The 3D platformer genre needs to bring a plethora of characteristics to the table to truly be successful. Throughout the past couple of decades, this beloved genre hasn’t had much representation within the gaming sphere outside of major hits such as Super Mario 3D World or A Hat in Time. When starting Kukoos, the elements appeared to be a fitting candidate for a memorable and charming entry to the 3D platformer genre. Unfortunately, this veil is full of considerable holes, leaving me dissatisfied with the comprehensive experience.
The premise is simple in nature, albeit questionable in execution. Kukoos are monkey-like creatures that live on a sizable island. In this society, they have a variety of creatures as pets, and after a failed experiment, these pets rampage throughout the world. Once you choose your character, you must go out to various zones and quell the chaos emanating from the frenzy of said pets.
As you go through each level, the plot becomes increasingly nonsensical in presence due to the dialogue and exposition. At no point are you engaged to become immersed in this world. In fact, it does quite the opposite by throwing in as many absurd moments as possible. I know the intended audience is all-ages, but there could have been something more outside of visual cues. The only upside is that there’s not much story, so your exposure is minimal.
But hey, the plot is one of the lesser aspects players focus on when it comes to a 3D platformer. The standout components of Kukoos are the visuals and design. On multiple glances, it’s easy to see the vibrancy of the world and its environments. While the Switch hardware may not showcase every detail vividly, each territory’s makeup is impressive. In fact, during some levels, it was easy to lose track of myself as I was occupied with observing my surroundings. The variety of area designs keeps things fresh, meaning you won’t have to see the same area for long. Unfortunately, this is one of the only aspects where Kukoos shines.
Several issues are prevalent within the title, but the most apparent and impactful is the lack of camera control. Each level in the game has a fixed camera angle, no matter your direction. Because of this, your perspective becomes limited for many of your jumps. In addition, collectibles are scattered throughout each stage, aiming to incentivize the player to take their time and explore the area. Unfortunately, this awkward positioning ruins any momentum you might have. In addition, the controls are stiff and inconsistent. Some jumps have you hold on to the jump button to reach the next platform, while other times, your hold has you greatly leaping over a platform. If difficulty with the level design were why I needed to restart a level, I would be content. But erratic controls and limited perspective make the experience feel unnecessary and frustrating.
Each world introduces you to a new pet to use as a mechanic to guide you through the levels. Some pets can be used to light up a room, while others can be used as an additional platform to get across wide spaces. While these can be fun to utilize, the unintuitive and stiff controls reduce that enjoyment. You’ll have to press one button repeatedly to ensure the pet even comes out and works as you intended.
As you finish each level, you’ll get a star rating based on the number of enemies killed alongside the collectibles and coins you’ve gathered. While I initially tried to collect as many items as possible, given the aforementioned issues, I found myself daunted by the task. Luckily, the boss levels at the end of each realm don’t suffer the same problems. Instead, I’d say that they’re pretty fun and rewarding once you learn each boss’ attack and movement patterns. In terms of gameplay, these fights are the highlight.
While these moments engross you in the experience, the voice acting does the complete opposite. Though there aren’t that many voiced scenes, the ones that exist are completely jarring and difficult to bear. Some of the humor can be slightly amusing, but the way some of the characters and lines of dialogue are expressed is abysmal. It sounded like the entire voice cast had only one day to try and record each line as quickly as possible.
With so many off-putting choices, there’s, unfortunately, a lot of wasted potential concerning Kukoos. Rather than feeling the desire to be a completionist and achieve all the available accomplishments, I just wanted to rush to the end of each level of the map. What started as a feeling of curiosity gradually dwindled into monotony and dissatisfaction. If you can manage to swiftly maneuver through the gameplay obstacles, the gameplay runtime is relatively short, clocking in at around 4-6 hours.
Finally, a big letdown was how poorly the title ran on the Nintendo Switch. The typical culprit of performance issues popped up as they ranged from framerate drops to certain textures not loading. However, the most persistent and bothersome issue was the loading times. Each time you lose all of your health or fall to your death, the level restarts you at the most recent checkpoint.
Given the rough control and camera perspective, this might happen a bit more often than you think. Before restarting, you will have to wait through a loading screen that takes more time than it should, at about 12-15 seconds. What becomes irksome also becomes painful as you sit there and wear out your patience. One thing to note, though, is that a day-one patch is expected to improve performance issues, which may help a little.
From visual dynamics alone, Kukoos has a very promising appeal, especially to those for a younger audience. With a wacky storyline and eye-catching environments, it would fit decently into the 3D platformer genre. But the opening for that spot diminishes greatly, given all the technical issues in the gameplay and the plot progression. With aggravating limitations and a lack of polish, I can’t imagine Kukoos to be a platformer that would stick in anyone’s mind.
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