Don’t Call It A Comeback, I’ve Been Here For Years

HIGH It’s a charming, breezy platformer. 

LOW Voice acting that borders on unintentionally hilarious. 

WTF Why is the first boss harder than the rest?

At this point, platformers are comfort food.

Every year, a few titles in the genre provide a breezy experience that takes me back to my childhood, and the subgenre of ‘3D mascot’ throwbacks is one that means the world to me. I’ve reviewed plenty, from major franchises to new faces, and all of them have one thing in common — they’re trying to recapture the magic of the era when this style was king, and Kao the Kangaroo is the latest.

A reboot of a once-dormant series from Polish developers Tate Multimedia, players control a young kangaroo named Kao (pronounced “K.O.”) as he ventures forth to save his dad and sister from a great evil known as the Eternal Warrior. 

Played from a third-person perspective, players move in 3D space as they jump to and from various platforms, solve simple puzzles and fight enemies across different worlds. Kao is equipped with boxing gloves that can be imbued with certain elemental powers, allowing him to do things like melt ice walls with fire or freeze water with an ice punch. 

Gameplay-wise, it’s a boilerplate platformer — which I have a love for! Moving around feels great, and I love the perfect balance between having to time precise jumps in some areas while also being free to explore environments without danger in others. There are a couple of hub worlds, each of them taking place in different biomes. In each of the hubs, levels are gated by progress like most collect-a-thons, and the main MacGuffins here are a series of runes that open the next level when enough are collected. 

Each level is a simple, linear course in which players must reach the end, and along the way there are enemies to fight. Combat plays a big part in Kao, and the game introduces several abilities. Punching feels satisfying, as does a finishing blow that can wipe out a whole group of enemies. A dodge roll helps if a wave of baddies gets too overwhelming, and an aerial tail whip lets players launch projectiles back at enemies.

It’s not the deepest combat in the world (and I would’ve liked a combo meter to heighten it) but I like that it harkens back to platformers like Jak & Daxter in which fighting was just as important as platforming. That said, the challenge is very approachable, with no true difficulty spikes and a generous amounts of lives and hearts. 

Every level also has secret paths and collectibles, like coins that can be used to buy outfits (including Kao’s classic look from the early games), Donkey Kong Country-style letters that spell out K-A-O, and more runes. Completionists will have a great time combing through every inch of the worlds, and I still have plenty to go before I hit 100%. 

With such solid gameplay, I’m glad to see that the style is just as solid. Every level has a cool motif — for example, the jungle world is basically a juice plant run by monkeys wearing construction uniforms. Different enemy types have cool designs, and the entire game sports a bright, colorful aesthetic that would feel right at home as a mid-’00s PS2 release.

While Kao the Kangaroo scores on many levels, my main issue is with its voice acting. While I wasn’t expecting much from what is clearly a ‘budget’ title, the voicework left a lot to be desired. There’s a lot of stiff, wooden delivery here, and it’s not helped by a script that leans too hard on jokes that don’t land and strange pop culture references that feel very out of date.

While I can’t say that it brings anything even remotely revolutionary to the table, Kao the Kangaroo still manages to deliver a jolly time. Those looking for a cozy romp full of charm and classic platforming should absolutely order up a serving of this delicious comfort food.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Tate Multimedia. It is available on PS4\PC, XBO/X/S and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher for review and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 8 hours were spent in single-player and was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10 for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, and Comic Mischief. This game is perfectly fine for young children. Violence is about the same level as most kids’ cartoons and the crude jokes aren’t that bad either. 

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: I spent most of my time playing the game on mute and found no issues. Everything has some visual cue, though subtitles could not be resized.  In my view, this game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The controls cannot be remapped.

Cj Salcedo
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1 year ago

Ahah, the very first thing that came to my mind when I saw “Kao the Kangaroo” was: “Oh it’s making a comeback”! Apparently I’m wrong!