I think somewhere in our storied gaming history, every one of us grew up with a favorite gaming mascot. Some stand-outs would have to be Crash Bandicoot, Sonic, Spyro, or Banjo Kazooie, while lesser, yet still formidable known heroes such as Gex or Croc, made a short but sweet appearance on the gaming scene. There is one character, however, that made his debut at the turn of the century on the doomed Sega Dreamcast and limped his way onto the PS2 before going on an extended Hiatus.
Kao, Developed and Published by ‘Tate Multimedia’ has risen from the Ashes for a brand-new release in the 3D platformer, Kao the Kangaroo.
After the disappearance of Kao’s Father, Koby, and his sister Mia, Kao has taken it upon himself to don the Gloves that his father hid from the world to become the hero his home needs. With his coach, Walt the Koala, offering his concerns over the magical set of Gloves, it becomes clear that Kao is no ordinary little Kangaroo, and he is more than capable of giving anyone who gets in his way, the old 1-2 punch combo.
This journey will take him through jungles, volcanos, icy mountain tops with hordes of Stinky Bugs, Slimy frogs, and burly Monkeys standing in your way.
No matter how advanced we get with gaming tech and the wild possibilities with have seen with Unreal Engine 5 flexing its graphical powers, I believe there will always be a place for an upbeat, bright and cartoony art style. It is something we can all use to take a step back and unwind with.
While similar in design to the vibrant remakes of Crash and Spyro trilogies, Kao punches out its own vibes with consistent and charming-level designs. Your home of Hoppalloo, with a beach setting on the edge of a jungle, provides an expanded color palette that clashes in exciting ways. With a relaxing and cheerful soundtrack to boot, you would swear you were back in your childhood if you closed your eyes.
As a 3D platformer, it’s important to show a clear design so that the intended course of action is easy to pick up on. This is where I feel Kao excels with easy to define platforms, paths, and collectables visible from all angles. If you have a thing for collecting, Kao the Kangaroo will be a happy place for you. Scattered in increasingly unique locations, you will find tons of coins, blue gems, and even Heart pieces that can cumulate to increase your overall health, you will be compelled to uncover as many secrets as you can find.
While adding a pack to your punch, your boxing gloves can also harness elemental powers to help with environmental puzzle solving. Spiderwebs in your way? Set them on fire with the fire power-up. Having trouble getting across a body of water? Slam the platform with your frost power up and freeze the path in front of you.
Throw in a crystal system that, when punched, gives a limited time window to hop across summoned platforms and the entire playground becomes more accessible than ever. Well, that is as accessible as it can be without a level map readily available & since it is mostly linear in design, it’s not absolutely needed but still would have been nice to have.
There is more to a good platformer than just environmental puzzles, especially when you are a Boxing Kangaroo with magical Gloves. Hopping into the fray and chaining punches will help you build up a charged punch that can stagger a larger enemy or knock back an entire group. Each enemy will telegraph their attacks with floating exclamation marks when you need to roll out of the way.
Throw in a ground-pound and an air attack with your powerful tail, and you will be able to push around almost any combatant that dares challenge you. The level of difficulty throughout the game reflected this and in turn, was a very forgiving system that only really tested your wits with the multistage boss fights at the end of each location.
I did enjoy my time exploring the many locations and meeting the collection of happy-go-lucky characters. The was, however, a point where I struggled to stay invested in the overarching story as it really only offered a reason to move to the next location with minimal character development. Given that this is ideally aimed at a younger audience, it doesn’t seem to take too much away from the overall experience.
With the revival of the Kao and his latest smash hit, it’s clear he is able to hang with the big guys of the action-platforming genre. I felt nostalgic for a character I had never known, and the satisfying gameplay paid off time and time again. Whether Kao is able to do enough to win you over, is yet to be seen, but you will soon learn he doesn’t back down to any challenge including winning you over.
- Upbeat, bright and playful art style
- Easy to pick up and control for all skill levels
- Environmental puzzles are simple, plentiful and varied
- Level and enemy design are approachable and cheerful
- Collectables are a plenty and are begging to be found
- Character development is limited
- Gameplay is fun but may not offer a significant challenge