When I first booted Kena, I'll admit to some skepticism. It felt very much like any other Unreal Engine game. Here's your character, here's the world. I felt as though I could see through the cracks of it as I maneuvered around the map.
Blissfully, the wizened, jaded part of my gamer soul was soon treated to and sent into the afterlife by our titular hero.
This game clicks in every way. The smooth-as-eggs combat, fun from the start but gradually becoming more exciting as you collect upgrades. The Zelda-esque semi-open-world collectathon layouts, and the dungeon puzzle design. The absolutely brilliant lighting, that shines with a 4K HDR display, and the sweeping soundtrack that will immerse you to the point of childlike wonder if you're wearing a pulse headset.
The story is neither here nor there. It was cute, and optimistic, and inclusive, but I felt like it could've played out without dialogue and I'd have understood everything. Perhaps that's a strength, actually.. there's little complexity, but there's a ton of heart.
There is a new game + mode, and plenty of trials to complete, so if you're loving this world and want to stick around, it gives you the means to do so. But I personally was whisked along by its brisk pace and felt that it respected my time to the perfect degree. By the time I'd completed the game, I felt very little desire to double back and collect what I'd missed. But it is exceptionally rare that a game actually tickles that bone so that's hardly a mark against.
It's a brilliant game, that harkens back to the pre- Last of Us ages where video games were allowed to simply be video games, and AAA development didn't need to concern itself with photorealistic graphics and dark narratives.
Kena is a winner.

Reviewed on Jan 29, 2023