We were never entitled to the original Kao the kangaroo on Xbox, released for Dreamcast and PC in the early 2000s, but the sequel “Round 2” ended on Xbox in 2003 (launched to mixed reviews), and now nearly two decades later, this platformer Retro-styled 3D is finally making a comeback in the form of a fresh, modern reboot.
If we could describe 2022’s Kao The Kangaroo in one word, it kinda sounds like a mix of Super Lucky’s Story and Crash Bandicoot 4, although with an obviously lower budget and much less refined. Gameplay takes place on four hub worlds, each containing its own individual levels, where the goal is to defeat enemies, engage in numerous platforms, solve basic puzzles, and collect coins and other items of collection. You play as the main character, Kao, who goes on an adventure to find his missing sister Kaia and find out what happened to his father.
The gameplay initially feels very simplistic, which you would expect for a game like this, but the more you play the more it starts to open up. To the developer’s credit, there’s a lot of ambition in Kao The Kangaroo’s gameplay, introducing plenty of new mechanics as you progress, such as the ability to use fire, ice, and wind to solving puzzles, and using crystals to make pathways visible. , similar to how the time manipulation mechanics work in Crash Bandicoot 4 (although more basic). It also helps that the platforming is enjoyable overall, and the combat is generally well-designed – button bashing is fine, but there’s room for a bit of strategy too.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in Kao The Kangaroo, but it comes with a few caveats. Bugs are a bit of an issue at launch – we got stuck a few times and had a few rare cases of double jumps just not activating for some reason, as well as the smash attack refusing to work, which meant we had to restart the level because we needed it to progress. The other downside is that frustration can sometimes creep in when there are random difficulty spikes (although it’s actually a fairly easy game overall), and when the game expects you know how to defeat a boss or destroy a certain obstacle, but it’s not very clear what to do.
In terms of presentation, the level design in Kao The Kangaroo is generally excellent, especially the more standard platforming levels. The variety is also superb, taking you from beach-like locations to icy mountains and even a spooky amusement park, and visually it looks really good. We also commend that the game features a Crash Bandicoot-style boulder-hunting level and an ice level where you’re essentially sliding all the way down, but those can admittedly feel quite clunky and irritating compared to what you’d see in something like Accident.
The cutscenes aren’t bad, but the voice acting is lacking in some cases (especially in the case of Kao himself), and the story isn’t anything out of the ordinary. In fact, until we got to the last part of the game, we pretty much mentally checked the story and just started focusing on the levels. That said, the scenes surrounding the final boss are at least quite interesting (although the boss itself is ridiculously easy to beat!).
Kao The Kangaroo is therefore difficult to summarize, because although it definitely seems low budget, clunky and frustrating at times, it is also a platformer filled with many fun and memorable moments. Looks like the developer has gone the extra mile to inject ambition into this game and create something that deserves a place alongside the genre’s behemoths, even if it can’t reach the lofty heights of a Crash Bandicoot. or a Super Lucky’s Tale. It’s nice to see Kao punching above his weight in 2022, and not just being relegated to an easy money grab.