Kao The Kangaroo
UPDATE 24 November 2022: Since our review, the team at Tate Multimedia has been hard at work introducing new bug fixes as well as paid DLC. Whilst the game has largely been fixed, we won’t re-review the game but we have taken the decision to review the DLC and new updates HERE.
I make no bones about loving late 90s/early 00s platform games. It’s an obsession that started with Mario 64 and continues today with Ratchet and Clank. If there’s a 3D platformer to be played then you’ll be darn sure I’d have played it. That is unless the game is released on the Dreamcast… this is what happened when the original Kao the Kangaroo was brought into the world. Fortunately, some twenty years later, Kao has been remade from the ground up on modern platforms, and with the success of the likes of Ty The Tasmanian Tiger and Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy, can Kao The Kangaroo find its hop once more?
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Well rounded platformer|
+ Great balance with collectables
+ Short and snappy
|Negatives||– Save states are broken|
– Music goes missing
– So much slowdown
|Price (When Reviewed)||£24.99|
|Our Playtime||16 hours|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
Originally released in 2000 by X-Ray Interactive, Kao gained a cult following and spawned four entries in a short-lived series releasing during the PS2/GameCube/Dreamcast era. But after an insane fan reaction of the games being published on Steam back in 2018, the team decided to give Kao another shot at glory. The 2022 version of Kao the Kangaroo is a reboot of the original game that has been entirely rebuilt from the ground up. The story tells a simple tale of a young Roo who is drawn into an adventure to rescue his sister who needs to be saved after she went looking for their long lost father. For a family sworn to the world of adventuring, they sure are bad at it. Guiding Kao is a wise old koala bear who acts as his sensei, teaching mystical powers to help along the way as they begin their search for Kao’s lost family.
The plot line isn’t the strongest thread to go on but for a genre filled with princesses who need saving from the same bad guy every few years, we can give Kao a pass. Once the pleasantries were dispatched and I was given control of Kao, what followed was pleasant. Kao makes no bones that it is an old school 3D platformer right from the off. There’s items to collect, upgrades to help with simple environmental puzzles and the supporting cast is wacky as you’d expect from a game of this ilk. The game looks vibrant and for a 2000s collect-a-thon platformer the controls are remarkably accurate. Jumping and stomping enemies was absolutely fun from the moment the game started to the point I rolled the credits. The levels were simply charming, and even though Kao is more suited for younger audiences, even this haggard old grump had a smile on his face when things were going well.
In playing through Kao, I noticed that the voice acting was a little off. To my knowledge, kangaroos are native to Australia and if they could talk, one would assume they’d do it in an Australian accent, (likewise with koala bears or any other creature within the game). Not the case with Kao, as he sounds… well… I haven’t managed to put my finger on it, but it’s not the stereotypical “G’day” I was expecting. I know zoos exist and he could have picked up the accent from anywhere in the world so I’ll look past this, however because the voice was so unexpected, for my sins I paid closer attention to the script than I normally would, and it’s not great. Listening to the interactions felt like getting a package from Hermes; battered, never on time and generally leaving me wanting a better experience. Decades old references like “taking an arrow to the knee” simply fell into cringe territory. -after that particular exchange, I muted the game and just watched the subtitles.
Forgetting the sounds of the game, on paper, Kao is as straightforward as platformers get. Each level is peppered with coins to collect, with special gems and K. A. O. letters to find along the way. These can be used as in-game currency for extra health, lives and unlocking different levels. The environments themselves aren’t too challenging, and neither are the enemies that inhabit those spaces. When heading into combat, it’s a simple method of button mashing groups of baddies much like the Arkham games. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and is simple enough to execute and feels remarkably fun to execute.
The difficulty of Kao can spike in the most random moments and often feels downright petty. During the first level things were progressing at a lovely, calm pace, but as I came across a section that required a series of jumps through a poison swamp things turned into a nightmare. Almost pixel-perfect timing to make certain platforms was required, otherwise it would be a muddy bath before being sent back to the last checkpoint. A few levels later, I was harangued by a group of pesky monkeys launching various items that sapped my energy in a blink of an eye. While both situations were manageable for me as checkpoints were always close by, I can see some kids, particularly young ‘uns, losing the will to play on.
Unfortunately, while Kao is enjoyable, there were technical issues throughout the game which did impact my enjoyment a considerable amount. In the first few moments after the opening cutscene, the UI disappeared entirely. As a result, no speech bubbles opened up when talking to characters and even the pause menu wouldn’t open which halted progress. A reboot back to the Switch menu was required and the problems only got worse. The fun and ambient music often dropped out causing the levels to feel flat and lifeless. Opening a chest, which is often a delight in other games, was also a challenge to contend with, as the contents flew out the frame rates plummeted and the game came grinding to a halt. These few gripes are frequent and require the patience of a saint to get through it, but that isn’t the most challenging thing about the game.
After a long play session, I happily turned off my Switch and went about my daily business. Only coming back to the game hours later, I’d find the game had not been saved at all and the last three hours of progress had been lost. I then had to battle through the large areas, recollecting everything I had done hours before. I have scoured the various menus to see if I’d have missed a hidden option to manually save but no such luck. Each time I put my Switch back in its dock, Kao became a game of chance. The little silhouette of our not-Australian ‘roo would appear but coming back to the same spot was a game of chance. Almost a month after release, the issue still persists so hopefully a fix will be found but as of right now, it is the biggest problem the game has against it.
I know I’m not the target audience for Kao the Kangaroo, it is clearly aimed at younger players, but there is a fun time to be had. Putting the bugs aside, Kao is an easy-breezy platformer that is fun to play. It might not be the most inspiring platformer out there but it is fun. The voice acting is hilariously mismanaged and references were DOA. The times I did hear music in the levels this was pleasant enough, but again nothing to write home about. The platforming elements were where Kao really came to life. All of the collectables are managed really well, not too bare that they become redundant but not too overpowering ala DK 64. The powerups found throughout are a delight to use and even though there are some random moments of difficulty, it is a series that certainly proves there is still a space for 3D platformers.
It is a shame that Kao suffers from all of the technical drawbacks. The save states simply don’t work and the graphical slowdowns makes the game unplayable. For a platformer focussed on younger players, Kao’s audience is likely to be on the Nintendo Switch and having this version release with so many issues is concerning. What should be a nice 8-10 hour platformer ended up taking almost double that after having to risk the roulette of if my save state wanted to work that day.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.