Early Kena: Bridge of Spirits reviews indicate that while the game boasts stunning visuals, it does very little in the way of anything new.
With the initial reviews of Kena: Bridge of Spirits having released along with the game, it seems the game has a lot of bells and whistles while somewhat skipping out on substance. The game launched on September 21 with the promise of a beautiful world and moving narrative. The final Kena: Bridge of Spirits trailer showed off a healthy mix of cinematics and gameplay demonstrating the visual prowess of the final product while introducing players to the plot that comes with it.
Developer Ember Lab has a lot of experience with producing commercials for gaming experiences, but Kena: Bridge of Spirits is one of its first major ventures into lead video game production. Ember Lab and PlayStation announced Kena: Bridge of Spirits in 2020, along with an optimistic PlayStation 5 launch window. However, the project was gradually delayed into 2021 due to a host of development difficulties. The project was eventually set back to summer 2021 and, following a final Kena: Bridge of Spirits delay into September, is finally seeing the light of day as an Epic Games Store PC exclusive and PlayStation console exclusive.
Now that critics are able to get their hands on it, Kena: Bridge of Spirit‘s is scoring well, but there’s a general consensus that there’s an unfortunate lack of inventiveness in the game. Many critics point out the game’s uninspiring and unoriginal concepts that seem like a mixed bag of ideas from other popular titles. However, there appears to be no denying Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ crisp animation and captivating visual style, which apparently shines through on updated PS5 hardware. Comparisons have been understandably drawn between it and Pixar films, but it appears Ember Lab may not have been innovative as Pixar tends to be with its film releases. Here are what some initial reviews of Kena: Bridge of Spirits are saying:
Rob Gordon – 4.5/5 – Screen Rant
“Overall, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of those rare games that feels like it belongs to the new generation thanks to its magnificent world, and its developers knew exactly how ambitious to be while still providing a top rate experience.”
Ewan Wilson – No Score – Polygon
“Inspirations should always serve as a jumping-off point, something to build upon. But it often feels less like Kena: Bridge of Spirits was inspired by things, and more like it decided it could squish its beautifully realized world of magic and spirits into a ready-made mold. The result is a thoughtless blend; a hybridized paste. Vibrant and undoubtedly beautiful, Kena: Bridge of Spirits shows us every color in the spectrum. But strangely, it all feels brown — a muddy, grayish brown that comes from having mixed together every color on the palette.”
Luke Kemp – 65/100 – PC Gamer
“Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a looker, and the Pixar comparisons that have been flying around are, to an extent, justified. The lush world and its big-eyed inhabitants radiate with personality. Even the bulbs of corruption that plague the land are oddly attractive. Kena’s got the Hollywood looks down, but it’s also got the Hollywood determination to play it safe.”
Stacey Henley – 4/5 – TheGamer
“Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a very good game that feels like it’s already been left behind by modern genre conventions. There’s nothing all that frustrating in that – we shouldn’t expect games, especially those made by studios the size of Ember Labs, to be constantly groundbreaking, but so much of Kena feels borrowed from elsewhere that it’s difficult to call it great. It’s a solid, enjoyable experience, and charming enough that you won’t care that you’ve played versions of it before. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a pretty nice wheel nonetheless.”
Dalton Cooper – 4/5 – Game Rant
“Despite a few shortcomings, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a solid action-adventure game and an impressive debut effort by Ember Lab. It will scratch the itch for anyone looking for a Zelda-like adventure on PlayStation, but while it’s been compared to games like Zelda and Pikmin, Kena: Bridge of Spirits still stands on its own.”
Critics don’t have many gripes with the overall quality of what’s present in the game, but Kena: Bridge of Spirits‘ derivative ideas and mechanics hold it back from being memorable. However, considering the relatively small size of the studio, the overall scores seem to paint Kena as a fairly successful introduction to game development, especially with the major attention the game has received since announcement. The hype and marketing machine behind it (there’s even a Kena: Bridge of Spirits skin in Fall Guys) has built up expectations quite high, and the PlayStation console exclusive seems to have met most of them.
It likely didn’t hurt that Ember Lab made a deal with PlayStation and released it on the wildly popular PS5. Unfortunately, owners of the new-gen console hoping for an all-new experience should prepare for more familiar mechanics and features. While the overall quality and impressive visuals are there, reviewers are largely in agreement that Kena: Bridge of Spirits doesn’t do much in the way of new.
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Kena: Bridge of Spirits is available on PS5, PS4, and PC.
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