There are licenses whose existence we sometimes forget and Kao the Kangaroo is almost one of them. After a first episode on Dreamcast in 2000, we haven’t heard from Tate Multimedia’s mascot since 2005, with a third installment on PC. However, it seems that the Polish studio has wanted to take Kao out of his boxes and offer us a new adventure and platform game.
Game copy and images courtesy of Tate Multimedia
Played on PlayStation 5 for review
An excuse to become a hero
Kao the Kangaroo is not a direct sequel to previous games, as we will rather be talking about a reboot. Some elements of the series are still present, but we start the adventure with Kao having a precognitive dream, while seeing her sister Kaia in danger when she has gone to save her father. Our furry hero just has to go get his father’s gloves to save his family. Walt, his mentor, does not listen to him like that and will give him an apprenticeship in his dojo, which will be an opportunity for the player to discover the handling of the character, as well as the range of movements available to him.
From an aesthetic point of view, the game does not reinvent itself much and is shamelessly inspired by the latest fashion platforms that have invaded our screens in recent years. So we stick to a very cartoonish image and even if it doesn’t stand out from the competition, Kao the Kangaroo is still quite enjoyable to look at and especially to navigate. The animation of our hero and the somewhat crazy appearance of the enemies make us willingly forgive the generic aspect of the environments. With only four worlds to traverse, the themes used are far from diversified and nothing really stands out.
It’s about exploring
The progression is quite simple, since each world is represented by a central HUB, from which you can go to different levels, with the objective of a final boss. All you have to do is explore and collect runes which will then be used as currency to open the famous levels. So the platform is omnipresent in these phases of exploration, but the places to visit are quite large and there are many little secrets to find, to collect jewels and money. These are then used to buy costumes or heart pieces for our character. The outfit is really classic again, but it clearly works. The exploration is more than enjoyable and the sets are full of little details to observe. This keeps the game universe cohesive and we really had fun trying to find all the little hidden objects.
As expected, collecting 100% is an integral part of the adventure, with levels in which you must collect all the jewels, the scrolls to improve our encyclopedia, but above all the three letters to form the word KAO. A must for a platformer whose reference is clearly to the 2000s. This is what adds multiple layers to the exploration. A regular player will be able to have fun browsing the game at their own pace and finding a few secrets here and there, while an experienced user will be able to have a field day if they intend to collect all the hidden bonuses on their way.
And it is even more motivating that the levels are not completely linear. Of course, there’s a central route to follow, but it’s easy to find slightly more difficult forks or alternate routes, with a key to a treasure chest or an item to retrieve. Curiosity is often rewarded and the few puzzles we have to solve are not too difficult, but it will still be possible to find a little resistance in the “eternal wells”, which may be related to the bonus areas that are hidden in the levels.
A little lack of variety.
Very soon, our duty hero will be able to use his gloves to fight his way through his enemies. However, we should not expect a very elaborate combat system, since we will only have a series of blows, a ground attack and a special blow that we can detonate when the energy bar fills up. On paper it works, but we do the same thing all the time. And it will not be better on the side of the fire, water and wind elemental charges that we can pick up and that give power to our gloves. Except they’re only used for simple puzzles, like burning a spider web or activating a boomerang, which then needs to be thrown at a target that’s often right next to it.
It’s a bit of the same observation for platform phases, because they are often moving or collapsing trays under our weight. The only peculiarity comes from the crystals that must be activated in order for platforms to appear from a parallel dimension. Even deep down, these are still platforms that are disappearing. However, this lack of originality is made up for by a well-thought-out level structure that doesn’t constantly use the same mechanics. Sometimes there are vertical chase moments, slides, or even bosses that are admittedly easy, but bring a bit of diversity nonetheless.
Kao the Kangaroo is not a game that fundamentally stands out, but it is still original to its universe. I must say that I had a really enjoyable ten hours. Occasionally we run into some glitches, like barrels of coins that won’t disappear, but nothing really hinders our adventure. If like me, you are a lover of platform games from the 2000s, you should be easily satisfied. It will not be remembered and it will not be one of the classics that we will present to our grandchildren, but it is a good playmate for some afternoons.
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