Kao the Kangaroo (PC) - ReviewChristian Evans , posted on 01 June 2022 / 1,350 Views
Rising from a canvas littered with the corpses of failed gaming mascots, Tate Multimedia has seen fit to resurrect Kao the Kangaroo — pronounced K-O — two decades removed from his opening adventure on the Dreamcast. Armed with his father’s mystical boxing gloves, and family members to find and save, it’s up to Kao and friends to deliver a knockout blow to the Eternal Warrior and restore tranquillity to the islands on which they live.
Tate has kept faith with the 3D platforming format of the original, implementing unlockable levels via four hub-islands, which are accessed by collecting enough magic runes to progress. The opening level of Hopalloo Island serves as the tutorial, showcasing Kao’s basic move-set, which is solid enough, including the standard double-jumping, roll, and spin-jump; and combat, which is somewhat akin to a ‘diet-Arkham’ style, though it lacks any real challenge.
Abilities are enhanced throughout the game by fire, ice, and wind elemental glove charges, which can be used in combat, but are mainly used for light puzzle solving, such as burning a spider’s web or freezing some water to slide a block over. Kao has a few other neat tricks up his sleeve, including using his ears to monkey-bar across certain sections — though I've no idea why he can extend his neck so far — throwing boomerangs, and using his gloves to grapple hooks that sling him around like Spider-Man.
The gloves themselves, interestingly, are established as your main companion; they have a personality of their own and in cut scenes will at times remonstrate with, or berate, Kao. It feels quite Venom/Eddie Brock like. I quite enjoyed this potentially fun aspect, despite the dialogue and voice acting being somewhat rough at times — as it is on the whole— and I would have liked to have seen more of this dichotomy throughout the game.
While those elements are perhaps lacking due to budget restraints, it doesn’t reflect in the overall art direction, which is often interesting and colourful; whether it be a fruit-juice producing jungle; a frozen Tibetan Mountain spa retreat; or a dark demented circus. The islands are at times integrated quite nicely into the narrative, from shutting down the fruit juice production facility of Jayabaya, which when drained opens as a juice slide, to travelling through the ancient spa process to reach the Oldest One. The animal characters have a nice cartoon quality about them, as do the varied enemies, including my personal favourite: a ram, wielding dual sheep-firing bazookas. There may be a little lack of finesse overall, but generally speaking the game has enough charm about it to remain engaging throughout.
That same engagement can be said of the individual level designs in terms of gameplay. Each level is linear in nature, with ‘secret’ side paths branching off leading to collectibles, or occasionally Eternal Wells that are home to mini-challenges, which are often in the vein of higher difficulty platforming. The collectibles range between the aforementioned runes, heart pieces, KAO letters, scrolls, and crystals; though barring the runes and heart containers, outside of being a ‘completionist’, there seems no discernible reason to actually collect them, which is a little disappointing.
The playstyle is mixed up between standard platforming elements with light puzzles, combat sections, ice-slides, and grinding rails. One level is also reminiscent of a certain Sonic the Hedgehog sequence, having you run towards the screen on boardwalks while an aggressive monkey on a barrel smashes through them behind you. The overarching feeling is one of decent variation and enjoyment, and generally at a nice pace with no single element outstaying its welcome.
In terms of overall length, the four hub-islands are home to fifteen levels, four of them exclusive to boss fights, with fourteen mini-challenges within those via the Eternal Wells. Depending on how you play, the experience might be relatively brief, especially given the paucity of challenge. It took me just under nine hours to complete the game and find all but a handful of the collectible crystals. Personally, coming off the back of a hundred-odd hours with Elden Ring I appreciated the brevity and easy-going nature of Kao.
I enjoyed Kao the Kangaroo up to a point. It lacks the real quality and finesse of the top games in the genre, but it’s a bright and breezy affair that squarely falls under the classification of light entertainment. If you're looking for a revolution, or even an evolution, of 3D platformers, look elsewhere. However, if you're after something comfortable and quite fun, that harks back to classic platformers, you’ll probably find a decent time here.
This review is based on a digital copy of Kao the Kangaroo for the PC, provided by the publisher.