Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a perfectly nice, good game. Nice isn't a particularly smart word to use when talking about anything as it's about as bland a word can be. Good is equally inoffensive and vague. After playing through the first few hours of Kena on PS5 (although it's also on PS4 and PC), it's fair to say that late-day concerns and conspiracy theories over a lack of review code weren't warranted, but neither is this the next indie game superstar. It's just a nice, good game.
I don't know if comparisons to PS2-era action adventure games are entirely where I'd go with my thoughts. To me Kena feels like a more streamlined, melee focused fantasy Tomb Raider. There are some dark themes running along in the background (almost like how a Pixar movie's main gut punches go over the head of most kids), but in terms of gameplay what's on offer here is fairly simple. Not in a bad way as such, just in a streamlined kind of way.
The running, jumping, and platform shimmying from Tomb Raider is all handled well, the combat is centred on two main attacks, and these cute blob creatures called Rot are around to help you fight and solve puzzles.
Combat can be a little challenging, mainly due to some enemies having rather large areas of attack and the parry system taking longer than ideal to get a feel of. The Rot can be directed to move things, Pikmin style, or bash things. Ultimately, they are used to help cleanse an area of badness, with Kena leaving a trail of loveliness behind her.
Although the world of Kena seems vast and sprawling, the adventure skips along fairly linear paths with some slight breaking away to find secrets. Again, this isn't a negative, but simply an observation for those who maybe were expecting a more grandiose adventure. Certain areas are inaccessible until you acquire the right mask, while there are also rather bizarre slippery slope zones that appear to be on an angle of about 5 degrees, meaning even a wobbly toddler could traverse them in reality.
A lot of Kena's appeal and hype (Sony has highlighted it a fair bit over the last year) is due to the admittedly very impressive visuals on show. On PS5 I'd recommend playing on Performance Mode, which to my eyes is more pleasing than the significantly less smooth frame rate of the resolution mode.
While the visuals are no doubt technically impressive (although a dabble with the PS4 version suggests the leap here isn't as massive as you might think), it's the style that does a lot of the heavy lifting. There's an animated movie look to the characters and world, not overly dissimilar to the vibe in Biomutant. Kena is clearly the more impressive looking, with higher quality assets and a more pleasant tone to the colours, but it's also serving up a considerably smaller world.
I expect I'll play through the remainder of Kena in the coming weeks. What I've seen so far hasn't grabbed me in the way the very best games do, but I'm keen to see what other impressive vistas it'll throw my way. Go in with sensible expectations of a game that looks pretty and plays perfectly fine, and I doubt you'll be disappointed. If you're already settled on Kena being Game of the Year, then, well, maybe walk that back a little.
Disclaimer: Tested on PS5, with a copy of the game provided by the publisher.