Kenya: Bridge of Spirits is the premiere title for Ember Labs, which has made short animated films in the past. She transformed her experience into creating beautiful animated stories that touch your soul and bring a smile to your face.
Kena was originally scheduled for release in 2020, but the creators have postponed the project several times until it hits perfection. This was their first project, so we understand they haven’t been able to estimate a good time to complete it, especially during the pandemic. And we still can’t believe it’s their first match.
Kena serves as a title for experienced developers who are familiar with level design and animation and can create a fun, albeit very simple gameplay. In the 12-20 hour range – depending on whether you’re looking for all things or just doing the main tasks – in the skin of Kenya, you’ll try to help lost souls push the boundaries of our lives and retreat happily to an eternal rest.
However, it will not be easy at all. Spirits are often possessed and very dangerous. At first, we were surprised that Qena is not a children’s game. Although it has very nice visuals and even animations and a Pixar presentation, my 9 year old cousin sometimes couldn’t overcome some obstacles.
The title contains very complex puzzles and solutions to closed roads, in which you have to use your skills and skills on the console, because they are often limited in time. It’s not too difficult, it’s reasonably designed puzzles to update the battles and explore the environment.
This is probably the most beautiful thing about Kenya. Studio Ember Labs has managed to create a fantastic world in a fairy tale without exaggeration. The creators did not try to realistic graphics. Instead, they’ve created a unique art style that can stand out on PS4 as well, but is totally magical on PS5 and PC. Featuring rich and vibrant colours, the forests are full of trails, dense and green vegetation, and beautiful natural phenomena.
Kina is by no means a small game. It will take 15 hours to visit the central area of the abandoned village, from which you can get to three larger areas. Each of them differs sufficiently from the previous one, and we have the impression that the design of the levels is constantly improving. You will spend most of your time in a forested environment, so you will be surrounded by a lot of greenery, but you will also come to frozen areas, which is an outdoor landscape full of water and you will climb too.
We often stopped and watched the beautiful environment of the game, whether it was human dwellings, overgrown old buildings, mythical objects, or simple nature, which, however, looked beautiful. The creators made sure that the player feels like in a fairy tale, which they managed to create for each unit.
However, feelings from children’s fairy tales will pass quickly when you first encounter difficult enemies. With so-called boss fights, even an experienced adventure player with a third-person perspective will sweat. Of course, we are talking about the most difficult difficulty (after it ends, it will be difficult to unlock, but it is already a decent carnage at the level of sub-games inside boss fights). However, it’s not difficult just because these enemies kill half their lives with one hit.
The fighting style of each boss is original, and differs from that of the previous one, so you always have to look for weaknesses and the combination of moves and attacks that the boss has. It was a very nice surprise. We didn’t really expect Kane to present a more complex challenge, but we’re so glad the creators balanced it out.
Battles with smaller normal opponents are very easy, so the bosses were not only a fun refresher in the gameplay, but also a necessary challenge that brought the player out of the idle state of the fairytale world.
There is nothing revolutionary about Kenny’s gameplay. The character jumps, has two basic methods of attack and many special moves that you have to unlock gradually as you progress through the game. You also have a magical shield and the ability to fend off attacks, but the timing of the repulsion is quite a challenge. Unfortunately, there are basically no combo attacks, which should add more complexity to the battles.
Given the demanding boss fight, this would probably be appropriate. After a few hours, adding a bow will revive the game, but we had the impression that in battles, its incorporation wasn’t so detailed that we want to use it (only on flying enemies).
However, the movement itself is smooth and the animations are well executed, although not exceptionally complex. The only thing that bothered us was that running could interrupt turning, jumping or any other movement, and then the sprint button had to be reactivated. You will find many of these small bugs in the game, but they are really negligible flaws.
We can also mention that rot organisms are sometimes very slow. These are small black creatures of trailers, which help Kenya in battles and in solving puzzles. They have many functions and sometimes, for example, carry important things. If you have to move the object to a great distance, then wait for them to do it will reach you endlessly. But that’s probably the only thing we can blame Rotom for. They have their place in the story, they put a smile on the player’s face and make up a huge part of the puzzles and battles.
In total, there are 100 of them hidden in the world. Sometimes you can find them easily, other times you can not cope without the help of the Internet. On PS5 you can see all 100 at once, on PS4 only 20. A certain part of the Rotov always follows you, and the rest is constantly appearing on tree branches and the like, so you are still surrounded by your little friends.
The game episode also includes searching for chests, collecting funny hats that you can put on your Rotom’s head, as well as discovering small shrines and other places that increase your health and give you points. For these, you buy improvements to your attacks in the first place.
It’s great to control Kenna, she looks great and she surprised us with her breadth. The game world is diverse enough and offers many opportunities to have fun and fill your time while completing the main task. However, don’t expect any open quests or side quests, but rather smaller shifts that make the journey more enjoyable from beginning to end of the quest.
The story was very successful and the story closed well, which can be emotional at times. The game will draw it for you from the start, but we admit it was too late to realize what was happening to the other characters in the game. At that moment, the emotional story and dialogues of the characters took over.
It also helps with story videos of a quality that even seasoned Hollywood fairy tale animation studios are not shy about. However, they could have been more energetic and agile. Except for the finals, it seemed very static, both within the individual scenes of the environment and the movement of the characters. However, the audiovisual aspect is generally popular.
We should also praise the music. It is very visible both in battles and in other parts of the game when exploring the environment. It is diverse enough and fits perfectly into the concept of the game. Technically, time has clearly benefited the game. We only encountered a few bugs, none of them were a huge problem.
Finally, let’s just mention the inclusion of the revolutionary features of Dualsense Driver for PS5. Except for the Pulse ability, we didn’t feel much haptic feedback (the Pulse will create a shield, but it also acts as a wave of blue glow revealing the world around it), but the adaptive buttons (R2 and L2) were better.
He felt nervous in them, especially when shooting with a bow or during special attacks. If we were to compare the implementation of the Dualsense driver features in Kenya with Death Stranding: Director’s Cut, Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut, Astro Bot, Returnal or Ratchet, Kenya will surely lose. In general, however, it is a very nice bonus.
Kenya: Bridge of Spirits looks like a modern take on the popular adventure ‘jumping games’ from the PS2 era. It offers a beautiful sprawling world with great graphics and simple yet beautiful animations. The story is average, but it can evoke emotions and has sympathetic characters, while we can not forget about the cute creatures Rot. Fighting bosses is an unexpected challenge, which is a big plus, but we also enjoyed completing the optional content and finding hidden objects.
Additionally, Kena has completely original, modern-looking clips with puzzles, makes great use of the PS5’s hardware and with its audiovisual handling gets under your skin. It’s an absolute must, one of the best games of the year and an incredibly successful debut by Ember Labs. That is why he takes eight and a half points out of ten of us.
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