When you think of adventure games with platforming elements, you probably think of big games like Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, or Jak & Daxter. As gamers, here at Honey’s Anime we’ve played all of these famous titles and always smile at their style and charm. Developer Ember Lab—which is a small team of only 14 individuals—has decided to try their hands out in the adventure/platforming genre with their latest title, Kena: Bridge of Spirits...and wow! For an indie game, this might be one of the best titles we’ve played this year. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is incredible, and we could just say right now "stop reading and go purchase it ASAP." If you’re curious on why Kena: Bridge of Spirits is so good, then keep on reading below!
Jax & Daxter Meets Pikmin
Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a lot of similarities to other famous action/adventure platformers, and that is by no means a bad thing. As you run through various forest locations and damp caves filled with an atmosphere brimming from stone to stone, you can’t help but see influences from other big titles. Combat and platforming feel like a more polished version of the classic Jak & Daxter series, while controlling the Rot—little spirit companions—has a Pikmin-like charm. It’s incredible how Kena: Bridge of Spirits doesn’t directly steal these ideas but uses them as a stepping stone in innovative ways.
Combat in Kena: Bridge of Spirits is fast, simple, and smooth. You have light attacks, heavy attacks, and the means to dodge, as well as using the Rot to pin enemies down or even weaken them. This is where Kena: Bridge of Spirits shines; its simple combat isn’t akin to games like Devil May Cry—so you won’t be performing giant combo strings—but instead a simple fighting system that just aims at all ages.
The Pikim element comes in when you control the Rot to explore the land and use them as a means of solving puzzles and finding secrets. These little cuties are quite useful in a multitude of ways and give Kena: Bridge of Spirits a unique feel of its own.
Those Cutscenes…Just Wow
There’s a reason why in our title we compared this game to Pixar works, and the minute a single cutscene plays for Kena: Bridge of Spirits, you’ll understand what we mean. We have seen bigger studios struggle to make beautiful cutscenes, but Kena: Bridge of Spirits' smaller team did something that is truly mind-blowing. Every cutscene almost has a movie-like caliber to it, and rarely will you not be blown away at the fantastic art and extreme level of detail seen in every shot. If Kena: Bridge of Spirits released a licensed film tomorrow—even after having played the game—we’d sit in movie theaters and take in the wonderful visuals all over again!
Stand Aside Nathan Drake and Lara Croft, Kena is Pretty Tough Too
Kena comes across initially as a simple lead character, but as the story progress, this young woman clearly has a spirit not seen in many main characters nowadays. Kena is kind but tough, brave and smart as well as quick-tempered, but not over the top. We have to applaud Ember Lab as they made a main female character who isn’t going for sex appeal or trying to be overly tough but is relatable and encouraging to female audiences. Game companies, learn from Kena: Bridge of Spirits and realize you don’t always need tough MCs to lead games!
Puzzles Could Have Been Tougher
In our humble opinion, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is almost perfect, but if we had any gripes about the game it would be the puzzles themselves. Most puzzles can be solved with little to no thought, and that does make us a bit sad as we wished they could have been a bit more complex in nature. However, we understand that the puzzle element of Kena: Bridge of Spirits is only a small portion of the game as a whole, and really feel it doesn’t detract from the experience.
If this year ended right now and awards had to be given, then we’d hope Kena: Bridge of Spirits would take Indie Title of the Year. Even with its simple gameplay and simple premise, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a wonderful game that pulsates with innovate ideas using game themes we’ve seen a million times. Despite being done by a small studio, it's almost comparable to bigger titles, and those cutscenes show how much Ember Lab really wanted to make their first major foray into gaming something special, and we think Kena: Bridge of Spirits is really a special title!