Exploring Grief in Tales of Kenzera: Zau | Game Review

Grief is a challenging emotion to get right in video games. Not everyone mourns in the same way. Tales of Kenzera: Zau has met the challenge head-on and given us a game that will resonate with fans of Gris and Ori.

This game was gifted for the purpose of review but all opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure policy.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Tales of Kenzera: Zau Game Features

  • Release Date: 23 Apr, 2024
  • Developer / Publisher: Surgent Studios and Electronic Arts
  • Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: Platformer, Metroidvania, Action-Adventure
  • Coziness Rating: 2 out of 5* – Too much fighting

What is the Tales of Kenzera: Zau all about?

Tales of Kenzera: Zau is a Metroidvania-style game with African influences. From the futuristic setting to the cultural inspirations, the world of Kenzera is a feast of colour and immersive storytelling. My breath was quite literally taken away by how beautiful this game was.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

I grew up playing platformers but generally these days I don’t pick up fighting games. Instead, I opt for life-sims, walking simulators and action adventures. The last game I played with battles and bosses was Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. But when EA reached out to me to play this new indie game I took a double take. At first I was adiment I wasn’t going to like it. More than that, my viewers weren’t going to like it.

Then I began playing. And the rest they say, is history.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Tales of Kenzera: Zau opens on a heavy note as we’re introduced to the Zuberi, a young man who’s lost his father and clearly having a hard time accepting it. His father however left him a book, The Story of Zau.

Every Story Begins at the End of Another

Tales of Kenzera: Zau

As we’re transported through the pages we meet a warrior by the name of Zau, a shaman who’s also dealing with the loss of his father. It’s all very meta.

He summons Kalunga, The God of Death, in an attempt to bring his dad back from the veil between the realm of the living and the dead. Using the power of the sun and moon masks he promises Kalunga he’ll best the 3 spirits that have eluded death in return for his father.

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Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

My Gameplay Experience of Tales of Kenzera: Zau

I was surprised at how easily I took to this game. I was initially drawn in by the touching story having lost my own father. Although I definitely didn’t have a good relationship with him as he left when I was 11. I recall hearing about his death from my brother and I was surprised by my body’s reaction. The best way to describe it was like having a panic attack. The grief was overwhelming. Though I’m no expert on the mind I later came to the conclusion that the reason I was so consumed by grief for a father I did not know was because I felt a great loss for what I missed out on. A genuine father/daughter relationship. It was also a release. Like the invisible chain that had me tethered to him was finally cut and I was free.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

The Sun and Moon Masks

Zau wields the powers of two masks at the start of the game – The Mask of the Sun and The Mask of the Moon. I gather there is symbolism here, similarly in how the world in Gris regains colour as she passes through each stage of grief, we each have 2 masks we show the world – The mask we wear with others and the one we wear for ourselves.

The sun mask is for melee damage, while the moon mask is for long-range attacks. I played as a Titan in Destiny, I like to get up close and personal with my enemies.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Platforming and Battles

I thoroughly enjoyed the platforming in this game. Jumping and sliding was extremely satisfying. I never got bored of switching between the sun and moon masks and how quickly I could use each ability in battle.

I occasionally got lost and had to resort to the map to see where I needed to go. But for the most part it was easy to get around. It just took me a couple of attempts to make a jump sometimes.

I found the enemies quite interesting. After each battle, I looked up the lore to see more about them. I loved that the lore was built into the game and I didn’t need to go hunting around the internet for it.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Compared to Games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Gris

The developer, Abubakar Salim, cited that his inspiration for the world of Kenzera was Hollow Knight and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Unfortunately for me, I’ve not played either of those games so it is difficult for me to draw comparisons. However a simple glance at the way Ori moves just from the trailers in comparison to how Zau moves through the environment it’s easy to see, when side by side, how fluid the movements are.

For me the closest comparison I can draw from is Gris. Being a platformer puzzler it’s centered around the experience of grief it’s not dissimilar to Kenzera. The fight however is within yourself and the environment rather than with enemies in Gris.

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU

Is Tales of Kenzera: Zau Worth Buying?

Grief changes us. But Tales of Kenzera: Zau failed to change me.

If you’re a fan of metroidvania action games and have 8-10 hours spare I think Tales of Kenzera: Zau is worth the £17.99 prize tag.

This game captured the experience of grief from different perspectives and how we move through the world after loss. I feel like it has done a great job of expressing this emotion in a way that will resonate with many players.

But I don’t think it’s a game I would personally replay. I found the fighting quite repetitive. I enjoyed the platforming and the skill tree, I even liked the fighting abilities. But I prefer a little less fighting and a little more storytelling in my gameplay. That’s just a personal preference as a cozy gamer though.

If you’re looking for other games that handle grief with care, may I recommend Spiritfarer. It’s one of my all-time favourite games!

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU
Buying Options

Steam

£17.99

Play now

Switch

£17.99

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Xbox

£17.99

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PlayStation

£17.99

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Prices correct at time of publishing

Pros: A feast of colour and immersive storytelling

Cons: Repetitive fighting

 Tales of Kenzera: Zau – My Game Review

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Wendy
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