Kensho is marketed as a block slider, but this one is a little different. It has a story behind it about nature, a robot, and it’s emotions.
You wouldn’t think that a block slider would have a story, but this one breaks the mold. Each level in Kensho is themed around nature, and as you complete the levels, you come back to the main area. This area has doors which lead to the various puzzles, requiring you to unlock the door before accessing each puzzle.
There is a little robot (he) who awakes during your puzzle adventure. He only speaks in emojis and simple speak (Things like “omg” and “no”). The robot is amazed by the nature that is coming to life around him and particularly by a deer that appears. He feels as if the world is filling with vitality and that he should follow it. As you continue to play the game and beat each level, you see more of the little robot’s story. When the robot sees his reflection in some water, his eye goes red, and he feels evil. He may feel like this because he is so mechanical in this world filled with beautiful nature. Burning the flowers around him, he realizes that the deer he saw disintegrates. With that realization of what he has done, he comes to his senses briefly before going evil again.
However, the game sends a message that life is a test of fortitude. The robot then changes shape, and the game sends the message that in order for light to shine, darkness has to be present. With that, it seems that the robot is changed from his actions of the past. Through the use of emojis and simple words, the game portrays the emotions of the robot relatively well. Even so, the juxtaposition of the robot’s story and the block sliding is a little odd.
In the main area of the game are the doors to the different puzzle levels. Each door has a puzzle that you must solve to unlock the block slider within. Once you get to the block slider, you will notice the levels are themed. I will talk more about that in Level Design. The block slider mechanics are pretty simple. The entire board of blocks will move one space in the direction that you dictate. You need to take into consideration that you are moving every block on the board. This takes a bit of time to get used to, but after that, it’s a pretty simple mechanic.
You have to connect three blocks of the same color in either a vertical or horizontal pattern to get rid of/break them. Special key pieces on the board have a specific border, and you have to match one key block in a group of three (or more) blocks to receive the key piece it holds. Five of these key pieces will combine to form one key, and each level will require a specific number of keys to unlock the next door.
If you fail a level, meaning the board becomes full of blocks, the level will go monochrome, and it will put you back to directly after you received your last key piece. The game allows you to see the next block color and the block gets put onto the board in the direction you last moved on the board. Example: If you moved the last block to the right, the next block is going to come from the right side.
There are special blocks that have different mechanisms:
- Stone blocks move with the other tiles but do not break
- Drone blocks catch tiles and will not let them move
- Portal blocks instantly move tiles from the blue portal to the orange portal
- Advanced stone blocks will be stationary until a whirligig spins. Then it will move for a couple of turns and become stationary again
- Molten rock blocks teleport on the board unpredictably
- Energy field blocks break the bonds around a key block
Every level is unique in design. The lighting, color, sound, and art design are themed. It does not do much for your experience of game-play, but the aesthetics are nice. The levels are titled at the beginning (example: “Straight to Heaven”), so you have an idea as to what kind of level you are starting. At the beginning of the game, there is a message that the sound designer would like you to wear headphones, and each level has its sound developed specifically for that level. For example, the jungle level has bird noises and nature sounds. In combination with that, the color scheme for that level is teal based, and there are visuals of vines and leaves.
The whole game revolves around color. Each level has different colors, and when each door opens into a new level is has a color that corresponds. The nature-scape where the robot resides is full of color and shadows. However, monochrome is also used to bring contrast when there is a plot point, or attention otherwise needs to be drawn.
There were a couple of glitches that I ran into in the game. There were times where a key piece would get stuck on the board. This was a purely visual glitch as the game still functioned fine, and the stuck piece did not intercept any of the other pieces on the board. However, as I played the level, more and more pieces would become stuck. On one level, I experienced a glitch where the board itself would not load, even after a couple of minutes of waiting. Restarting the level did resolve this. These were minor glitches, but they felt like they could have been easily fixed to make for a better game experience.
I found Kensho to be a very interesting game since the story of the robot is pretty separate from the block sliding aspect other than the theme of nature. Having to beat the levels between seeing the story of the robot was sometimes jarring since you wouldn’t remember what had happened. If you only played the game casually and did not run through the game in its entirety, I think there would be a pretty big divide and people may forget what happened in the story. The story also seems to be left largely up to interpretation as well.
The game-play was quite relaxing, although some of the later puzzles had me perplexed. Overall Kensho is a nice game to spend some time with. It is a pretty quick play through if you have a few hours to spare.