Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is one of those games that charms you in an instant. For one thing, it’s absolutely stunning.
The lush, colorful world that Ember Lab has put together is nothing short of breathtaking and it’s no wonder: The studio was founded by brothers Mike and Josh Grier in 2009 as an animation studio first. Kena is the developer’s first video game.
From what I’ve seen of the game—I spent a couple hours playing it during a preview earlier this summer—that’s pretty remarkable. This does not feel like the virgin outing of a new game studio.
Kena is a young Spirit Guide on an epic quest to a land shrouded in mystery and loss. A mysterious village, hidden shrines and fearsome beasts await.
The game looks pretty much like you’re playing a Pixar film. It’s like stepping into a vivid cartoon, though “cartoonish” isn’t how I’d describe it exactly.
Here, you’ll spend your time exploring which involves climbing around cliff-faces Uncharted-style and platforming across various perilous perches. There are secrets to be found and mysteries to be unraveled.
Oh, and you’re followed around by those adorable little creatures known simply as the Rot. These fuzzy little guys help power up your attacks and perform other invaluable tasks. You’ll want to pay them back for this assistance by finding them as many cute hats as possible.
The game’s combat is quite good also. You have your trusty staff, which can double as a spirt bow, and your Rot to help you take down a variety of demonic foes.
It’s a lock-on style combat system that’s roughly in the Dark Souls wheelhouse, though not as difficult. Still, the one boss I fought—a hulking tree demon—was certainly challenging and I only managed to take it down at the last moment with just a sliver of health left.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is a delightful blend of strong storytelling, exciting combat and compelling adventure and exploration set in a gorgeous 3D world that’s bursting with color and brimming with secrets. It also boasts a really phenomenal, tribal Balinese-influenced score that fits the magical setting perfectly.
The game’s music was composed by Jason Gallaty (Theophany) and Dewa Putu Berata whose daughter, Dewa Ayu Dewi Larassanti, ended up voicing Kena herself—her first voice-acting gig, and one she clearly knocks out of the park. As with the rest of this game, I am deeply impressed.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits comes out on Monday, September 9th at 9 pm PT / midnight on Tuesday September 21st ET on PS4, PS5 and on the Epic Game Store on PC. It’s a timed-exclusive, so Xbox and Steam players will simply have to wait. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.