Not quite a knockout, but Kao takes the victory on points.
Hands up if you love a mascot 3D platformer – you all have your hands up, don’t you? Kao the Kangaroo is back in what claims to be his biggest adventure yet. Making his debut on the much beloved Dreamcast back in 2000, Kao, pronounced K-O, has come a long, long way in his latest adventure where he embarks on a journey in search of his missing sister and to solve the mystery of his long-lost father.
Kao the Kangaroo is the Kao’s fifth outing; however, it is a complete reboot of the series rather than a sequel which helped me as I will admit I had no familiarity with this Kangaroo at all. Developer Tate Multimedia stated that it was important to make sure Kao’s new adventure both feels like a tribute to his previous outings for existing fans, as well as a fresh, contemporary platformer for newcomers and I can confirm the latter having no affinity with the series ahead of this instalment.
The marsupial’s adventure takes place across 4 main hub worlds following some classic platformer themes (snowy mountains, rainforest, abandoned theme park – you know the drill) which have been cursed by a dark power, impacting their inhabitants whom Kao must fight his way through using his magical boxing gloves which gains various powers as the story goes on leaning on the guidance of his fighting master, Walt.
The worlds are vibrant and full of life, with many characters to discover as you go with an index to complete along the way. That most definitely is not the only collectible you are going to be focussing on. There are also runes, KAO letters, heart fragments, and Eternal Wells to find across the levels as well as diamonds and coins as the in-game currency for upgrades and outfits as you would expect.
The gameplay itself is solid and responsive, and most importantly enjoyable. Combat is fun and platforming basic but effective providing a reasonable level of challenge but at no point hitting those levels of frustrations seen in the likes of the Crash Bandicoot series. Mentioning Crash, the developers have clearly been influenced by the famous bandicoot as well as the likes of Rayman, Donkey Kong, Spyro and the rest of the 3D platforming gang out there; but it at least has its own original mechanic with the magical boxing gloves.
For all the good, there are always some drawbacks. My main issue with the game was the length of the levels, some levels would take almost half an hour to complete which felt like a slog, cutting the levels into stages would have been hugely beneficial. This level length also exposed the flaws in the score. The tracks were too short for the levels and either the repetition became irritating or the track itself would end during the stage leaving no background music (this could have been a bug, but it did not feel like it).
Overall, this was a game I enjoyed. Kao is a fun likeable character, who fights well in an incredibly pretty world. It may lack in original ideas at times, but what it does do it does very well and it does not overstay its welcome clocking in at about 6-8 hours to complete and not much longer to clean up anything you have missed for a completionist.
Kao the Kangaroo is a worthy challenger to the big hitters, and a game that many will enjoy.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X, available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC.