Kena: Bridge of Spirits Review

Dan Webb

Just like her debut appearance at Sony’s E3 showcase in 2020 – which feels like a decade ago now – Kena drops out of nowhere in the opening shot of Kena: Bridge of Spirits. No explanation, no fanfare, she shows up rather unexpectedly. Regardless, her appearance here was certainly just as impactful as it was back then. See, that’s the thing with Kena: Bridge of Spirits - the spawn of a former animation studio that’s decided to try its hand at games - that initial impact is awe-inspiring, with its dazzling visuals and absolutely stunning musical score, but once the sheen wears off, cracks begin to appear.

You might find something under a rock…You might not.

As Kena, a young spirit guide, you’re thrown into a sprawling journey through a once thriving village, as she looks to gain access to the mysterious Mountain Shrine. The only way to do that is to assist the displaced villagers, all of whom are spirits seeking passage into the Spirit World. You’re effectively a spiritual therapist, as you look to solve the woes of those that linger after death’s throes.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is, in essence, a throwback to the old-school adventure genre. The inspirations from other games are incredibly clear, but rather than being a shameless rip-off, Kena comes across as a love letter to the stalwart video game adventurers. Whether that’s the simplistic – but surprisingly finessed – combat of, say, a Zelda game; the puzzling of, say, a Zelda game; or the platforming of, say, a Zelda game... I jest, but Kena truly reminds me of a PS2/N64-era experience, from a gameplay mechanics perspective, at least.

What makes Kena work, though, is the impeccable balancing of its parts. Things rarely get boring in Bridge of Spirits, as the combat and puzzles are constantly freshened up with fresh mechanics throughout, ensuring that you feel like you’re constantly growing as an adventurer. Where Kena: Bridge of Spirits does feel a little outdated, however, is in its setup - everything seems a little too formulaic. The game is effectively broken into three acts, with three relics to obtain during those three acts. The truth is, there are far too many fetch quests and definitely not enough variety in your objectives.

If anything, Kena feels like it’s going through a bit of an identity crisis, with it being a fairly gentle platform-puzzler for large sections, and a boss rush for others – clearly inspiration coming from Dark Souls and the like there. In fact, at times Kena can feel like a Dark Souls game, thanks to some excruciating difficulty spikes. Some of those boss battles can be truly unforgiving, especially towards the end, so much so that you have to learn attack patterns, get into parrying rhythms, and whatnot, if you’re to have a chance of succeeding – much like Dark Souls. Heck, we only played through at normal difficulty, too, so we dread to think what the harder difficulties must be like.

While mechanically simple, Kena boasts a great balance of abilities with some slight character progression, albeit not much. There are some great ideas at work, like the fact that Kena can build her army of Rots – small spirit creatures from around the world – to assist her in battle and during puzzles and such. The fact that you spend most of your time collecting diamond currency to buy cosmetics for your Rots speaks to the importance of them mechanically. But honestly, the fact that so many of the collectibles are for cosmetics for your legion of otherworldly sprites gives very little incentive to search out the other secrets in the world, and doesn’t really reward exploration. I honestly don’t care what little hat my Rots wear, regardless of how cute they are, mainly as there are so many of them, but I do care about more context to the world – of which there is some of that, in the form of unlocking parts of the village – or becoming more powerful.

Simply existing in Kena’s beautiful world succeeds in being a complete joy, regardless of these flaws. The environments are stunning - absolutely drop-dead gorgeous - and it’s a world you’ll want to spend time in. From the stunning cut-scenes and fantastic voice acting, to the incredible score, Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ world is just an utter joy to be a part of. Surprisingly, there’s also a great variety to the world and its soundtrack, from underground caverns, huge sprawling forests, and forbidden temples (and some others, but we don’t want to spoil things), especially considering you’re literally in and around a small village for the entirety of the game.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits, for all its beauty – and boy is it a beautiful game – does suffer from some really significant issues. The platforming can be a little temperamental and there are some really awkward checkpoints at times, but it’s the bugs that are the real killer here. And not just graphical, inconsequential bugs - we’re talking about game resetting glitches and worse: game-breaking bugs. Early on, we got stuck in the first-person mask view and had to reload a save to reset it, then had to reload the game entirely when our interaction button disappeared completely. But the kicker for me, was when I died to a boss at the end of act two, only to try and fight them again, only for the game to have locked me out completely. To get past said bug I had to load an earlier save… from three hours previous, something that in my eyes is completely unforgivable for a game. Even one from an indie developer.

You'll want to approach enemies with caution.

And that’s the thing: as much as I loved my time with Kena: Bridge of Spirits, to suffer so many really infuriating setbacks put a massive downer on things. To be completely honest, when I hit that game-breaking bug at the end of act two, I contemplated not even finishing the game and just moving on – ironic when Kena is a game about moving on and not focusing on the past. It was genuinely that soul destroying, especially as I knew I’d beaten some tricky bosses since I last hard-saved the game. Other that that, though, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a lovely jaunt into a beautifully handcrafted world, with a frankly brilliant original score. It’s perhaps more style over substance, and won’t leave a lasting impression on you, but if you can battle through the difficulty spikes, you’ll no doubt have a great time. If the bugs don’t well and truly shaft you that is, like they did me.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an absolutely stunning game on the eyes and ears, but is perhaps a little too much style over substance. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the mechanics, they can at times feel fairly shallow, but thankfully things don’t really get too repetitive or boring. Kena's main issue is its bugs, especially those of the game-breaking variety. Still, despite that, I did love my time in Kena’s world, and am very much looking forward to its sequel, which we hope is forthcoming.

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Just fantastic. From start to finish. It’s definitely one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in quite some time – and the voice acting was pretty stellar too. So chock full of emotion!


If you’re playing on PS5, like we did, the game looks utterly fantastic, and it’s hard not to get lost in developer Ember Lab’s transcendent world or get swept up by its wondrous visual style. The game actually looks great on the PS4 and PS4 Pro too, so Ember Lab must be commended for that.


Incredibly simple, with not a lot of depth; but credit where it’s due, even with those limitations, Kena hardly ever gets boring. The platforming is a little underwhelming and finicky, though.


The game is definitely far too formulaic, and unfortunately littered with some pretty major, potentially game-breaking bugs.


Considering that Ember Lab is a former animation studio, it doesn’t show when it comes to its trophies! There’s great variety and balance here, but if you want that Platinum, I can already foresee the hardest difficulty being an absolute pain in the arse!

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