3D platform titles marked the video game industry in the early 2000s and they always had a very important place in my heart. The producers of Kao the Kangaroo took advantage of this wave of success added to the genre and launched this title that counts as the name implies, with a Kangaroo as the main character. In this new adaptation, everything seems to be much more captivating, both in terms of gameplay and visually, or were it not for the space of about 20 years since the first game in terms of computational evolution, an important mark. Kao is part of an extensive series of video games that have been present on various platforms, from the Dreamcast to the Playstation and even the Sony portable console.
In this adventure Kao lives on a quiet tropical island with her family when her sister disappears without a trace. The main objective, of course, is to save her sister from whatever happened to her, but also to gather clues about what happened to her father, who has also long since disappeared. It seems that bad news runs through this family’s veins.
Adding to the party is a mysterious aura shrouded in dark magic, controlled by the Eternal Warrior, which is influencing certain villagers to behave more violently.
Kao has the company of his master and some friends, who will help him in the most diverse activities, marked mainly by jumping and slapping with magical boxing gloves. Interestingly these gloves belonged to his father before he disappeared and it is thought that they are somehow related to what happened. Do these gloves drink from the same aura of dark magic that plagues the surroundings?
All the action unfolds between vibrant worlds, full of color and personality. In fact this is the point that quickly springs to life. The characters and even enemies are molded into peculiar figures and have voice acting, although at certain times we only have the lines of text available. Since this is a title more aimed at the little ones, there is a goofy side in each character that shows personality traits. KAO’s mentor, for example, has an aura of Yoda, with all his associated wisdom. Kao on the other hand has a clumsy way for both moving and expressing herself. And yes, the magical gloves talk too! However, the interventions seem kind of empty, a bit like what happens in the title Knack. Some cutscenes have references, not only to other games, but that quickly become “dad jokes”.
In terms of gameplay, Kao doesn’t present anything new to this genre. His magical gloves acquire different powers that help him fight his way through the different levels. The first power allows Kao to enter in another dimension and thus see platforms that in the real world do not exist. Or, for example, wrapping your gloves in fire, which allows you to power sleeping platforms or burn boards that block the way. There is also the “finisher” mechanic that is acquired by completely filling the bar that affects this skill. The same is filled while attacking enemies and by the way, at certain times the action fills the monitor almost in its entirety.
Also within each level, it is possible to enter special shrines with specific challenges that unfold between platform activities, where the objective is to capture all the gems, or simply distribute hand movements with boxing gloves that are less friendly to enemies.
On a negative level, it is important to mention that performance, at least on Nintendo Switch, suffers from several problems. When the monitor is full, either by enemies or even when a box is opened and lots of coins appear, the frame drops are visible. Some sounds do not trigger, such as the sound of water or even when you slap an enemy. This isn’t a constant problem, but it happened several times during my journey through this adventure. This title does not have a specific option to save the game and it happened to me twice to lose progression.
Kao the Kagoroo is an experience that left me with a bitter taste. I really wanted to like it, but for all the problems associated with its performance on Nintendo Switch, it was just an experience that sometimes became frustrating. The simple and fun gameplay and the vibrant worlds that embrace the player is definitely a plus point.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game for Steam provided by Tate Multimedia]
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