Kao the Kangaroo brought back memories of why I fell in love with 3D platformers on the N64. While I miss the Dreamcast-exclusive original, I was startled by how familiar this revival of the 22-year-old series felt, even if the resurrected Kao doesn’t attempt to hide how it’s influenced by other current platformers to offer a very derivative comfort-food experience. It’s a lot of fun, colourful, and very nostalgic; just don’t anticipate a Crash Bandicoot 4-level difficulty here.
Stories about heroes saving loved ones despite all obstacles are nothing new in this genre, so Kao isn’t breaking any new ground here. The dialogue could’ve been stronger as well; there’s a lot of terrific humour here, but it’s hampered by obsolete pop-culture allusions.
The reference to “taking an arrow to the knee” by Kao’s mother is scarcely current, and the younger audience that a game like this is intended at is unlikely to recognise it. Despite this, our young hero is surrounded by a charming company, including his wise instructor, Walt, whose more realistic attitude keeps situations amusing by serving as a good straight man for Kao.
Kao the Kangaroo 2022 Screenshots
Now, a mascot platformer wouldn’t be complete without a wide range of environments, and Kao provides four graphically stunning realms. They’re interesting to explore, even if they fall into the standard cliches, with the uncomfortably heated Lava Caves hidden beneath the bright Hopalloo Island, Hungry Jungle’s tropical views, and the (hopefully) self-explanatory Frozen Mountains. Each area acts as a collections centre, yet runes are the only type of collectible you should be concerned with because they open new levels.
When you first start investigating, Kao immediately discovers his father’s old boxing gloves, which also happen to be the home of a weird and snarky creature that grants him extraordinary skills. Kao may build up to tremendous finishers by striking numerous foes in addition to his usual jabs and combo strikes.
These gloves can also hold up to three elemental charges, beginning with fire and progressing to ice and lightning. They give his finishers a great aesthetic flare, but they also assist him remove platforming obstacles like spider webs or freeze water to make a bridge. Otherwise, Kao’s dodge-roll also hits foes, which is a boon for defensive tactics, albeit the trade-off is that these don’t hit as hard as a straight punch.
Traditional concepts are skillfully sampled and altered.
Kao has several powerful powers, and the game’s new creator, Tate, has given us lots of opportunities to use them by giving a good range of enemies. We’ve got the traditional grunts slashing at you up close, but there’s also goats launching sheep at you using a launcher to keep things interesting.
Every world has a boss fight at the end, with each boss having their own unique abilities. I won’t give them all away, but Terror, the boss on Hopalloo Island, leaves a trail of fire behind him after attacking, while Jayabaya, the boss on Hungry Jungle, lobs projectiles from afar that Kao can punch straight back. Sure, nothing innovative, but it’s enough to keep things from becoming predictable.
Levels carefully and efficiently avoid repetition by having him climb vines with his ears, grapple over floating hooks, and make temporary platforms materialise after you’ve struck a purple crystal. There’s also the occasional puzzle to solve, such as one where Kao must connect the lines on a crystal to complete it, clearing your way in the process.
Another level had me dashing away from an attacker on a large log sliding towards Kao, clearly inspired by Crash Bandicoot’s Boulder Dash. Nothing groundbreaking here, but conventional notions are well sampled and altered.
There are a plethora of hidden mysteries to be discovered, therefore I recommend doing a thorough investigation. Are there any mysteries hidden beneath those cascades? Yes, absolutely! There are plenty of items hidden throughout the levels, like extra lives, heart pieces, treasure chests full of gold, and diamonds, and cash may be used to purchase new outfits from each hub world’s shop.
This features a classic appearance for Kao, which is sure to satisfy fans of the original. Some foes drop scrolls that reveal more knowledge for the ‘Kaopedia,’ and every level hides three letters spelling KAO, which might be difficult to discover.
Don’t worry if you’re not in the mood for another platformer collectathon. As I already stated, just runes are required for growth; nothing else is required. However, it begs the issue of why some of these are even here. The letters can be difficult to locate, much like they were in Donkey Kong Country, so I understand why locating them gives you a sense of success.
However, I couldn’t find any practical purpose for these collecting gems during my whole game. That includes the post-game, which transports you back to before the imaginative final battle and allows you to accomplish any tasks you may have overlooked. Kao is a fast runner, but it seemed like the proper amount of time.
Fortunately, things aren’t the only hidden treasures discovered while exploring. Within these stages are 14 smaller bonus levels called as Eternal Wells, each of which demands you to fulfil a certain task. It might be as easy as fighting numerous rounds of opponents, but it’s more likely to be accomplishing difficult platforming tasks, earning more cash, or collecting more diamonds. Each hub world has its own Well, so if you locate one but can’t finish it, you may return at any time; there’s no need to walk back into the main levels to find it.
Even after overcoming those wells, Kao is a fast experience that took only nine hours to accomplish, with each level lasting 20 minutes on average. If you don’t care about exploration or the Eternal Wells and just want to finish the campaign, you’ll probably be able to do so in approximately seven or eight hours.
To be honest, hardly many platformers are longer than that; big-name titles like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Super Mario Odyssey are one thing, but lesser games like A Hat in Time and Ary and the Secret of Seasons are also about that length. I’m just pleased Kao doesn’t overstay his welcome; it seemed like the appropriate amount of time, and Tate kept things in check.
The primary issue was that I didn’t find it extremely challenging, and there were no difficulty levels to increase on a second playthrough to make it more difficult. It’s not a stroll in the park (that dodge roll comes in useful when facing opposing groupings), but those additional lives strewn about rapidly add up. Death was rare, especially once I started looking for heart parts to improve Kao’s health. This, on the other hand, didn’t bother me. After four worlds, I’m not going to lie: this framework feels predictable, yet Kao nails the fundamentals.
Kao the Kangaroo does a fantastic job of bringing back memories of an old-school 3D platforming series I’d never played before. It doesn’t strive too hard to be gimmicky, instead relying on a vibrant palette and light-hearted comedy to get it through the unoriginal portions. Outside of a few more difficult platforming sequences, you won’t find it very demanding; combat is simple, and the collectathon idea may be off-putting to some.
Even if you can detect Kao’s numerous current inspirations from a mile away, I never found it uninteresting, and Tate has done an excellent job of resurrecting this forgotten character. If all you want is a relaxing platformer that’s not too difficult, this is a great place to start.
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- May 31, 2022