If you’re a fan of the Sega Dreamcast, you might have heard of Kao the Kangaroo.
Released in 2000, the original Kao the Kangaroo was something like the Dreamcast’s attempt at a Crash Bandicoot platformer. Although it did well enough to inspire three sequels, this dormant franchise has not seen a release since 2006 with the final game in the series not even getting an American release.
Well, Kao is back thanks to the indie developers at Tate Multimedia. Does this new 3D platformer stand on its own or should the franchise have stayed buried in the early 2000s? Read on to find out!
It’s a collect-a-thon
The good news (or bad news, depending on your perspective) is that Kao the Kangaroo is a retro-inspired 3D platformer. It draws heavy inspiration from early 3D games. You can see shades of Super Mario 64 with the open world hub between levels. The letter collecting feels like Crash Bandicoot (specifically Crash Team Racing) or even Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The combat and atmosphere evoke Jak and Daxter.
In terms of the game’s story, Kao’s father and sister go missing, so he sets out on an adventure to find them. Before you leave the village, your mom requires you to go through training. So the game puts you through a basic tutorial and takes it easy on you for the first couple of hours.
Actually, it’s never a particularly difficult game, although there are parts that are just annoying such as on-rail platformer segments clearly inspired from Crash Bandicoot that are unforgiving. However, I never died at the hands of any enemies as they are all too predictable.
This is a decent time to mention that Kao comes equipped with some punching gloves. So rather than bouncing on heads or a spin attack, Kao relies on his fists. The fisticuffs are basic but intitutive enough.
You’ll eventually also get elemental upgrades that will clear paths for you to further explore previously blocked off areas. For instance, you may use fire to clear a spider web or ice to freeze a deep pool of water that you can then walk on. It’s all pretty simple stuff that you’d expect from the genre.
Did I say that you collect a lot of stuff?
When you’re not punching your way through hordes of enemies, Kao is collecting all kinds of objects. The most common are coins that you can use to buy new outfits, heart pieces, and lives. Throughout every level, you also will collect letters, gems, and runes.
Runes unlock new levels. These are arguably the most important thing to collect since your progress is blocked without them. In addition, you will find the letters K-A-O in every level, gems, and heart pieces that you can collect. Four heart pieces will increase your health one heart. Every hit from an enemy or environmental damage will cost you a heart. (Bosses can do more damage than one heart piece.)
Speaking of bosses, each of the main areas of the game are capped off with a boss fight. These generally play out in three stages with the bosses repeating a series of attacks until you do enough damage. After that they will start second and third stages of attacks, respectively, to mix the action up. As with the basic enemies, the boss fights are predictable and lack intensity.
Too many bugs
Lastly, I’ll note that the game is super buggy. Thankfully, I did not encounter any game-breaking bugs, although some did require me to restart the game. I frequently encountered jars or boxes that either wouldn’t disappear after punching them or proved impossible to bust open. (This is one of the main ways to collect coins.)
There were also points where I would get stuck and could not jump, roll, or move. Again, this situation required me to restart the game, which is frustrating. Thankfully these did not prevent progress as part of a game-breaking bug; they cost progress, forcing you to replay a level.
The Kao the Kangaroo reboot was unexpected. Although it generally follows the formula of early 3D platformers – and thus will satisfy gamers looking for nostalgic gameplay – it’s light on challenge and long on cheesy dialogue. I do appreciate what they are going for here, but the execution could have been better. Plus, the bugs make this feel like a not-quite-finished product.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.