Review: Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Estimated read time 4 min read

Developer – Surgent Studios

Publisher – Electronic Arts

Platforms – PS5, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, PC (Reviewed)

Review copy given by Publisher

In recent months, we’ve witnessed a surge of releases embracing exploration-centric Metroidvania-style gameplay, such as Prince of Persia: The Last Crown and the upcoming Rogue Prince of Persia, and more, each vying for our attention and adoration. So what makes Tales of Kenzera: ZAU different and stand out from the rest?

In Tales of Kenzera: ZAU, the dance of the shaman becomes your weapon and the reclamation of your father’s spirit, becomes your mission. In this heartfelt single-player action-adventure platformer about the love between a father and son and the transformative power of loss, crafted by Surgent Studios under the guidance of BAFTA-nominated actor Abubakar Salim, you step into the shoes of Zau, a young Nganga, shaman determined to defy death itself.

Set in the breathtaking and perilous lands of Kenzera, once vibrant with life but now haunted by lost ancestral spirits, Zau’s quest unfolds as he strikes a deal with the formidable Kalunga, the God of Death, to bring his beloved Baba back from the darkness. As you harness the cosmic powers of the warrior shaman and face the trials of the unknown, you’ll encounter three formidable beings, their strength both daunting and strangely familiar.

With Kalunga, the God of Death as your guide, you’ll journey through mystical 2.5D realms
full of color and depth to harness the cosmic powers of the warrior shaman,alongside mythical characters and formidable foes drawn from Bantu lore, each with their own unique path and personal story.

As players journey through the vibrant and enchanting world of Kenzera, they are transported to a realm brimming with untold lore and captivating landscapes. Inspired by Bantu tales, the game’s universe is teeming with ancient shamans, sacred spirits, and awe-inspiring creatures. From the majestic Ikakaramban Highlands to the mysterious Itshokan Deadlands, each environment is brought to life with stunning visuals and an enchanting original score by multi-award-winning composer Nainita Desai.

Central to the gameplay experience is the mesmerizing combat system, driven by the cosmic powers of the Sun and Moon masks. Players must master the rhythmic flow of combat, utilizing meticulously hand-crafted animations to unleash devastating attacks and manipulate time itself. Whether crystallizing enemies with the Moon mask or launching fiery spears with the Sun Mask, every move in combat feels deliberate and satisfying. With each new ability unlocked, players are treated to captivating myths from Kenzeran culture, further enriching the narrative tapestry of Tales of Kenzera: ZAU.

One of the most interesting things about the game is the inclusion of Swahili as both a voice and subtitle option. The inclusion holds immense significance, enhancing the authenticity and immersion of the gameplay experience. Swahili, as a widely spoken language across East Africa, not only adds cultural richness to the game but also pays homage to the diverse heritage and traditions of the region. By offering Swahili voiceovers, players have the opportunity to engage with the narrative in a language that resonates deeply with the game’s Bantu-inspired setting, further immersing themselves in the world of Kenzera. This thoughtful integration of Swahili across both voice and subtitles highlights the developer’s commitment to authenticity and cultural representation, elevating Tales of Kenzera: ZAU into a truly immersive and inclusive gaming experience.

The game also offers tons of accessibility features (All of which can be found here) , which the major one for me as someone who is color-blind is Colorblind-accessible text and UI by design, as no information is conveyed through color alone.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU unfolds as a poignant narrative, serving as a profound tribute to the enduring strength of love and the remarkable resilience embedded within the human spirit when faced with the challenges of confronting one’s deepest pain. Through its intricate storytelling and emotive depth, the tale navigates the complexities of emotional turmoil, weaving together threads of vulnerability and courage. Each character’s journey becomes a mirror reflecting the universal truths of human experience, where love emerges as both a source of profound healing and a catalyst for transformative growth. Within the intricate tapestry of the narrative, the reader is invited to witness the beauty of redemption and the profound catharsis that accompanies the journey towards self-discovery and acceptance. Tales of Kenzera: ZAU stands as a testament to the resilience of the human heart, reminding us of the boundless capacity for love to transcend even the deepest of wounds.

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