In a year that has seen its fair share of blockbuster releases and indie darlings alike, “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” emerges as a captivating blend of both.

Developed by Ember Lab, a studio that initially cut its teeth on film and animation, this title marks their ambitious foray into the world of video gaming. Available on multiple platforms, this review zeroes in on the PC version, dissecting its various facets to see how well it translates Ember Lab’s cinematic prowess into an interactive experience.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits screenshot

Story

At the heart of “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is a tale that is as poignant as it is enchanting.

Players assume the role of Kena, a young Spirit Guide who embarks on a journey to uncover the mysterious history of an abandoned village.

Throughout her quest, Kena seeks to help wayward spirits find peace, bridging the gap between the physical and spirit worlds.

The narrative excels in weaving themes of loss, grief, and hope into a rich tapestry that engages players emotionally, driving them to explore every nook and cranny of the game’s lush world.

The storytelling is further elevated by well-crafted cutscenes and dialogues that feel both natural and compelling. Kena herself is a relatable protagonist whose strength and vulnerability are showcased through her interactions with the spirits she encounters, as well as the environment itself.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits screenshot

Gameplay

“Kena: Bridge of Spirits” strikes a harmonious balance between exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat.

The gameplay is fluid, with Kena wielding a staff that transforms into a bow, providing both melee and ranged attacks against a variety of enemies.

The combat system is intuitive yet requires strategic depth as players progress, introducing new abilities and upgrades that are essential for overcoming later challenges.

A unique feature of the game is the Rot, adorable creatures that Kena collects throughout her journey. These companions are not just cosmetic; they play a pivotal role in both combat and puzzle-solving.

Players must direct the Rot to move objects, activate mechanisms, or even assist in battles, adding a layer of strategy and depth to the gameplay.

The puzzle elements are thoughtfully integrated into the world, challenging players to observe their surroundings and think creatively.

They range from simple environmental puzzles to more complex ones that require the use of Kena’s abilities and her Rot companions.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits screenshot

Graphics

“Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is a visual feast.

The PC version, in particular, benefits from higher resolutions and frame rates, making the vibrant world of Kena even more immersive.

The game’s art direction draws heavy inspiration from various cultures and natural landscapes, presenting players with breathtaking vistas, intricately designed environments, and a color palette that is both soothing and evocative.

Character models, especially the Rot, are animated with a level of detail and personality that is rarely seen in games of this scale.

The facial animations of Kena and the spirits she interacts with are particularly noteworthy, conveying a wide range of emotions that enhance the narrative’s impact.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits screenshot

Music and Sound

The auditory experience of “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is as impactful as its visuals.

The soundtrack, composed by Jason Gallaty, perfectly complements the game’s thematic elements and settings. From serene melodies that accompany the exploration of the forest to the dynamic scores that heighten the tension of combat, the music is a pivotal element of the game’s immersive atmosphere.

Moreover, the sound design deserves special mention. The environmental sounds, from the rustling of leaves to the flowing of water, are meticulously crafted, grounding players in Kena’s world.

The voice acting is also top-notch, with performances that bring depth to each character, enhancing the overall narrative experience.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits screenshot

Conclusion

“Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is a remarkable achievement for Ember Lab, especially as their debut video game. The PC version, with its enhanced graphics and smooth gameplay, offers an experience that is both visually stunning and deeply engaging.

While the game does not revolutionize the action-adventure genre, it excels in executing its core elements with a level of polish and charm that is rare for an indie title.

The game’s story, with its emotional depth and relatable characters, is a journey worth embarking on. The gameplay, while familiar, is elevated by the inclusion of the Rot, adding a fresh twist to combat and puzzle-solving.

The graphics and soundtrack are the icing on the cake, making “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” a sensory delight.

In conclusion, “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is a must-play for anyone looking for a heartfelt adventure that marries traditional gameplay mechanics with innovative storytelling and presentation. It’s a testament to the potential of video games as a medium for storytelling, and a shining example of what indie studios can accomplish with passion and creativity.

Images are from the Kena Bridge of Spirits page on Steam used under Fair Use