Kao the Kangaroo Review | theXboxHub

Give a Dreamcast fan half a chance and they will bang on about it being the most underrated console on the planet. Unlucky for you, then, as we are Dreamcast fans. Honestly, can you believe how underrated it was? Sonic Adventure, Marvel vs Capcom, Power Stone, Skies of Arcadia… the list goes on. Marvelous console.

But the yardstick for a quality console is the depth of its catalogue. When even the deep cuts are memorable, you know you’re in the presence of a special one. Which is where Kao the Kangaroo comes in. Released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2001, it was a 3D platformer that clearly couldn’t hold a candle to Super Mario 64, It was ugly as sin and far too familiar, but it came with a pouchful of charm, laden with dad jokes and collectibles.

It wouldn’t even make it into the Top 5 Dreamcast Platformers, but Kao the Kangaroo was a regret-free rental from Blockbuster Video back in the day. Which makes us all the more surprised and delighted when we found out a new game in the series was coming. It’s about as unlikely a sequel as you will find in 2022: a full-fat, no-it’s-not-a-remake, lavish sequel in the series.

You will be pleased to know that it doesn’t let the side down, either. If you have been tracking the launch of Kao the Kangaroo, rose-tinted glasses tucked into the pocket, then you needn’t worry. Sure, it’s not going to earn any superlatives, but it manages to land most of its jumps.

Something that the original never really nailed was its story. Continuing the tradition, Kao the Kangaroo’s narrative likes to ride a fine line between poor and cringeworthy. It’s awful. There’s cobblers about Kao wielding the Eternal Gloves, some cursed boxing mitts that belonged to Kao’s father. With them, he plans to rescue both his dad and his sister from an ‘Eternal Warrior’ who is doing some jiggery poker with purple corruption, buying up some local leaders in the community.

But what makes us reach for the ‘Skip’ button is the jokes. Man, the jokes, Can we ban characters saying the word “hashtag” in dialogue? There are ‘hip’ references to TikTok, influencers and Youtube, and none of them land. In fact, they bellyflop off the platform. The voiceover artists tamely trudge through the dialogue, but you can audibly hear them wince.

Virtually nobody will be here for that story, though. It’s the gameplay that matters, and while Kao’s got some hefty flaws, it works well. That’s down to the two most important elements of Kao happening to be its best: the jumping and the exploration.

Kao the Kangaroo has a knack for creating sizeable levels that branch at any given opportunity. Turn the camera and you will see at least one collectible or hidden room, giving it one of the greatest ‘secrets per square meter’ rations in gaming. Maybe LEGO games have it beat. Spot a glittery object and head to it, and you’re using a spotless set of controls. The jump and double-jump are a joy to use, and there’s a nifty ledge-grab if you don’t make it. There is a sense of flow as you jump from platform to platform.

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Credit to Tate Multimedia for constructing levels that take advantage of this solid core that most other platformers get hopelessly wrong. The levels are just varied enough, just sprawling enough, and with a heavy flow of ideas passing through them, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the tight platforming. Some of its finest moments have you swinging from grapple to grapple, flicking in and out of spirit worlds, and using different elemental powers to solve elemental puzzles. Freeze water so that you can use a wind punch to push the block that sits on it, then use fire to power the block and reach a higher level. It’s all rather clever.

There are some niggles. The camera occasionally gets drunk and wanders off, particularly in close quarters. Bugs can leave you stuck in platforms, deleting spikes, or falling through the floor, but not with a frequency that will leave you overly annoyed. And the ledge-grab has a habit of noping out, deciding that the platform wasn’t a platform after all, sending you tumbling to your doom. Actually, that last one does suck, and really should have been resolved.

Combat, though, is less precise and lands on the unsatisfying side. There are a decent number of combat options, with a dodging roll, a ground-pound and a high-kick, but they just don’t quite work like you’d hope they would. The high-kick in particular had us playing airborne capoeira with the enemies, dodging and never hitting them, while some enemies seemed to ignore our attacks and hit us even though they should have been stunned. Attacking goats, frogs and piranhas on tiny platforms becomes a bit of a guessing game.

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Saying that, Kao does have a bit of a combat killer app. While the overall feel is unsatisfying, the game will occasionally offer an olive branch in the form of a Y prompt. Smash it, and you will deliver a knockout blow (are we the only ones who realised Kao is pronounced KO?) which absolutely obliterates everyone in the vicinity. If combat gets tiresome, you can effectively skip it. Which is nice.

Kao occasionally ditches the platforming and combat to introduce some mainstays of platforming history: on-rails minecart-like sections, and into-the-camera Crash Bandicoot levels. A request for any future platformer: no more into-the-camera levels. There’s zero joy in trying to anticipate where obstacles might come from. It’s the game’s poorest level. The on-rails sections aren’t much better, as Kao can’t make the rail-switching precise enough. That and it has the most imperceptible of leans, where the game thinks you are leaning left and right, but you certainly don’t look like you are.

There are five worlds here, a few levels in each, with a boss encounter rounding them off. The bosses are okay, with the traditional ‘charging rhino’ boss that you get in every game, and another boss that uses illusory copies of themselves, which is used in every other game. But it all works fine.

You can probably sense from the review how much of a mixed bag Kao the Kangaroo is. There’s plenty that’s commendable, and it’s the right stuff that’s in that category: the levels and the jumping are the hardest thing to get right, and get them right Kao does.

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But there’s enough of the bad stuff that even the most ardent Kao fan will raise an objection. The story’s wear, the combat’s imprecise, and there’s enough technical rough edges to come away with some papercuts.

It’s a score-draw, then, with joys and flaws in equal measure. But we were expecting much less from a sequel to a B-list platformer. Anyone who has a hole in their life where a new Spyro, Banjo or Jak should have been will find plenty to love here with Kao the Kangaroo. Perhaps AAA 3D ​​platforming is on the way back?

You can buy Kao the Kangaroo from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Give a Dreamcast fan half a chance and they will bang on about it being the most underrated console on the planet. Unlucky for you, then, as we are Dreamcast fans. Honestly, can you believe how underrated it was? Sonic Adventure, Marvel vs Capcom, Power Stone, Skies of Arcadia… the list goes on. Marvelous console. But the yardstick for a quality console is the depth of its catalogue. When even the deep cuts are memorable, you know you’re in the presence of a special one. Which is where Kao the Kangaroo comes in. Released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2001,…

Kao the Kangaroo Review

Kao the Kangaroo Review

2022-05-27

Dave Ozzy





Pros:

  • Feels like a platformer from yesteryear
  • Solid enough platforming
  • Labyrinthine levels that demand exploration

Cons:

  • An ‘okay boomer’ story
  • Sloppy combat
  • Various technical and bug issues

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Tate Multimedia
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
  • Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – 27 May 2022
  • Launch price from – £24.99


TXH Score

3.5/5

Pros:

  • Feels like a platformer from yesteryear
  • Solid enough platforming
  • Labyrinthine levels that demand exploration

Cons:

  • An ‘okay boomer’ story
  • Sloppy combat
  • Various technical and bug issues

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Tate Multimedia
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
  • Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – 27 May 2022
  • Launch price from – £24.99


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