It’s been more than 20 years since Kao made his debut, and 17 since his last outing. Having graced a multitude of formats during his prime, it’s certainly welcome to see the marsupial punching his way back into the limelight. However, as this Kao the Kangaroo review will show, it’s not a heavyweight return.
Kao is on an adventure to find his missing sister, and perhaps uncovering the secrets of his dad’s disappearance along the way. It’s at the very beginning of this mission that he finds his father’s enchanted boxing gloves, which over time grant him a number of special powers. The combat is actually very satisfying despite it’s simplicity. Kao’s punching is key to success in almost every aspect of the game. It’s those in which it’s not that are somewhat less entertaining.
Kao the Kangaroo‘s comeback looks very similar to the Lucky’s Tale series. Unsurprisingly, it plays similarly, too. Despite the multitude of items to collect, this is not Banjo-Kazooie. You’re not given levels to explore freeform (outside of the hub world). Instead, the player is tasked with moving through the levels in a linear fashion. There are numerous secrets to find and items to collect, but these are engaged with along the way opposed to any significant deviations from the path.
Outside of the combat the principle gameplay mechanic is platforming. Finding a path from A-to-B and bouncing your way through. It’s not complicated by any means, however the difficulty does ramp up quickly. Despite the overwhelmingly wholesome appearance, Kao the Kangaroo is best played with older children. Three-to-five year olds will most likely get frustrated too quickly, but children over the age of seven, or thereabouts, will be more likely to enjoy playing through the challenges presented.
The culmination of most levels presents a boss fight. These multi-layered battles often mix the combat with platforming. They’re pretty hit-and-miss, with some being more irritating than enjoyable. Which is essentially a microcosm of the game itself: Kao the Kangaroo has a lot going for it, but is brought down by a few poorly judged challenges or sequences. It’s far from a bad example of the genre, but what’s here has all been seen before. And if you’re used to playing Super Mario games, many times better.
Sadly, it feels as though Kao the Kangaroo has been undercooked in a few areas. Some of the enemies and objects have no death/destruction animation and simply disappear. One of the tutorial’s information pointers does, bizarrely, simply not function despite presenting a button prompt. A pop-up for the current objective saying ‘Quest Name’ instead of, you know, the quest’s name. Hopefully these flaws will be ironed out in the coming days, as otherwise Kao the Kangaroo is a pretty charming presentation.
Kao’s comeback is disappointing in some respects. Opting for familiarity over innovation is a somewhat disheartening choice, especially given the current state of the platform genre. However, that same familiarity makes it perfect for parents to enjoy with children, which is undeniably the target market for the game. Gamers of a certain age will remember the pleasure of Saturday morning cartoons; Kao the Kangaroo is the perfect replacement for that, bringing together gamers of all ages. But as you’ve read throughout this Kao the Kangaroo review, don’t go expecting this reboot to replace your favourite platform game series any time soon.