Platform games have long been a favorite genre here at the editorial office. At the same time, the genre has lately struggled with its innovation and concern. Nintendo still manages to create timeless experiences (most recently in Bowser’s Fury) men Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for example, in the end did not shine quite as strongly as the game series usually does and it is possible that we now – like the beloved point-and-click games – are starting to reach a time where the whole platform concept needs to be fundamentally changed. For Kena: Bridge of Spirits actually does most things right and is ambitious, but unfortunately does not succeed in creating any major commitment.
We take on the role of Kena, a girl who is part of a people (Spirit Guides) who manage the knowledge to lead unspeakable spirits to peace. With her magic wand she can throw light and defend herself against the forces of darkness and to her aid she also gets small companions in the form of cute figures named Rots. These allow you to control special attacks or free infected plants from the dark. The adventure takes place in an enchanted world where Kena is both challenged and urged to help lost souls.
That which strikes one Kena is how cozy and beautiful it is. The graphics are similar to what we have come to expect from the last decade Disneymovies, with cute, round faces and magical landscapes. In the details it all falls a little, but as a whole this is an impressive feat of a relatively small studio like Ember Lab. The sound does its part to frame the story and the voice acting is clearly approved.
When we come to the actual track design and game mechanics, however, it becomes clear that the same ambition and inspiration does not appear here. The courses feel quite straight-forward – a bit like it was a long time ago – and the mechanics of fighting with two attacks (easy and hard), duck and special attacks are not wrong per se, but it leads to some pretty stiff and odynamic fighters. Since you spend a lot of time in battle further into the game, this will not be directly uplifting for the overall experience. Kena echoes a little too very old games like Zelda: Majora’s Mask, but almost 25 years later. And then it is much harder to surprise with elements such as magic masks and a relatively simple familiar system. It gets a little too much “been there, done that” feeling.
The game had some bugs at release that have now been ironed out and you who are a hard core platform fan do not make a mistake in taking a closer look Kena: Bridge of Spirits, especially as it costs about half of a regular PS5 game. Have just the right expectations of what you get. This is a beautiful and not even platform experience, but it gets a little too familiar and that feeling of “just-once-more” never really wants to show up – a bit like in Tamarin (although Kena is a clearly better game). The error may not be in the game, really. Maybe this type of third-party platform game has reached the end of the road? It is clear that just better and nicer presentation is not enough, but something more must happen with the genre. It is probably a combo of more imaginative courses and more varied bossfighter that is required. Or something further. But it is clear that jumping, moving stones and fighting enemies with a couple of button combinations is not enough as far as a deeply satisfying gaming experience today as it did 20-30 years ago.