Tales of Kenzera: Zau Review

Tales of Kenzera: Zau Review

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that while the game is good, it probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point. We suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future. Maybe ever. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 23, 2023
  • Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
  • Genre: Narrative 2D Action Platformer
  • Similar Games: Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Price: starts at $19.99

Metroidvanias have seen a resurgence as of late, with titles like Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and more recently, ENDER MAGNOLIA: Bloom In The Mist hitting early access. One more title joins the fray, as EA Originals and Surgent Studios bring into fruition Abubakar Salim’s tribute to his late father to life in the form of Tales of Kenzera: Zau.

Tales of Kenzera is a coming-of-age tale of loss, struggle, and quest for self-identity, as the grief-stricken shaman Zau makes a desperate plea to the God of Death, Kalunga, to return his father’s soul to the realm of the living. Dealing with heavy themes, the game strives to provide an emotional journey combined with competent gameplay in this debut title.

Are you ready for a journey of healing and self-actualization? Ready those masks, shaman, and let’s dive into the enthralling tale of Tales of Kenzera!

Remember the Living

Tales of Kenzera stands out as a visually captivating Metroidvania game, blending action-packed combat, intricate platforming, and an immersive storyline. We will tackle more of the story later, but first, let’s take a look at the gameplay.

One area where Tales of Kenzera excels is in its platforming. Right from the outset, players have access to fundamental traversal techniques like double jumps, air dashes, and wall jumps—features that other Metroidvanias often unlock gradually. Additionally, as you progress, you’ll unlock specialized skills such as gliding, spirit spear launching, and water freezing, enabling you to explore specific areas.

The game’s diverse biomes are filled with puzzles and traversal challenges. Initially, you follow a linear path, but as you acquire new abilities, backtracking becomes possible, granting access to previously unreachable zones. However, in it lies the problem, as unlike other similar titles where some semblance of organic exploration is still possible without these abilities, Tales of Kenzera simply points you towards one path that misses the point of being a Metroidvania.

Players can test their mettle in Hero Challenges, which blend platforming, combat, and skill-based tasks in exchange for Trinkets. Although optional, they test your abilities and patience. The intricate level design in these challenges adds an extra layer of excitement for platforming enthusiasts.

Tales of Kenzera Zau Traversal

The combat system in Tales of Kenzera is straightforward once you become familiar with it. However, what adds challenge and consequently, frustration, is the incorporation of platforming elements. The game progressively becomes more difficult, as combat areas feature hazards like spikes, pit traps, and one-shot kill zones that will require patience and perseverance.

Skills are divided between two masks: Sun and Moon. These masks empower a certain aspect of Zau’s combat capabilities, with Sun being melee-focused and Moon offering ranged attacks. Unlocking specific skills grants you a ground attack with the Sun Mask and additional projectiles with the Moon Mask. Despite these enhancements, combat lacks significant variety beyond a deflect attack and spirit spear strengthening, and the skill tree sadly doesn’t significantly alter the core combat experience.

Tales of Kenzera Zau Combat

The enemy variety includes three main types: flying foes that launch projectiles, humanoid melee opponents, and humanoid projectile users. Their shields dictate their behavior—Blue shields succumb to Moon Mask projectiles, while White and Red shields shatter under Sun Mask attacks. Dealing with these foes will require switching between masks, offering a welcome change of pace.

The true highlights are the colossal boss battles. Facing against giant gods with set patterns provides memorable set pieces, even though they adhere to standard boss fight conventions that don’t present any outstanding innovations.

Celebrate the Dead

The true strength of Tales of Kenzera lies in its captivating narrative and visual design. Inspired by Abubakar Salim’s personal journey through grief, the game introduces parallel tales of two youths grappling with the recent loss of their father. Zau, the central character, strikes a bargain with the God of Death, Kalunga: three Great Spirits in exchange for his father’s return from the Land of the Dead.

Kalunga serves as a compelling mentor figure, while each distinct Biome features its own Great Spirit and supporting cast. The combination of voice acting and supplementary codex entries immerses players in the richly crafted world of Kenzera. For an even more authentic experience, playing in Swahili provides cultural depth that we didn’t know we needed or wanted.

Tales of Kenzera Zau Powerup

Each Biome embodies its respective Great Spirit. Notably, The Woodlands stands out—the Great Spirit of Nature appears as a diseased entity, and its mental faculties deteriorate. Devious, terrifying, and shrouded in creeping miasma and poison mists, this portrayal adds a unique twist to the game’s overall atmosphere.

The actual boss battle requires you to use one of your newfound skills as you search for their heart, which manifests in random areas as the miasma slowly creeps over. Out of all the boss battles in Tales of Kenzera Zau, this is quite a standout as it breaks away from the mold. A chase sequence with the miasma prior to this really encapsulates the Great Spirit’s character.

The third biome is a sprawling expanse and stands out as the game’s largest level. Unlike earlier levels which typically take around 2 hours to complete, this biome demands double the effort. Precise timing and intricate platforming challenges test players’ patience. Notably, the Great Spirit ruling this domain embodies anger, and the frustration is palpable in the level design.

At the biome’s conclusion, a high-difficulty traversal set piece awaits, which is a daunting feat of pinpoint platforming with no checkpoints. While Tales of Kenzera maintains moderate platforming difficulty overall, this difficulty spike rivals the intensity of renowned titles like Celeste. Perhaps a more gradual buildup to this surprise would have enhanced the player experience.

Tales of Kenzera Zau Boss

Completing Tales of Kenzera typically takes 8-10 hours, but mileage may vary depending on skill level. Despite its manageable difficulty, Tales of Kenzera delivers poignant story beats that resonate with players, delving into character exploration and emotional connections.

Replay value hinges on your interest in Hero Challenges. While some areas can be thoroughly explored in a single session, the game largely falls into the “one and done” category. Trinkets acquired throughout the journey offer combat benefits, particularly for those seeking hard difficulty challenges. However, they aren’t essential for completing the game. Completing the codex is also a good aspect to backtrack if you want more insight into the rich and diverse mythology of Tales of Kenzera: Zau.

Verdict: Wait For It…


Tales of Kenzera: Zau, as a narrative-driven adventure, is a must-play due to its unique lore, world, and memorable characters that keep you engaged until the end. However, as a Metroidvania, it doesn’t offer too many innovations but rather more of the already established foundations of the genre, such as moderately challenging platforming, basic combat, and little else in the way of new skills and exploration.

It is a short and sweet indie game that respects your time, and, with a friendly price point, it’s definitely a great meditative weekend adventure to get into that gives you some exhilarating 2D action while exploring some aspects of grief and identity that only Tales of Kenzera: Zau can offer in its unique presentation.

*Tales of Kenzera: Zau was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU Review Summary

7 Score

Tales of Kenzera: Zau is a short and sweet indie game that respects your time, offering a great meditative weekend adventure with a heartfelt storyline.


  • Rich story and presentation that immerse you in the world of Kenzera.
  • Challenging but fair platforming sequences
  • Visually appealing
  • Swahili voiceovers add a very nice authentic touch to the game


  • Basic combat with limited enemy variety.
  • Linear level design that doesn't promote further exploration
  • Very little replay value with fully explorable areas in one sitting.
  • Skills and trinkets do not radically change combat, making them optional

Review Breakdown

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