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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Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)Review

Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world, action, role playing game set in a futuristic City. In the game players create and personalise a mercenary named V who is on a desperate mission to become the King/Queen of Night City while also trying to remove the personality of long Dead Rockstar Johnny Silverhand from her brain.

The game was developed by CD Projekt Red and Published by CD Projekt, it was released in 2020 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, the original release was a notoriously broken mess and barely playable, the game was so bad that Sony removed it from their store for 6 months until the game was patched with better development and bug repairs.

In 2022 a free upgrade for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S was available for download, this is the version I played which also is the fixed version of the game, I will however keep in mind the original release for my criticisms and final score.

The gameplay is very similar to what you might expect from the Grand Theft Auto series, you play a fairly ruthless character who will break the law relentlessly to get what they want, stealing cars, hiring prostitutes and all out murder, it does add the ability purchase multiple homes and vehicles, it even uses skill trees and body modifications to help increase character attributes and abilities. The skill trees will help you gain more strength, stamina or hacking abilities while the Ripper Docs offer the modifications allowing you upgrades such as a double jump, better scanning, Gorilla strength, armoured skin and so much more.

But one thing this game does amazingly well is that it manages to be LGBTQ+ supportive in its gameplay and character developments.

Throughout the game you get the chance to have a lot of sex including LGBTQ+ you can even start romantic relationships including those of the same sex (My female character was dating another female in the game). During the character development you can be woman with male private parts or vice versa which I believe is in support of the trans community, If that statement is incorrect please educate me as I don’t mean to offend anyone.

I just think its amazing to see a triple A title like Cyberpunk take time to recognise the LGBTQ+ community in a way that isn’t overblown and is accepted as part of the society of Night City, Cyberpunk may have had its problems initially but the way it handles these areas is a testament to how far video games have come over the years.

In 2022 the game plays almost flawlessly, it has good controls and it has a good mix of side missions and other content to keep you coming back, the side missions are really diverse too you could be stealing an artefact in one mission, then aiming to be the city’s boxing champion before trying to come first in a street race

I did experience some problems though, my main gripe was when ever I finished a Johnny Silverhand Segment a blue rectangle would be stuck on my screen until I rebooted the game, another common issue was general crashes while loading missions, again making me reboot the game and hoping for the best when trying again. The game runs well enough but these rare bugs really did get annoying at times, I understand that they did patch the game to fix most of the problems but in reality the game never should have been rushed to release like it was, you shouldn’t sell people a broken product, its practically a scam and the developers and publishers ought to be ashamed of themselves, its all well and good fixing the problems but they never should have been there in the first place.

The game has seven possible endings which I wont go into detail on because of spoilers but each one can be reached depending on player choices throughout the campaign.

The soundtrack is pretty fun, it uses a lot of rock music to fit the atmosphere especially around Johnny Silverhand and his band Samurai, Samurai is actually really good and I’m surprised this isn’t a real band, throughout my college years I listened to a lot of rock music and screamo and this reminded me of those tracks, it was quite nice to get nostalgia like that.

Two years ago I would have told you to stay far away from this game and save your money on a practically unplayable scam and to simply make a point to the developers that gamers wont support this type of disrespect even if they did get Keanu Reeves to play Johnny Silverhand.

However as of now the game has been financially successful and its a long time since that first release, the fixed version of Cyberpunk is one of the most creative and wonderfully directed games I have played in a long time, you tell your own story here and apart from the Johnny Silverhand stuff there isn’t much that keeps you on a single path. The game is open to all types of gamers and celebrates a wide range of communities, it also has a great number of bad ass females in the game to help narrow down that issue with the video game industry as well. Cyberpunk is worth your time and is fairly reasonably priced to pick up cheap, it is also free on Playstation Plus if you want to check it out. I had a blast with the game but I cant give it too much praise, its still broken in some areas and while not to the degree it was previously its still bad enough to effect the flow and take you out of that atmosphere. I think the game is well deserving of a 8 today but this is not the original game that got released so I think a 7/10 is a fair score which a still represents the games past versions but can also celebrate those more playable versions as well.

And to CD Projekt Red I want to ask if you make another Cyberpunk please try and learn from your mistakes, next time I don’t want to be discussing broken releases.

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A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) Review

A Plague Tale Innocence is the first game in a new video game series from developers Asobo Studios, It was published in 2019 by Focus Interactive for the PS4, Xbox One and PC with a PS5, Xbox Series X/S releases coming out in 2021 Cloud based releases also came out for the Nintendo Switch and Amazon Luna. I played the PS5 version of the game so my opinions are mostly based on that version of the game.

The game takes place between the years 1348 and 1349 in France during the Black Plague and the 100 year war. You play the game as Amicia De Rune who is trying to escape the French Inqusition who want to take away her sick 5 year old brother Hugo so they can run experiments on him due to something in his blood. Since the game also takes place during the plague outbreak avoiding infected rats is also a major key to survival.

The game has a very high focus on stealth, in fact I would argue that this is almost the entire game, I dont mind stealth but I have always struggled with it and normally die a whole bunch which was no different here. I was surprised with how much I actually really enjoyed the stealth gameplay though.

I like how the entire experience is like a puzzle, you can attack enemies with your slingshot to kill them but throughout your journey you do unlock new ways to use your sling with a crafting system, you can make fire, extinguish flames and do an attack that forces soldiers to remove their helmets.

You can even find other ways to get rid of enemies such as throwing rocks and pots to lure them away from your location or you can create a sleeping solution to knock them out, the goal of the game is not to avoid violence but to avoid being seen and it is really fun to figure out different ways to achieve this. Hugo makes this difficult because he is only a child and gets upset if you go too far away from him so for the majority of the game you are holding his hand and need to be sneaky while also making sure to keep him safe as well.

The way that rats work is they only attack in the dark and always come out in groups that will eat you alive. You need to stay in the light or find other ways to distract them, I don’t want to spoil too much but one way to distract the rats is to encourage them to eat the enemies, you can do this by extinguishing enemy fires or by throwing a smelly solution at the French Soldiers to over-empower your own scent. As for Hugo’s secret blood and abilities I wont discuss them in this review as that would be a major spoiler for the game but I will go into a lot more detail when we discuss the upcoming sequel.

Sometimes during the game you have allies that you need to command to help you take out enemies or finish puzzles, this doesn’t happen too often but whenever did happen the game was clear with its hints and I didn’t have too much trouble.

The game looks great visually it fits the theme of desolation, loss and fear that a lot of people had during the time period, the abandoned villages and mass hysteria of certain groups reminds me of the early days of something we all had to suffer through recently and I want to make it clear that in my spare time I am a massive history fanboy. The Black Plague is something I have researched a lot over the years and while of course this is a video game so it does over exaggerate certain things it is what I would expect from a game based during those troubling times. It even makes an effort to be somewhat historically accurate, above you can see white crosses on the doors and in the game Amecia explains that people in those houses have been locked in as they have caught the plague and this is actually true to historical evidence although the crosses were more commonly painted in either red or black.

The soundtrack for the game was composed by Olivier Deriviere a French videogame composer best known for the Alone in the Dark Series. The Music here is very eerie and gives off chilling vibes of loneliness and an odd sense of calm. There isn’t really a lot of big action in the game so the music tends to fit the slower pace with it’s composition and while I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to listen to it I do appreciate what we were given and I look forward to seeing if the composition changes much in the sequel.

A Plague Tale Innocence is best described as a great experience but not one you would really want to revisit straight away, the core gameplay is really good and it works to tell a fantastic and emotional story of two struggling siblings during one of the most horrific pandemics in History. The biggest issue with the game is that it is much too linear, there are collectables but for the most part you are on one path with very little room for exploration, I wish there was more too it perhaps some side quests or morale choices that effect the outcome of your journey, maybe the possibility to play the game in co-op would have been a good addition considering that out of the entire story only a handful of chapters focus on one character.

The game is one of the more affordable options for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, in fact I got this sealed for a measly £20 and for that price its a bargain, I just hope the next chapter in the adventures of Amecia and Hugo just offers a little bit extra and that big reveal at the end plays a much bigger role next time.

7/10

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Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (2021) Review

Based on the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is the latest Sherlock Holmes videogame, it was developed and published by Frogswares for the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X with versions for last gen consoles coming soon.

This is an origin story for our favourite detective so you wont be seeing Dr Watson in the game. The Plot actually sees a younger Sherlock Holmes returning to the Island of Cordona to revisit his family home and try to find out why his mother died.

He is joined by his imaginary friend Jon who acts as his conscience but at times seems to have a mind of his own.

While figuring out the answers to one of his biggest family secrets word of his unique detective skills gets around and young sherlock finds himself solving various different mysteries before he can finally get some answers.

The game is an open world Action/Mystery videogame based in the early 1800’s. It differs from a lot of other open world games as their is very little action segments and those that do exist can be skipped with very little effect to the player.

The Main Quest is very short and in order to get the most out of the game you really need to be focussing on the side cases and collectables.

The Gameplay is all very similar throughout the experience, you are a detective putting clues together to solve crimes, there are various ways to do this but some of the most frequent ways to solve a case are by examining a crime scene, you can view certain objects to gather information and you can even check for much smaller details such as blood spots on the carpets or scratches in woodwork etc.

Some people wont speak to Sherlock in his expensive suit so putting on different disguises is absolutely necessary, these can be purchased from various street sellers, you can also purchase furniture for your home from sellers across the island.

There are three archives you can visit, Police (Crimes), Cordona Chronicle (News) and Cordona City Hall (Official/Legal Documents). Depending on your clue you need to decide which will be the most useful to visit, you first need to select your clue from your case file then you can choose three key words to try and match some further information. For example if I was looking for a news article about an escaped monkey in Scaladio 100 years ago I would visit Cordona Chronicle and would search 1700’s – Front Page – Scaladio and that would then match the correct information.

Once you have enough of an idea of how a crime was committed you will be able to enter Sherlocks imagination where he can individually choose positions and actions to determine the most likely possibility of a crime before making his final decision in his mind palace.

Some items you collect during investigations can be chemically analysed to find out what certain stains or substances are. This process requires players to complete a small math puzzle where they need to find clever ways to match the required outcome by either dividing, adding, subtracting or doubling numbers.

The mind palace is where sherlock is able to connect all of his clues and make his final judgement of who is the culprit and how they should be punished, this normally results in whether he lets them go or reports them to the authorities but in more serious cases he can even suggest the death sentence.

The cases are almost perfect from a gameplay perspective you really do feel like a detective but if there is one issue I would say that Jon should have been a developed a little differently, throughout the game he constantly complains when you make mistakes but the game isn’t very clear on what direction you should be heading in, the clues are very complex in areas and I think that Jon maybe should have been used more as a hint system or a way to help players with trickier clues. I used a walkthrough more than once and I am not ashamed to admit that because this game can be really hard at times due to its lack of direction.

While the detective and mystery elements of the game really shine I feel its combat is a little lackluster, thankfully as I have already stated you can skip these but in case you want to do them, the idea is to shoot off armour and use the environment to stun enemies so you can arrest them, you can kill people but you will be penalised for this.

The problem with the combat is that its really slow paced and because of the lack of ways to interact and stun enemies it gets repetitive very quickly, towards the end of the game I found myself really enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to do these parts.

While your running around the island, eves dropping on locals and solving side cases there are actually 24 hidden treasures you can find by using photographic clues given to you by the treasure master.

These are actually quite cryptic and really challenging to find, they are a great way to have a break from the rest of the game which all follows a very similar gameplay pattern and there are some trophies to unlock if you collect these.

The game is lacking in its visuals, graphically its not really up to scratch with the modern hardware its been released on however that is not to say that it isn’t impressive. This is not a triple A game and it had a much smaller budget than some other games on modern systems, It doesn’t even have a physical release which says a lot in how much money was able to be pumped into it, what is really impressive is how the developers managed to make the world so realistic and immersive. The 1800 style really works in the games favour for being pretty cool to explore especially for fans of history. The load times are really fast and there is no issue with background items loading in too late. The developers were really clever with how they managed to hide invisible barriers, by putting Sherlock on an Island they are able to allow him to explore almost anywhere that he can walk too, he cant jump so he is restricted to the ground and since he cant swim the only barrier is the ocean which drowns him when entered. Smart game design like this allows players to remain immersed in the gameplay without obvious blocks taking away from the experience.

The soundtrack isn’t too special but I don’t think it needed to be, the small music tracks it uses are very simple and mellow, I does pick up during combat for the most part you are so focused on solving cases you forget the music is even there, so unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the OST here apart from its neither good nor bad.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was a lot better than I expected, I really enjoyed the freedom that came with the open world, I spent a lot of time focussing on the side content and really going after all the trophies which I did manage to pull off, they are quite easy to get and a good chunk are rewarded for making certain moral decisions and doing Jon’s various challenges.

The main quest line is fine enough but its very short especially on a second playthrough so again you really will want to do everything to get your moneys worth with this one, especially since you will be paying a fair bit on money as the game is not cheap for digital only.

Overall I really enjoyed this game but even with all of impressive features its got some pretty serious issues in its gameplay, the combat is creative but badly pulled off, again you can skip these but that’s still no excuse, the main puzzle solving and the mystery parts are really cool but a little bit too cryptic at times which can effect peoples enjoyment as just little hints would have been useful to help get us in the right direction without having to use the internet.

However I did get excited to play this game whenever I got the chance, even though I did use a walkthrough a couple of times I was still really invested in the story and cases I was solving, I thought the world was really well animated, it felt how I would imagine the 1800’s to be and the characters were all really interesting. I think it was a great choice to do an origin story as well before Sherlock becomes famous, who knows maybe one day we will get another game in this style, perhaps with Dr Watson?

6/10

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