Tales of Kenzera: Zau Review


In a sea of new action-platformers, Tales of Kenzera: Zau may be easily overlooked, but dismissing it without a second thought would be a mistake. This short, yet engaging side-scrolling action game draws inspiration from iconic titles like Metroid and Castlevania. Filled with exciting combat and challenging platforming, Tales of Kenzera delivers a fun gameplay experience that may not revolutionize the genre, but still manages to captivate players. What truly sets it apart is its heartfelt narrative, serving as a touching tribute from a grieving son to his late father, cleverly woven through allegories of guiding restless spirits to the afterlife.

Visual Appeal

One of the most striking aspects of Tales of Kenzera is its stunning visual design. Featuring a vibrant color palette and dynamic environments ranging from lush jungles to rolling hills, the game is a visual treat. While some character animations may appear clunky, the movements of the monsters exhibit a supernatural grace, enhancing both the atmosphere and gameplay mechanics.

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Cultural Enrichment

Tales of Kenzera draws inspiration from African folklore, infusing its narrative with themes of guiding spirits to the afterlife. The story revolves around Zau, a shaman tasked with this solemn duty, interwoven with a tale of personal loss and grief. Reflecting the traditions of Central and East African cultures, the game explores the poignant journey through mourning and acceptance. Director Abubakar Salim’s personal connection to the narrative adds an extra layer of authenticity, making the storytelling resonate on a deeper level.

The simple, delicate, and poignant way Tales of Kenzera speaks to loss is one that will stay with me.

Gameplay Mechanics

Tales of Kenzera seamlessly integrates its core gameplay mechanics with its thematic elements. Players will navigate through three distinct sections, each offering a unique blend of platforming challenges and narrative depth. While the action meets the standards of modern Metroidvania titles, it may fall short of breaking new ground. The game’s emphasis on accessibility is evident, catering to a broader audience with its approachable design.

Combat and Exploration

The combat in Tales of Kenzera strikes a balance between simplicity and impact, delivering swift and satisfying encounters. Players will utilize Zau’s shaman masks, each imbued with powers of the moon and sun for ranged and melee combat, respectively. Switching between these abilities adds a strategic layer to battles, requiring quick adaptations based on enemy types and shield colors. The limited skill tree and variety of enemies offer engaging challenges, forcing players to think tactically and prioritize targets.

Synergies between these enemies add an extra challenge that is by no means controller-breaking, but still clever enough.

Progression and Challenges

While Tales of Kenzera may lack in collectible hunting, its streamlined approach reduces backtracking and keeps the focus on forward momentum. The gradual introduction of diverse enemies and environmental obstacles keeps the gameplay engaging, though some encounters may feel repetitive towards the later stages. The Spirit Journey trials stand out as the most demanding battles, requiring players to utilize all available skills effectively.

Final Thoughts

Tales of Kenzera: Zau shines as a heartfelt tribute wrapped in engaging gameplay and cultural richness. While it may not revolutionize the genre, its fusion of storytelling and mechanics creates a memorable experience that resonates long after the game is completed. Fans of action-platformers and narrative-driven games will find a unique and touching adventure in Tales of Kenzera.