Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is an action-adventure game and the debut title from developer Ember Lab. The indie game was first announced at PlayStation’s Future Of Gaming show back in June 2020 and quickly impressed viewers. The game is now out digitally with a physical release coming next month, but is Kena: Bridge of Spirits worth it? Take a look below to discover everything you need to know about the game, including length, story, gameplay, and read up on our opinion on the title too.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits follows Kena, a young spirit guide, as she travels to an abandoned village in search of the sacred Mountain Shrine. The village and its surrounding forest have become corrupt and its inhabitants trapped, and before Kena can continue her journey to the Mountain Shrine, she must uncover the secrets of the abandoned community and help the spirits move on.
On her journey to help the trapped villagers, Kena will befriend numerous spirits, face her own past, take down numerous corrupt enemies and bosses, and collect mysterious spirit companions known as the Rot that have close ties to the community and the world beyond.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits uses an art style reminiscent of Pixar films. The game’s art was created by Ember Lab in partnership with Vietnamese animation studio Sparx. The game is bright and colourful, with its environments heavily inspired by Japan and Bali. Kena runs best on PC but offers great performance on PlayStation consoles. The PS4 Pro targets 30 frames-per-second at a dynamic resolution of up to 1440p, while the PS5 offers two modes.
The first is a Performance mode that targets 60 frames-per-second with reduced vegetation, shadow resolution, and field of distance. The second is a Quality mode that targets 30 frames-per-second with improved visuals, including higher vegetation density, sharper textures, and more. Both graphical modes run great on the PlayStation 5, although the Performance mode occasionally suffers from stuttering and the animated cutscenes run at 30 frames-per-second, which can be jarring if you’re playing in Performance mode.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is a platforming action-adventure game. Gameplay consists of exploration, puzzle-solving, and melee and ranged combat. At the beginning of the game, combat will be restricted to using Kena’s spear for light and heavy attacks. You’ll unlock additional tools later in the game, such as an upgrade to the spear that transforms it into a bow that can be used for ranged combat and as a grappling hook. Spirit bombs can also be unlocked and used to damage enemies or float rock and debris for platforming.
Kena also has a pulse ability that can be used as a shield with its own health bar or it can be used to solve puzzles. Each of the abilities and tools can be upgraded through a short skill tree; upgrade the number of arrows Kena can shoot, the strength of her shield, the number of bombs that can be thrown, and unlock new attacks that are incredibly useful against the Dark Souls-esque difficult bosses. Skills are acquired by collecting Karma by feeding Rot, completing missions throughout the game, correcting fallen statues, and more.
Throughout the game, you’ll find and collect Rot, little companions that join Kena on her journey. Throughout the game, Rot can be commanded to move objects and platforms to aid in exploration. In combat, Rot are used to heal Kena a limited number of times and can be used to overwhelm enemies, giving you some time to attack or retreat. However, Rot are initially frightened at the beginning of a fight, and you must build courage by attacking enemies before using any of their abilities.
Like the old-style platformers Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is based on, the game features collectables in the form of Rot hats. These hats can be found in treasure chests, can be acquired through general exploration, and for completing combat challenges found throughout the game. The hats are bought with the in-game currency and are purely cosmetic.
Length: How Long Is Kena: Bridge Of Spirits?
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits isn’t a long game and can be completed within around 15 hours. However, the total time spent on the game will vary by a few hours depending on how much you explore the village and its surrounding areas and whether you want to complete the game’s combat challenges and spirit mail side content. Each boss’ difficulty may also add time to your playthrough as some are incredibly challenging and will require you to either die several times before learning their movesets or force you to explore and upgrade your skills. Thankfully, there are multiple difficulty options available, with the Easy mode allowing you to breeze through the game with little to no problems.
Summary: Our Thoughts
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is Ember Lab’s debut video game, and the studio has done a fantastic job with the title. The game, although relatively short, has a wonderful story that focuses on loss, grief, and love. The story features several emotional beats that are carried by the spirits Kena helps on her journey through the village, and these scenes are bolstered by the game’s gorgeous Pixar-like animation. The game looks and plays wonderfully on PC and both PlayStation consoles, but jumping between 60 frames-per-second gameplay and 30 frames-per-second cutscenes can be incredibly jarring.
The gameplay is fun and reminiscent of old-school platformers, requiring you to solve various puzzles and explore the game’s rich and colourful world. Combat is fun thanks to responsive controls that are bolstered by the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, particularly when shooting arrows. There are several dozen bosses – who can later appear as ordinary enemies – that you’ll face in Kena: Bridge Of Spirits, many of which can prove to be a challenge depending on the difficulty you’re playing at, with bosses dealing more damage and taking less at higher difficulties. A common complaint we’ve seen and we agree with is that the differences between difficulties jump dramatically, with many players finding the first Story Mode difficulty too easy and the second Spirit Guide difficulty a little too challenging for a first playthrough. Completing the game on the toughest Master Spirit Guide difficulty may be outright impossible for many players, but a requirement for anyone looking to Platinum the title or acquire all achievements.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is a wonderful first game from Ember Lab. Although the game can feel frustrating at times due to the abundance of bosses and their difficulty, as well as the overall lack of rewards for exploration (Only Rot hats), Kena is still a joy to play. The short time length means Kena never overstays its welcome and can be completed fairly quickly for anyone that wants to experience only the story. There’s also plenty of side content and challenging trophies or achievements for completionists. We believe that Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is definitely worth the purchase if you’re someone who enjoys traditional platformers and heartfelt stories.