New Game Review

Review – Kensho (Switch)

A lack luster block sliding puzzler.

I am a big fan of puzzle games, games that have a deeper meaning, and games that offer some sort of rich character growth. From the trailers, this is what Kensho appeared to offer; a fun puzzler with a vivacious art style and an important underlying story. In actuality, Kensho is anything but.

Kensho is your basic sliding block puzzle game where you match three blocks in a row in order to unlock a piece of a “key” needed to advance through the doorway to the next level. It does have a few quirks that make it a bit different though. In earlier levels, you have certain blocks that remain stationary that you have to maneuver around and try to use to your advantage. Then the difficulty increases with solid blocks that follow you around and don’t break, borders around your “key” pieces so you can only successfully align them in a certain direction, and pieces that change their properties at random. For the most part the game is enjoyable (in a simple puzzle-solving kind of way), but in later levels once the blocks start behaving irregularly, it becomes downright frustrating. There’s nothing more infuriating than taking the time to map out the perfect way to beat a puzzle only to have the rules of the game change midway through.

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This is before the tiles change at random.

What first drew me in to Kensho was the art style. The graphics and presentation reminded me of Ori and the Blind Forest. I was hoping that the game would open up into a deeper story with an explanation for why I was solving these puzzles and opening new doorways, but the reasoning never came. I was really let down by the revelation that despite its beautiful graphics in between portals, there was nothing else to be gained from the experience other than solving some ever increasingly difficult sliding bock puzzles. I felt like there was a great opportunity to make this so much more than just a straight up puzzle game, but unfortunately it never delved any deeper.

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Oh deer…

The music in Kensho is well done with an overall calming soundtrack so as not to take focus away from the puzzle at hand. Each level has its own distinct music that is a good representation of the area you’re supposed to be in. For example, the forest levels feature a beautiful tree filled landscape in the background with a melody of woodwind instruments accompanying it. The ocean levels used organs, wind chimes, and various flutes in order to create its intended mood (which it did superbly). The sound department was definitely Kensho‘s strongest point. The sound designer, Oscar Rydelius, even asks you to listen to the game with headphones on in the very beginning. For the best experience, I highly recommend you taking this advice.

Kensho is yet another mobile game ported to the Switch, but I think it’s best left as a mobile game in all honesty. It’s somewhat fun in short bursts, but since there’s no story or real point to the game other than solving quick puzzles, there’s no need for it on this kind of system. It seemed like Kensho was gearing up to something more worthwhile than the lackluster game it turned out to be.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Beautiful visuals in between levels that make you think there’s going to be something more than just puzzles. There isn’t.

Gameplay: 6.0

Your standard match three in a row sliding block puzzle game. In later levels some pieces have a mind of their own and it’s maddening.

Sound: 8.5

Beautifully composed scores that perfectly depict the theme of the area you’re suppose to be in. Best if listened to with headphones on.

Fun Factor: 4.0

If you like sliding block puzzle games, then give this one a try. Be forewarned that the later levels generate unpredictable tiles that make trying to solve them seem unfair.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Kensho is available now on Switch, iOS, Android, and Steam.

A copy of Kensho was provided by the publisher.

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As an avid gamer from childhood, I've come to love and appreciate games from all genres and I work hard finding time to play all of them between work and my two children. Some of my favorite games are: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Dragon Age: Origins, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Bioshock, Street Fighter 2 and Super Mario Land 2.

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