pronounced “Kay-nuh”) is an inexperienced Spirit Information who should find wayward souls which are reluctant to go away this mortal coil. Earlier than sending them on their approach, she must find out about their lives, and finally what occurred to them. By exploring the land, their pasts are unearthed, and also you be taught of their triumphs and hardships by way of temporary flashbacks that make the story sing in intriguing methods and assist flesh out its key gamers. Many of those revelations play out inside superbly animated story sequences that swell with emotion and are amplified by an impressive soundtrack that includes conventional Balinese music. I discovered myself buzzing alongside to the excellently composed low-key melodies, some sung by Ayu Larassanti, the identical actress that brings Kena’s voice to life. How cool is that?
The serenity of the expertise extends to the world. Be ready to enter photograph mode quite a few occasions throughout your playthrough. Bridge of Spirits is as lovely as video games come, and that magnificence encourages exploration – you’ll need to see all of this fantasy kingdom. Ember Lab’s artists make each little element pop, whether or not inside the sprawling forest Kena journeys by way of or the little creatures she meets alongside the way in which. These lovely tiny blobs are known as Rot and are one of many recreation’s most sought-after collectibles. They play an enormous position in each the gameplay and story, however extra importantly, they put on cute hats (one other merchandise to trace down). You don’t know what the Rot are or why they’re serving to Kena, however you retain gathering them (as much as 100 in whole) and hope they proceed to be your allies because the story unfurls.
As Kena bounds by way of the sun-soaked forest, she’ll come throughout areas of corruption plagued by thorns, muck, and grey vines main up a purple, pulsating blob known as a Tangled Coronary heart. When Kena enters these places, enemies materialize from purple mist and fight ensues. All through all the recreation, Kena solely makes use of her workers to take down these foes, however this straightforward weapon is about as adaptable as they arrive.
Kena’s actions are swift, and the workers’s melee strikes land with a satisfying wallop. She will be able to evasive roll, block, and carry out parry’s to stun her adversaries. These battle sequences hum with depth, are a great deal of enjoyable, and develop with complexity when Kena learns to make use of the workers in new methods.
A few of the workers’s augmentations unlock by way of buy, however essentially the most vital additions are earned by making progress within the story. Alongside the way in which, Kena learns the best way to flip her workers right into a bow and channel its highly effective vitality to create bombs. Tagging an enemy with a fastidiously positioned bomb is nice enjoyable, however the bow is the true star of fight. It feels unbelievable and is designed with pinpoint precision in thoughts. When Kena leaps into the air and pulls again the bowstring, time slows, permitting for an arrow to hit the precise spot you need – whether or not it’s a small weak zone on an enemy’s chest or a dangling lantern beneath a galloping behemoth. Touchdown these photographs is an empowering expertise, and you’re tasked to do it continuously. It is such a satisfying gameplay hook.
The Rot, these lovely companions I discussed earlier, additionally play a big position in fight. They will heal Kena, stun enemies, and are game-changers in opposition to bosses. These conflicts flip the problem to 11 and demand close to perfection in your timing and methods. Don’t be shocked if these bosses throw you round like a ragdoll, and also you die typically. The leap in problem is shocking and is among the areas the place the sport struggles a bit. The problem setting is switchable at any level, however with unsatisfying outcomes – shifting from blistering depth to cakewalk.
Bridge of Spirits additionally leans slightly too closely on the identical puzzle mechanics, particularly within the late recreation the place nearly each vertical motion pushes Kena to throw a bomb and detonate it with an arrow to create a path ahead. Whereas I admire how intelligent the puzzles are and the way fluid the platforming is, utilizing the identical motions will get tiring and saps a number of the enjoyable out of the exploration.
Ember Lab was upfront about Kena’s size going into launch, saying it might be accomplished in a weekend. Given how a lot I like this expertise, I want it will last more, however the shorter footprint works properly, particularly for seeing all of the world has to supply. The ultimate act is the one facet that feels rushed. The story wraps up properly (in methods I didn’t anticipate), however just a few of the large reveals and conflicts come and go in a flash and aren’t given the identical stage of care as different moments within the recreation.
Bridge of Spirits stumbles slightly in spots, but confidently sprints into the guts of the journey, rewarding the participant with secrets and techniques galore and visuals which are nearly all the time price admiring. For those who love Zelda-like video games or are simply on the lookout for an expertise that can make you smile each step of the way in which, you may’t go flawed with Kena: Bridge of Spirits.