Video game displays superb graphics, mediocre gameplay



In “Kena: Bridge of Spirits,” players are taken through a story mode in which they encounter detailed characters and cutscenes. The game was released on Sept. 21 and has been praised for its excellent animations.

Your character walks out of a dank, gloomy cave, and a different world stretches out before you. It’s rich with lush forests, sapphire rivers and sparkling waterfalls. Atop it all is a colossal mountain, beckoning you for adventure.
This is the scene that greets players in Ember Lab’sKena: Bridge of Spirits,” and the game lives up to its flashy introduction. It came out at a great time for many students, when school stress is running high. “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is the perfect thing to boot up for just 10 or 15 minutes and get lost in its world. The only problem: It’s more a movie than a game.

The story in “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is simple. You play as a teenage “spirit guide” who explores a long-abandoned village, helping out its unfulfilled, ghostly occupants along the way. The goal is to reach a shrine in the mountains far above, but most of your time is spent in the forest and foothills surrounding it, where you collect items, battle monsters and watch cutscenes.

The developers of “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” describe their game as a “story-driven action adventure,” but in reality the game focuses heavily on the “story” and “adventure” aspects. The player will meet vibrant characters that look like they belong in a Pixar movie, explore richly detailed areas, and collect almost annoyingly little fur balls suspiciously reminiscent of Minions from “Despicable Me.” It’s the visual aspect that makes the game such a joy to play.

Despite all of this polish, the grandeur of “Kena: Bridge of Spirits” comes at a cost; the minute-to-minute, bread-and-butter gameplay feels frustratingly neglected. The game’s combat system stubbornly refuses to meaningfully deviate from the standard hack-and-slash control scheme and constantly throws the same simple enemies at you time and time again. The combat is by no means boring, but it mainly serves as padding to lengthen out your playtime. If you are a fan of high-octane, complex combat, look somewhere else.

Ember Lab is not a group of experienced game developers but rather an animation studio branching into gaming for the first time. This is evident from fantastic visuals in pre-rendered cutscenes and actual gameplay, but it comes with a significant caveat: not all computers can handle it. For the best experience, it should be played on a PlayStation 5, the console it was designed for, but a decent desktop PC or PlayStation 4 will do. 

This, on top of the $40 price for a relatively short experience, means the game isn’t for everyone. 

However, if you are in the mood for an awe-inspiring, beautiful journey or are just looking to relax after school, this could be the game for you.