Review of Ken: Bridge of Spirits – a game like a caress
Ken is a game that has fascinated everyone since the first show, the first picture. Few works will be so visually exceptional and at the same time pleasing that at first glance they will enchant literally everyone. But Ken did it, most likely because, although it’s the first game by a 14-member American studio (based in Los Angeles, next to Hollywood) Ember Lab, the individual creators have many years of experience with computer graphics and animation in non-gaming projects. The resulting game is, in fact, perhaps even more impressive from a visual point of view than promised by the trailers. But how well does it play?
- Platform: PS5 (peer-reviewed version), PS4, PC
- Date of publication: 21. 9. 2021
- Producer: Ember Lab (USA)
- Genre: action adventure
- Czech localization: born
- Multiplayer: born
- Data to download: 17 GB
- Game time: 10+ hours
- Price: 1399 CZK (Xzone)
Like a caress
The game world you enter is incredibly beautiful – not only technically, but especially aesthetically. A vast landscape opens up in front of you with mountains, forests, clearings, waterfalls and several lovely villages. The whole thing is significantly shifted to Asian spirituality, reminiscent of Buddhist temples and communities. The beautiful nature around you directly invites you to meditate, together with beautiful but always moderate music, practically every passage (except for the fight) seems like a walk through paradise. It’s not hard to find games today that are very impressively visually crafted. But it’s hard to find a game that looks so nice at the same time. You just won’t want to leave this world.
Such an extraordinary environment must have been difficult to create a “tailor-made” central character to fit into that unique atmosphere. But even the creators clearly succeeded, because the main heroine Ken is one of the most sympathetic and dearest personalities you have met in games for a long time. In addition to her charming appearance and the turbulent history of the “soul guide”, the acting performance, for which Dewa Ayu Dewi Larassanti, daughter of the directors of the Bali music and dance group (also involved in the game’s soundtrack), is certainly a major contributor. which is the first big role. Maybe that’s why she’s so natural and human, which, along with the vocation of “the one who helps lost souls find their way,” makes her one of the most beloved video game characters for a long time.
The game world you enter is incredibly beautiful.
Spending time in such a wonderful world with such a likable heroine is a joy, so it’s no wonder that instead of chasing the story, many players switch to searching and enjoying every corner of this extraordinary environment: for which they are rewarded not only by improving their character (meditation). places increase health, you can invest extra points in a bigger energy shield or Kenya’s advanced abilities) but mainly by finding “Kaziks”, cute black creatures that will accompany you and gradually grow from a handful to a large flock (exactly 100 of them are hidden in the whole game), which you can dress up in cute hats. It is not for nothing that the game is compared to a beautiful anime film The road to fantasy. If you decide to explore and find every corner of her world, you can easily spend twice as much of her normal game time as you go through the game, ie twenty hours instead of ten.
A real fight
In combination with the above, it is all the more successful that the developers also managed to come up with a combat system that no much larger and more expensive adult video game would have to be ashamed of. Here you will find a reliable mix of strong blows, fast strikes, cover and counter-strikes, as well as combos, special spells and / or archery or energy bombing. Everything is clear and great to control, although it may take a while to get used to the specific tempo of the stylized animation of the characters. Thanks to well-dosed battles with relatively diverse types of enemies, you will really enjoy the battles, of course, given the difficulty you choose for the game. For the less experienced, it is the easiest of the four difficulties, while even the tallest veterans can get stuck on the highest one.
But where the action gameplay really excels, these are boss fights. Again, where a number of much bigger and more expensive games have failed miserably, Ken has managed to offer several bosses who will surprise you with their looks and behavior, and from their defeat you will feel as good as solving a fun puzzle. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can cut out to this “family” game is that I remembered Returnal or even Dark Souls with some bosses. An important part of the combat dynamics is the use of your Kazík group, which further builds and strengthens the relationship with them, very important for the story point of the game. In addition to a wonderful experience and fun action, Ken also offers a simple but very successful story of human harmony with nature and respect for the natural order of things, including life and death.
Action gameplay excels in boss fights.
We bring the review a bit later, because the review codes themselves arrived later. So in the meantime, I had time to capture the reactions of some players, and sometimes I wasn’t surprised. Some accuse the game of being basically a traditional action adventure template, as we’ve known in the genre for decades. I don’t understand what’s wrong with this: this is obviously a game intended primarily for children and younger players who don’t have much experience with video games: what grows older may seem to be a great lesson. The combination of traditional jumping, climbing and fighting definitely came to me better than the obviously stuck development of the wonderful competitive game Everwild, which “forbade” the use of traditional game mechanics and fighting. If I complain about the game design, it would be an occasional wandering due to the fact that navigation on the map will show the destination, but the path to it leads by an unexpected detour. Alternatively, I would like to learn more about the past of Kenya herself, who paradoxically does not have as much space in the game as the plot and the past of other characters. Maybe that’s why someone thought the story wasn’t closed enough. But what I understand the least from the criticism of some players is the remorse towards the shortness of the game. The fact that this is the indie title of a small independent studio, in addition to their first, is absolutely unbelievable how narrative and honed the title we received.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
- A wonderful world to explore
- Fun combat system
- The urge to collect all the items
- The acting performance of the main heroine
- Varied difficulty settings
- Imaginative boss fights
- Sophisticated photo mode
- Unique music
It bothers us
- Occasional wandering
- The unresolved past of the protagonist