Kao the Kangaroo
Developer: Tate Multimedia S.A.
Publisher: Tate Multimedia S.A.
Genre(s): Platformer, Action, Adventure
Platform: PlayStation (Also available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 27/05/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
When it comes to animal mascot games from the late 90s, and early 00s, the ones that immediately come to mind are Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, and Jak & Daxter.
One of the lesser-known names from that era is Kao The Kangaroo. After a 17-year absence, he is back on a new adventure, and this time he is worth remembering. Read on to find out more about a game that deserves your attention.
Hopping Back on The Scene
Developed and published by Tate Multimedia, the Polish studio that created the original three games, Kao The Kangaroo is going to be a game that the hardcore fans, like myself, of the animal mascot action-adventure genre are going to love.
Kao is a young boxing kangaroo and is on a mission to rescue his sister and uncover the mystery surrounding his father’s disappearance.
To do that, Kao will travel to various locations across the world that have been taken over by a dark power that is being controlled by the Eternal Warrior. Using the powers of the sentient Eternal Gloves, Kao fights back for control of the decimated world.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the series, Kao The Kangaroo was originally released in 2000 on Dreamcast and PC. A sequel came out a few years later and then a third soon after.
All of the games had mixed success, and never reached the heights of similar games such as Spyro and Jak & Daxter. However, in 2019, there was an online campaign to revive the franchise; as a result, Tate Multimedia made the second game available on Steam, and a year later it was revealed a new Kao game was going to be made.
As someone who grew up loving the original Spyro and Crash trilogies as well as similar 3D platformers that made up my first gaming experiences, I want to say at the start of this that Kao the Kangaroo hit all of those emotions that I felt when I was a kid playing those games. Many elements of the game, that will be explored in more depth further on, hit those nostalgia notes nicely.
What hits you straight away is the art style. Kao The Kangaroo is powered by Unreal Engine 4 just like the remakes of both Crash and Spyro, and it is used well here to bring another 20-year-old mascot back to life again. The landscapes in the regions that you explore in this world are distinct and have so much personality in them thanks to the way they have been brought to life, meaning each of the four regions feels unique and fresh.
The soundtrack is paired well with these regions as well. For people looking for a casual experience, the music will help to provide just that. For parents of young children wanting to find games to help them get into gaming that is not FIFA, then this one should be on that list.
The music along with the gameplay difficulty and the forgiving nature if you do die on a section repeatedly, provides a child-friendly experience.
Kao the Kangaroo takes a lot of ideas from games in this genre and often provides a modern twist on them. Although there is not a lot of originality here in its gameplay, the game is still unique enough that Kao does not simply feel like a copy of what has come before it.
The level design is where the game shines the most and what helps Kao to stand out. Some levels in the second half of the game, if you fully explore and go for collectibles, which there are plenty of, by the way, can go for 30-45 minutes easily and do not feel like a slog. On the opposite end, there are late-game levels, that can be fully completed and explored in just five minutes.
The way the side paths are set out for players who want to explore further, though not in the way if somebody wants to simply streamline the main story, is nice and fits well with different styles of how people want to play.
The gameplay feels smooth the majority of the time, in particular, combat, jumping, and sliding are where this is most highlighted. The only comment with the combat is that it would have been cool to have more combo options when fighting large groups of enemies. However, the advantage of it being simplistic means that the combat is not complicated to master.
Four elements are introduced in each of the regions: eternal power, fire, ice, and wind. You use them to manipulate blocks to climb on, solve minor puzzles, and also use them in combat in small instances. Each new element is well introduced as you would expect. In the later levels, there are puzzles in which you need to combine the elements to your advantage, this again highlights the great level design and gameplay.
The Not So Good
There is a lot to like about this game, but there are a few minor points. First of all, aside from Kao, the majority of the side characters are more miss than hit. There is not enough time devoted to getting to know them or reasons for why I should be paying attention to them other than maybe a couple.
Compare this to the Spyro games; after playing those games you could easily reel off names who had personality and fit right into that world.
Half of the conversations between Kao and the characters he meets are limited to on-screen words you see instead of voice acting. This did slightly detract from the immersion of the story and this detailed world that had been built.
A couple of the gameplay elements such as the climbing and swinging can be too precise, and it is often 50/50 when going for a swing if it works out or ends in death. The swinging more than the climbing is the main issue. Sometimes you can successfully swing when it should not work and it doesn’t work when it should. This was never a game-breaking issue but I was always anxious when I had to swing two or three times between large gaps.
There were several minor bugs that I would expect to be ironed out once the game is released. The one that sticks out the most is when the fight scene music would carry on during post-fight cut scenes that are supposed to be either celebratory or provide more narrative. This slightly took away from the immersion of these scenes, but again I would expect this to be fixed in a patch or two.
Overall, when my time with Kao The Kangaroo came to an end, I was sad because games in this genre are rare nowadays. In the 12 hours it took me to finish the story, I had a good time and replayed plenty of levels to make sure I collected everything and did not miss any side content.
The art style, level design, and gameplay are enough for me to encourage anyone to take a chance with this. Hopefully, this game has enough success to warrant a sequel and much more because I certainly want to play more of Kao.
For beloved fans of a genre that does not get the attention that it once did, this one is for you.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
If you want to buy Kao The Kangaroo from the PSN store, you can do so here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.