Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the debut game of veteran animation studio Ember Lab. With a background in animation, it should come as no surprise that the title is absolutely gorgeous - seriously, people just can't stop comparing it to Pixar - however a lack of previous game development experience will also explain some of the criticisms.
Kena is launching worldwide on the 23rd of September, which is just a day away. Reviews have started rolling in, and it seems like the general consensus is a favorable one, though the same complaints do seem to crop up seemingly across the board. Let's take a look at what the critics think.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a magical story-driven action adventure game played from the third perspective where you take control of Kena, a spirit guide who assists souls in passing on while also battling against and also recruiting 'The Rot', which are small ethereal entities (that are super cute).
Metacritic's importance and relevance in determining actual game quality has long been contested, as many major outlets don't assign numbers to reviews anymore, meaning they are no longer added to the Metacritic metric - and arguments against using numbers at all are many. That said, it can still help get a good sense of what to expect.
Since the game is not out yet publicly, only verified critic scores have been tallied up and the audience score will have to wait. Right now, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is sitting at a very respectable 85, meaning generally favorable reviews. All critic reviews fall into the positive category.
When getting to some of the unscored reviews that don't add to the Metacritic score, some less favorable opinions also join the fray.
"With its elegantly simple combat and beautiful world, Kena: Bridge of Spirits harkens back to the days of the N64/GameCube-era Zeldas, Okami, and Star Fox Adventures, while also adding modern sensibilities and a distinct personal touch."
"Kena is smooth as a pebble - a game engineered to be so unoffensive there's no reason not to play it, or to play it at all."
"For some people, Kena: Bridge of Spirits will be a visually impressive meditation on grief. But for me, it's all one big mission to collect new hats for my Rot companions."
"With all its verdant forests, glowing mountain shrines, and mossy ruins, it feels like Kena: Bridge of Spirits desperately wants to be a game about the magic and mystery of nature. Unfortunately, the illusion is shattered somewhat by a lack of imagination and the absence of any original identity."
"The fundamental issue with Kena, which rears its head almost everywhere you look, is that you'll have done almost everything on offer here a hundred times before. Combat is very familiar, complete with enemies carrying glowing weak spots. There are giant flowers which act as grapple points. There are targets to shoot within a time limit."
"If there's anything I want you to know about Kena: Bridge Of Spirits, it's that its simplicity is still beautifully expressive. In particular, Kena has a truly cinematic style, with some breathtaking cutscenes, and it deploys them with real expertise."
Taking the criticisms into account, it seems like Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game with few new ideas filled with gameplay mechanics and elements lifted wholesale from other, arguably better titles. However, it packs so much charm and soul (ha!) that, coupled with the jaw-droppingly gorgeous aesthetics and compelling world, these shortcomings are far too few in number to drag it down. These days the world really feels like a place that could use more color and cheer, and Kena is packing those.