Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game for anyone – not just people who play games. And that’s what makes it so damn good.
When I first booted up my copy of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, my roommates, who usually don’t raise an eyebrow to the games I play for work, were immediately entranced by the wonderfully realised characters and the vivid landscapes this game contains.
It was a unique moment, and when I reflected on it, I realised that this game could have an appeal far beyond anyone who owns a PlayStation, or someone who has built a gaming PC.
A lot of outlets are comparing Kena: Bridge of Spirits to the animated films made by DreamWorks or Pixar, and it makes sense, considering the history of the game’s development team.
Ember Lab – and it’s worth mentioning that Kena: Bridge of Spirits is their first game – was an animation studio before they were game developers. Their portfolio was already impressive, having produced animated shorts and created characters for Coca-Cola, KFC, and a few more of the world’s biggest brands.
Ember Lab had the animation and the storytelling chops, now they had to design a game around them. Which is probably why Kena often feels as much like a movie as it does a game. And most importantly, one that anybody could love.
It’s easy to imagine a child being completely awestruck at the vistas of the Spirit Forest, or running around their houses pretending to be Kena, fletching arrows with her Spirit Staff.
At the same time, I, a grown adult, was deeply moved by the story of Taro and his two younger siblings, Beni and Saiya, as they tried to move on from a traumatic, family-defining experience. Fair warning: this one really hits hard.
The story is simple enough to make sense to young kids, but emotionally rich enough to appeal to adults as well. Like those Pixar movies everyone can’t help but mention, there’s a universality to the storytelling – Kena is an exploration of family and duty, not to mention a graciously delivered lesson on how humans move through grief.
The only thing I can imagine scaring some people away is the difficulty of the boss fights. Luckily though, Kena includes a Story Mode that all but eliminates this problem. It’s something every game should have, really, a perfect option for gamers with limited time, for children, and for players with disabilities.
In case you haven’t already guessed, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game I cannot recommend enough. I predict it will have a timelessness to it – it’s a simple idea executed brilliantly, and that’s not something that fades with age.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is out now on PlayStation and PC.
Special thanks to Doctor V’s Brain Storm, the all-natural energy drink kept Clocked ticking through this unique experience.