Do you miss the good old days of 3D platformers? When the genre was ruled by mascot characters awash in bright, colourful worlds, and replete with simple to use movesets, whose only job was to get you from A to B in the most fun manner possible? Well then you should keep an eye out for Tate Multimedia’s Kao The Kangaroo , bouncing onto modern machines near you!
Kao The Kangaroo began its franchise life way back in 2000. The series spawned three more titles before going dormant in 2005. Now Tate Multimedia is bringing this fiery kangaroo back in another outing that is sure to please fans of the series while, hopefully, earning them some new ones along the way.
Many years ago, Kao’s father mysteriously disappeared and now Kao’s sister Kaia has also vanished. Slapping on a pair of enchanted gloves and accompanied by his Master, Kao sets off to find both his sister and, hopefully, his father.
Kao takes its inspirations from 3D platformers of yesteryear, most notably from the 2000’s. The influence of classics such as Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot can be seen miles away and when you’re drawing from such notable luminaries, it’s certainly not a bad thing. It also means that Kao doesn’t try to reinvent the formula or lay any new ground-breaking mechanics for you to marvel at. Yet again, there’s nothing wrong with that either. What it does mean, is that Kao takes the genres established principles and runs with them proficiently.
All the basic mechanics you would expect are here. Kao has a series of punching combos as his basic attacks, with a heavy AOE finisher built up through combat. He also has a jumping attack than can be used as a counter against projectiles, a double jump ability, a dodge roll and, yes, a jump stomp attack that’s more useful for destroying crates.
Added onto these is Kao’s magical gloves which give him elemental attacks as well, in the vein of fire and ice. Kao can store up to three elemental attacks to use. Additionally, these play a large role in solving simple environmental puzzles, such as burning down webs to release blocks or powering up a boomerang projectile.
Kao’s journey will take him to a variety of locales, each linked to a hub. They run the usual gamut of fire, ice, tropical locations, etc. but bring their own visual spin and identity to them, making most of the locations rather memorable. As befitting a game based on classics, there are a variety of items to collect. You can collect letters that spell out Kao’s name, money to be used in shops which sell extra lives and heart pieces, gems and runes. The runes are really the most important items to collect as they’re used to unlock levels. Runes are scattered across hub areas and in levels, though strangely, aren’t dropped from bosses or rewards for completing levels.
For the most part, Kao the Kangaroo is a very easy game to play. The combat is simplistic and bosses are broken into phases. Most importantly, Kao is fun to play. The game exudes a sense of personality and charm with easy but addictive platforming that is a huge reminder for why I love the platforming genre to begin with. Especially why I was obsessed with them during the PS1, N64 and Dreamcast era. Very rarely did I come across any section that was too challenging or platforming that was anything but fun. Navigating the world using Kao’s moveset is simple and the game feels as though it was designed with an all age’s audience in mind. Something for those of us who grew up on platformers and want a simple, addictive return to them, but also something that you could easily hand over to a new generation without worrying they may struggle too much.
Visually Kao is a rather pretty looking game. Environment design is fantastic, especially the island and forest biomes. The game is full of bright, primary colours and exudes a clear sense of charm that is hard to miss. Visually, Kao is very reminiscent in style and design to the Crash Bandicoot games, even to some of its level ideas. There’s a wonderful cartoony and Claymation look to everything that helps the game to stand out.
Less effective is the games voice acting which runs the gamut from passable to cringey. This applies to the writing as well which has some funny moments as the writers mime pop-culture references, but can also be eye-rolling in places.
However, for all that Kao gets right in the gameplay department – which is a whole hell of a lot – there are some issues on the Switch that mar the game as it is.
First up is the dynamic resolution which seems to happen at the oddest of times. I’ve noticed resolution drops in places where there wasn’t much happening onscreen at all. Second is the frame rate. During the beginning sections of the game there’s clear drops when opening chests and too many coins spill out of them at the same time but it gets more pronounced the further you progress.
And finally there’s the last issue that could be game breaking for many. And that’s the games autosave system which seems to be broken. Now I’m not sure if the game has multiple save states in the background or it’s just not recording what I’ve done, but the game rarely loads you back up where you stopped which can result in hours of lost progress. For instance, I’d played all the way into the second hub, quit the game and when continuing was dropped right back right at the beginning of the game’s first level. After multiple tests and having played the same levels multiple times, each resume of the game left me far behind where I left off.
While this doesn’t mean you can’t see the end of the game, especially if you choose to marathon the game or simply leave your Switch on, but it doesn’t change how incredibly frustrating it can get. While I’m not concerned about the slowdown or dynamic res, this is a serious issue that needs to be patched as soon as possible. Hopefully the developers will get on this lickety-split because it’s the only issue with what is, otherwise, a wonderfully fun platformer.
Kao The Kangaroo doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and doesn’t need to. It combines beautiful visuals with fun, addictive gameplay in a bright and cheery package that I wish we could see more of. If you can get over the games saving issue, or are just waiting for a patch, you’ll find a wonderful homage to games of yore that will leave you with a smile on your face.
A Review code for Kao the Kangaroo was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
- Simple, addictive gameplay
- Bright, cheery visuals
- All age’s entertainment
- Broken autosave system