Title: Kao The Kangaroo
Developer: Tate Multimedia
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Genre: Platformer, Action
Collect-a-thon platformers tend to be recipes for potential success, with ever-reliable general blueprints for any developer to follow. However, when action gets thrown into the mix, results can become, well, mixed. The Tate Multimedia published and developed Kao The Kangaroo is a recent revival that follows the aforementioned philosophy while attempting to capture its past magic. However, technical hiccups and questionable mechanics make this attempt lukewarm at best.
Throughout Kao The Kangaroo, the titular protagonist sets off on a journey to discover what happened to his sister and father following a prophetic dream and finding the latter’s seemingly cursed gloves. After being warned against the dangers of these gloves, Kao still chooses to wear them, leading to him gaining newfound abilities that aid him on his quest. The narrative is quite present to a degree that most probably wouldn’t expect. While the tone is expectedly light-hearted, scenes occur relatively frequently, and a few can last for a surprisingly long while.
Kao The Kangaroo tries to tell a compelling story with clear sense of danger and motivation, but none of it ever manages to stick. The voice acting is stiffly delivered, leading to several awkward interactions that made me want to skip them altogether. Granted, I wouldn’t label the story as a selling point. Far from it, in fact. But it’s difficult to wholly disregard it with how present it is. At the very least, you don’t have to pay attention to these scenes to progress, so don’t feel obligated to. The writing also tries to be humorous, yet it’s quite eye-rolling in its attempts to do so.
Regarding gameplay, Kao is an easy-to-learn platformer, sporting an intuitive moveset. Most significantly, he can perform a ground pound and attack foes with his handy dandy gloves. However, the combat mostly feels rather tacked on and needless. While it is exceedingly straightforward, which isn’t an inherent negative, every enemy encounter blends together simply for the sake of being there. Unfortunately, these combat sequences don’t instill any notable uniqueness or meaningful sense of victory throughout the stages. The boss battles are essentially a series of mini-puzzles and were genuinely enjoyable at points. I would’ve preferred the only enemy encounters to be these foes instead of additional mobs throughout the levels that didn’t add anything noteworthy.
On the other hand, the level design gets a fair pass for being moderately inventive and exploratory. Kao The Kangaroo is a methodical platformer, meaning it’s best taken gradually as there are several collectibles to grab. From currency to purchase items at shops to heart pieces that gradually increase Kao’s health, there’s decent enough incentive to keep an eye out throughout these varied stages. Further, some well-crafted puzzles are in a few stages, breaking up the sometimes drab tedium. Sadly, while the title doesn’t possess many extraordinary faults with its level design, I found the stages’ lengths to overstay their welcome at points. Since there’s not much of a challenge, completing the levels occasionally feels like a bland obligation, even with the puzzles. My personal highlights were the linear platforming challenges found throughout the stages. They were noticeably more challenging than the levels proper, feeling more rewarding to complete than any other avenue of the game.
Thankfully, Kao The Kangaroo looks great visually. A few models look a tad off-putting, but the environment more than makeup for that non-objective fault. The stages have standout aesthetics, from ominous forestry to lava-infested caverns, and while they are merely cosmetic ways to remain unique, it’s still appreciated. However, I previously mentioned how the levels feel bland, and that is partially due to the lacking powerup implementations. Similar to the combat, the powerups merely feel there for the sake of being there, with only a few of their puzzles being memorable. The obligatory nature of these ideas provides a superficial variation that you won’t be thinking too much about after you’re done.
One element of the experience I highly appreciated was the hub worlds, which house collectibles of their own and interactable NPCs. They helped enhance the world’s naturalism, though I encountered a couple of bizarre glitches. They mostly comprised collectibles appearing to be present but not able to be picked up, leading to required resets. These happenings never occurred in the stages, so the frustration was relatively minor. Hopefully, they’re still addressed post-release, though the performance on PlayStation 5 was smooth aside from that.
Kao The Kangaroo is platformer comfort food, not boasting any exceptional traits but still managing to be a genuinely enjoyable time for crowds desiring a simple, low-stakes experience. The engaging puzzles and varying aesthetics aid in keeping the stages somewhat diverse in execution, though the superficiality of the powerups and combat needlessly pads out these areas. Moreover, the subpar voice acting and lackadaisical narrative don’t ruin the package, though they’re certainly aspects players won’t be clamoring for more of as they progress. Regardless, it’s a fun time if you’re yearning to punch stuff as a kangaroo.
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