Kena: Bridge of Spirits (2021) Review

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure game from Ember Lab Studios, it was released in 2021 for the PS4, PS5 and PC

In the game you play as a young spirit guide Kena, she has the important job of helping deceased persons cross from the natural world and into the spirit realm, some of these spirits have become corrupt and have infested the land with demons and toxic elements, throughout her adventure Kena will have to work closely with the creatures called Rot to help free these tormented souls and save both worlds.

The gameplay while simple in its design is very fun, its a 3D platformer at heart with a good mixture of action oriented combat with adventurous terrains and worlds to explore, with the game having a high focus on spirits there is an emphasis on supernatural elements and magic which helps to spice up the gameplay.

Regular combat isn’t anything too special only offering basic light and heavy attacks with the staff but its the Rot, Bombs and Arrows which really bring additional challenge and for me made the combat some of the best parts of my personal journey with Kena.

The Bow of course gave us distanced combat and was useful for hitting further away enemies and those who fly, it could also be used to whip across gaps using special flowers.

The Bombs were particularly cool because not only did they give us a powerful damage attack but they have the ability to interact with certain stones creating timed platforming segments to help progress through areas and find hidden secrets.

The Rot were the best part of the game because not only are they extremely adorable and can be decorated with the sweetest little hats but they also have the ability to help you solve puzzles by carrying items, removing corruption and growing plants, they can also enhance your staff, bow and bomb abilities later on in the game giving them even more uses.

These creatures are only one of the many hidden collectibles in the game, they can be found in many different places but specifically prefer to hide underneath rocks and logs and tucked away inside of small spaces like drawers and plant pots.

Unfortunately with all of the collectibles in the game apart from trophies there isn’t much benefit to finding them with the exception of Rot and the meditations spots (permanently increases Kenas health), The hats while cute don’t offer any upgrades to abilities and the flower shrines only give you more money which can be used to purchase the hats, Spirit Mail sometimes does lead to more rot and do normally come with some cursed chests offering some combat challenges.

The Visuals are just out of this world and easily some of the best we have seen on PS5 so far, the landscape takes high inspiration from the Japanese countryside which fits the narrative of the game really well, on top of this crisp details on everything really enhances the experience, I love the bright colours of the human world making this game stand out even though it shares similar visual designs with other games of the genre, the spirit world uses more darker colours with less detail and again it helps to differentiate the worlds of the game making sure players know where they are at all times.

The soundtrack was composed by Jason Gallaty and is just beautiful, the team travelled to Bali to record traditional Gamelan music for the soundtrack, Gamelan uses bamboo flutes, Xylophones and a Rebab (Bowed instrument) the music is very calming but is adaptable to suit the games more action oriented sections. It is rare that I do not have spotify, an audio book or Youtube on in the background while gaming but this was an exception with a soundtrack so mesmerizing I wanted to let every second of it massage my brain with its artistic melodies.

I loved Kena, its visuals and outstanding soundtrack really helped to enhance my experience, the land was fantastic to explore and I loved all of the different combat sections and boss fights. My only issues with the game is that some of the collectibles dont offer enough to feel worth going out of your way for and finally the lack of a waypoint marker for the map made getting around a little difficult, I had to keep checking the map to see where I was and what direction I was facing, there is an update coming soon so maybe this will be added but overall if you have a Playstation or a good PC I highly recommend this one and will award it a well deserved 9.8/10

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Tomb Raider (1996) Review

Tomb Raider is a 1996 3D platformer-puzzle game developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released for the Sega Saturn, Playstation 1 and MS DOS. The game was the first release in the popular video game series that sees Tomb Raider Lara Croft solving dungeons to discover treasures.

Relaxing in a Hotel in India, Lara is approached by a texan man named Larson who shows her a video feed to his boss Jaqueline Natla who offers her a job to travel to various countries to seek out the Scion of Atlantis which had been split into separate parts and hidden in tombs across Peru, Greece and Egypt.

The first Tomb Raider game while not limited in it’s environments definitely is forgettable, nothing about these areas stand out much apart from the enemies that you would fight, for example Peru has wolves and bears, Greece has lions and gorillas, Egypt has panthers and Atlantis has bleeding skin demons.

In the game you will have to solve puzzles and commit to some tricky platforming in order to survive the many tombs in the game, unfortunately you would be best playing the game on an original PS1 controller as more modern controllers make the platforming difficult as the game really was made with the Playstation’s original limited controller in mind.

while general control is rather clunky and a little stiff I found that swimming in the game worked really well and controlled smoothly, I believe this is why I enjoyed the underwater segments the most.

For an early PS1 game the graphics are really good and even hold up better than some games released later on in the systems life time, the game focuses primarily on tombs and is actually quite realistic as Lara will die constantly due to small mistakes and the tombs feel like they could exist in real life due to their simplicity by using mainly levers, switches and difficult platforming sections, there is nothing in the game that feels fantasy minus a few additions such as the Lara Doppelganger in Atlantis which is a puzzle in its self.

The soundtrack is great, it uses simple tunes but mixed in with orchestral music that fits perfectly into the lonely tombs and helps to amp up serious moments in what is a very quiet game. The developers decided to not have music playing constantly in the game but to only have it appear on certain cues such as discovering a secret or triggering a boss fight.

Tomb Raider on PS1 is a very important game as it was the introduction of Lara Croft who would go on to become one of video games most famous female icons. I wish the game controlled a little better or at least would save after every challenge as the controls really did make the gameplay unnecessarily difficult, I also wish that the environments were more memorable as apart from Atlantis and the dinosaur section nothing else really stands out. Overall I dont think is one of the best games I have ever played but its far from the worst and I look forward to checking out Tomb Raider 2 in the future.

5.3/10

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