This may come as a surprise to the younger gamers, but there was a period when the First Person Shooter was not king in gaming. During the PS1 period we, as a community, were buried under animal mascots running through platformers. From Bandicoots to dragons there were loads of the damn things, all aiming to be the next mascot of a console. However, we recently got our hands on the demo for Kao’s latest adventure.
Kao the Kangaroo was originally released back in 2000 for the Dreamcast, PC and Gameboy. The game follows the eponymous Kao. Who is Kao? Kao is essentially a kangaroo with boxing gloves. The game was heavily reminiscent of the Crash Bandicoot series, from the cutesy designs to the level design. The series never reached the same heights, but this new release shows that there is still interest in the project.
Now, I won’t be going into the plot mostly because we don’t know much about the game's actual story. What we do know is that the story focuses on Kao’s search for his missing sister Kaia and to do so he needs to discover the secrets his father kept about his boxing gloves. It’s a simple enough plot, and one that’s been done to death for the genre, but there’s enough here to keep the player moving in the right direction. There are a clear goal to accomplish and four martial arts masters to beat. Does there need to be more?
Gameplay is a mix of platforming and combat, with there being a healthy amount of each for the player to practice on. Combat is a mix of punching, jumping and dodging. It seems simple, and it is, but there is certainly a challenge here. The enemies are tenacious and some require more than a simple whack to put down. Occasionally the player will need to make use of the environment or a magical boomerang to give them an edge.
Frankly, combat is never the strongest point of these games, it is there, and it is fun, but if you’re looking for something deep then you’re probably barking up the wrong tree…or whatever noise Kangaroos make up the wrong tree.
The platforming, meanwhile, is fun and manages to avoid being frustrating. The character model knows where it wants to be and has a large enough hitbox that Kao will grab ledges quite easily. Everything responds well to button inputs and I managed to get through the level with little difficulty while using a mouse and keyboard setup. There are some issues in discerning what is and isn’t going to kill you. For instance, there is blue water you can walk in, and blue water that you can’t. It makes it hard for an old fogey like me to discern what is and isn’t a threat.
Visually the game looks great, even for a demo, and the world was very well polished. Kao and his enemies are all well designed and fit in their locations while retaining the wacky designs that made this kind of game so popular. The voice acting is equally enjoyable, at least what I managed to see in the short demo.
While there isn’t much to see of the game yet, what is here is filled with enough nostalgia to bring back fans of the series. It should also be mentioned that the gameplay and the colourful visuals might even be enough to bring new fans to the series. We will keep our eyes open to see what the final product is like.
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