It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the art style in Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Ember Lab, known for their Majora’s Mask fan film from back in 2016, are clearly gifted artists. Not only are the environments beautiful, but the character animations are on par with the best Pixar has to offer. It was never a chore exploring the lush and verdant forests or watching the stylised cutscenes. Kena, as a character, is charming. Although you never get to fully see what’s behind Kena’s surface, she’s a warm and welcoming protagonist. It makes it easier to feel connected to the Spirit Guide, even if the progression and combat never really evolves beyond the basics.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits follows Kena. A young Spirit Guide tasked with helping the dead pass over to the other side, unable to do so themselves. You follow her as she travels to an abandoned village, trying to find a mountain shrine while rescuing spirits along the way. The curse that has encompassed the village must be removed, and by using small creatures known as the Rot, Kena has a chance to return the land to its former glory. In order to progress the story, Kena must defeat the corruption, solve puzzles, and defeat mean spirits with a limited arsenal.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits: Simple combat
The combat in Kena: Bridge of Spirits doesn’t really progress further than hitting enemies with a stick and using it as a bow. New upgrades unlock abilities, but they’re not game-changers. All of which are small improvements that feel like they should be part of your move set from the beginning. The Rot-infused abilities are perhaps the best of the bunch. Using a hammer to reach enemies further away, or firing a bow with extra power do make a difference when fighting tougher enemies down the line. You have a light and heavy attack, can parry and dodge – all familiar moves if you’ve played a modern action-adventure game.
It isn’t a difficult game, but the further you go, the tougher enemies become. Different types of spirits require a different approach. You will have to alter your attacks, whether that’s attacking from behind or at a distance. Whatever the fight brings, you have a decent amount of options available. Whilst fighting off the evil spirits, you have an important mechanic that helps you regain health, or slows down the enemies. This help comes in the form of the adorable yet wrongfully-name fellas known as the Rot.
These tiny and cute creatures add a new level of gameplay to Kena: Bridge of Spirits. You can order them around in combat to hold enemies in place, or send them off to harvest some health for you. They can also merge together to form a cloud that does greater damage to foes as well as breaking down large areas of corruption. Outside of combat, Rot can be ordered to move platforms for you to climb up, press switches, and more. They are also key to breaking the corruption covering the land. They’re helpful in the way you progress, and super adorable to boot.
Cute little critters
Kena: Bridge of Spirits features various collectibles which allow you to change the appearance of the Rot. I’m not one who hunts down collectables, but some of the hats you can dress your Rot in are so sweet. While the overarching story is pretty dark at times, these delightful critters always manage to fill your heart with glee. It’s a shame that the game features heaps of repetition in both the combat and the platforming. It never gets boring, but it would’ve been nice if it had something extra. It’s a fundamental action platformer. That doesn’t mean it is bad at all, but it rarely pushes the boundaries. It’s formulaic and straightforward, with an unoriginal story that never seems to reach the heights of its peers.
There’s no denying Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. It isn’t a AAA title, but it’s an impressively large indie, much like Hellblade. It’s a shame the action becomes repetitive, and the story didn’t blow me away. Despite these shortcomings, Kena: Bridge of Spirits managed to hold my attention for some time. I’d have preferred it to be a little shorter, and have more variety in its combat. However, it’s an impressive debut from a studio that will only improve with their next venture into the world of video games.
The Rot are so damn cute
Story doesn't grab you