KAO the Kangaroo. - Review.

In the early days of 3d console gaming we saw an influx of what I call mascot platforming. Spyro and Crash Bandicoot are some of the most fa...

In the early days of 3d console gaming we saw an influx of what I call mascot platforming. Spyro and Crash Bandicoot are some of the most famous ones, but there were also many lesser-known entries that tried to jump onto the trend with varied success. Bug!, Conker, Gex the gecko and more. One of them was KAO the Kangaroo. A bright furry marsupial with boxing gloves punching and jumping his way through the world. 

Now over 2 decades later Kao is back in a relaunch of the franchise with a new adventure. Setting out to find his missing sister he will also learn what happened to his long last father and perhaps how to stop his family members from disappearing. Apprehensively encouraged by his mother and his dad old trainer, KAO sets out to discover the world and its secrets.

Kao (pronounced K-O) reminds immediately of the old 3D games of the early 2000's. Set in a colorful world with a cast of zany characters played in 3rd person view your goal is to explore for coins, runes and more on your quest to find your missing sister. To your disposal are the spring in your step, your powerful tail and a set of magic boxing gloves that are able to adapt to the environment you are in. A simple setup of jump, roll and attack quickly gets augmented with tools to swing across gaps, ability to manipulate the elements and melt ice or burn away webbing. A tutorial level in the opening of the game is intended to show you how everything works and if you played a platform game in the last few decades you will feel well at home. However it will not show you everything yet, that comes over time. As you progress you will have to use all you learned combined to make it to your goal. And there of course is punching lots of punching. The game has a slight auto lock that helps you target enemies around your which sometimes can hinder you as it might pull you in a different direction then you intended but in most cases it does a good job in making the fights feel smooth and it is easy mash the button combinations for attacks, tail swipes and more. As you fight a meter charges up until you can hit the special attack button ( triangle on PS5) to do a devastating slow motion ground attach that blows the enemies back and does a lot of damage. The simple button layout makes the fight portions of the game enjoyable and easy to execute, there are some combo's available but the fight system does not hide any deep fight system to master. Simple and for all ages is key here.

The game is divided into different biomes, or worlds, that each have multiple levels connected by a small hub area. There is a jungle world, a lava world, a snow world etc. Yes, as you can tell, every classic trope is present. The levels in each biome consist out of a race level of sorts where you are being chased, some have a slide or make you use a rails system to grind on jumping from rail to rail avoiding hazards and others involve solving puzzles to unlock gates, portals and more.

The camera control and the game play, feel really smooth and it is fun to move around and explore the various areas. There were a few occasions where the camera would be blocked by a wall or an object but overall, a quick move with the right joystick fixed that. The only real issue I had in later levels were areas where I had to move across ledges or rope swing. Here the game started to feel a bit imprecise and floaty in moments where I needed it to feel more natural and exact. It is not a deal break but falling down from the last ledge right before you get there and have to start over due to control issues can be a frustrating moment. 

Boss fights for each biome consist of multiple rounds where each round the boss changes tactics in an effort to stop. These tactics often mean throwing more at you at the same time, summoning minions or using stronger attacks.
Lose all your hearts and you lose a life and the fight starts over. On the subject of lives, in KAO you have a limited number of lives. You can get more lives by finding them in the game or buying them with the coins you collect at certain vendor points. A life is lost when you lose all hearts. Luckily as you keep playing you can also collect or buy heart upgrades, 4 of them make one extra heart and therefor grow your life bar , making it harder to lose a life. When a heart depletes you can refill it by killing enemies who can randomly drop new life or hitting a checkpoint bell a few times. 

The game has plenty of checkpoints in each level, but they are spread unevenly and where at some area's you seem to quickly move from save point to save point , others seem a bit away. This can be a bit frustrating when you for instance fall of a cliff or in deep water and get reset at the nearest bell (save point ) you touched and find yourself pushed back a bit further then you would like.

The story of KAO is presented mostly through cutscenes including full voice acting and some through text dialog boxes with characters in the game. The voice acting in the game is of a mixed bag of talent and is just like I remember it being in those old games of times gone by. To be sure I compared some footage of those games and it confirmed the same awkward pauses, wooden line deliveries and odd edits as those other games. None if this is necessarily and issue but it left me wondering if it was all by design. Because if it was then it was a totally genius move that helps completing the nostalgic feel of the genre, but if it was not then part of me wished the voice talent and directing would have received the same buff up as the graphics have received. Whichever the case, the writing succeeds in delivering a good amount of cringe with jokes that often fall flat and shoe horned in pop culture references that miss the mark for me. But we are not here for the clever writing , we are here to explore, collect and punch things and the amount of content in the game kept me engaged throughout.

The sound effects in the game are pretty good and there are a bunch of satisfying effects from the collection dings to the subsonic boom when launching a slow-mo special attack. Music wise the soundtrack suffices but there were not any songs that really stand out as a classic for me. In other words I would not be in line for the OST to bring home. In some cases the same song would play just a tad too much becoming too repetitive. The tracks in the snow level were some of the better ones, but overall the music is just there and not contributing too or getting in the way of the game. 

One thing is certain and that is that KAO is pretty to look at. The game is build in unreal engine, and sports a variety of different elements to create a fun cartoon world. KAO can wear various costumes that you can unlock ( though it does not show in the cut scenes) and various light and particle effects are scattered through the scenery. It all comes down to the art style and just like everything else in the game it reflects the early millennium very to a T ( I feel like there is an echo in here) DEJAVU! With a HD upgrade, textures are still sparse but fitting with the style, and the game offers a bunch of different allies and foes. You will find a variety of animals from silly crabs to lamas (goats? Alpacas?) shooting sheep from a barrel. Some designs are more, complicated, making wonder what you are exactly looking at. And do not get me started on the cursed Minkey, I am just not sure what to do with him. With all these items and enemies, the world feels full, colorful and entertaining.

Kao the Kangaroo is a true throwback to the mascot platforming days of the early 2000's including the good and the bad parts of those games. The dev team worked hard to polish the rougher edges that came with the games of that era and even though it does not always succeed in eliminating all of them, it does deliver a colorful adventure with tons of discovery, big levels and provides an overall very smooth gameplay. All the classic tropes are represented in the game, lava levels, snow levels, collections, unlocks etc. making it often feel very familiar. If you enjoy classic games such as Spyro, Crash Bandicoot etc. then KAO likely will fit nicely in your library.  

At the time of writing there was not ESRB rating out yet, but I would be surprised if it was not an E for everyone or E10+ at the most. This game is fun for the whole family.

Game: Kao the Kangaroo
Publisher: Tate multimedia
Developer: Tate multimedia
Release Date: May 27th, 2022
Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Epic 
Review Platform: PlayStation 5

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks 


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