Kena: Bridge of Spirits preview: a charming God of War/Pikmin mash-up

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the primary recreation from new studio Ember Lab. Its first trailer made it appear like a cute romp by way of a forest overtaken by darkness, however after spending over an hour with a hands-on demo of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, I’ve discovered it’s surprisingly troublesome. Kena might appear like the most recent from Pixar, however the closing mini-boss I encountered kicked my ass up, down, and sideways.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits has layers to it — some cute, others powerful — and it made for a enjoyable preview full of surprises.

What is Kena: Bridge of Spirits?

Kena prepares to take aim at an enemy

Teleporting, monkey-like enemies examined me after I picked up the bow
Image: Ember Lab

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a character motion recreation with a close-to-the-back third-person perspective. I play as Kena, a woman with a distinctive combating type, a groovy stick, and the flexibility to commune with nature round her.

At the outset of the demo, I guided Kena by way of the forest, working to search out one of three artifacts wanted to cleanse one of three areas within the recreation world. I ran round with my stick, adopted by a merry band of Rot. Their title might sound gross, however these surprisingly cuddly creatures not solely support me in puzzles, however assist me in fight as nicely.

I sprint by way of the forest and run into a small group of picket foes. In response, Kena’s posture modifications; it’s time to struggle. My assault controls sit comfortably on the proper set off and bumper, just like God of War. I can hit these enemies with gentle or heavy assaults, and the higher I do, the extra my Rot can support me in battle. Eventually I cost up my gauge sufficient to ship the Rot on the assault, freezing my enemy and letting me get a few hits in.

When the encounter ends, I discover the world and discover one other member to affix my Rot occasion. Now I’ve 9; another and I’ll attain a new threshold, unlocking one other gauge to make use of in fight.

I preserve shifting ahead, deeper into the forest. I run into some platforming sections, areas to gather foreign money, and extra fight arenas. Ember Lab’s founders defined to me over our Zoom name how I can use my Rot gauge to heal myself or assault, even prompting me to unlock a highly effective hammer blast that makes use of my Rot to deal large harm.

Eventually, I decide up a main increase for Kena: a bow.

Familiar, in a great way

Kena aims at a grapple flower

These flowers act like grappling hooks while you shoot them
Image: Ember Lab

Kena swaps playstyles rapidly, making me really feel like I’m enjoying multiple recreation directly.

In fight, I really feel like I’m Kratos, beating on an enemy or calling on Atreus (on this recreation, my Rot) to help me in battle. When I’m utilizing a bow, I really feel like Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, leaping into the air to shoot slow-motion pictures and nailing weak factors. And after I’m utilizing my Rot to unravel puzzles and transfer issues round, I’m Captain Olimar controlling a legion of Pikmin. Somehow, all of this feels proper in Kena’s fingers.

In a mini-boss struggle, I may use my new bow to interrupt weak factors, dodge out of the best way, and use each of my Rot assaults to freeze the boss earlier than bashing it with my hammer. I may’ve solved that struggle in a number of methods, however controlling Kena felt fluid it doesn’t matter what I used to be doing.

From what I performed, Ember Lab has efficiently blended these playstyles into a cohesive recreation the place I all the time felt like I had tons of choices. As my military grew, and as I unlocked extra talents and picked up new items of gear, I felt my potential develop.

Deceptively cute

Kena fights the Wood Knight mini-boss

This asshole gave me a run for my cash
Image: Ember Lab

That Rot combo on the ultimate mini-boss felt good to drag off, however I additionally received my ass handed to me the primary two instances we fought. Kena’s fight requires a lot of finesse. Once I begin an animation, I’ve to comply with by way of, and each Kena and her enemies hit onerous. For a recreation this cute — and the Rot do really feel designed to promote plushies — I wasn’t anticipating to get beat down the best way I did.

That stated, the struggle didn’t really feel unfair, and even insurmountable. As quickly as I targeted up, I began experimenting with what I may do. I used to be in a position to study in actual time and take the boss down with out even getting hit as soon as on my third try.

Kena guarantees depth for all types of gamers, each younger and previous, beneath an nearly misleading layer of cuteness. For younger gamers, the lovable Rot characters can populate areas on this planet whilst you’re exploring. Your little buddies will simply pop up on a desk you’re taking a look at, giving life to the world round you with an explosion of cuteness. The recreation additionally gives a better problem, so gamers who simply need to play the sport for the story (or the Rot) can see it by way of to the top. Meanwhile, extra superior gamers have a host of problem settings obtainable that may take that boss from “I need to focus” to “I need to be perfect.”

Kena will final about 10-12 hours for a regular playthrough, in response to the builders — nevertheless it’s received a lot occurring inside. Kena and Ember Lab pay homage to motion video games which have come earlier than, however with a cutesy twist. More impressively, the studio blends the 2 collectively so the type and fight work in excellent concord, feelingly uniquely Kena.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits releases Aug. 24 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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