We slipped on some magical boxing gloves and checked out a bunch of Tate Multimedia's upcoming platformer.
The golden age of 3D platformers was a truly great time to be a gamer. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Mario, Ratchet & Clank, Banjo-Kazooie, Rayman, Kirby - all iconic names and franchises that no doubt hold a special place in your heart for the nostalgia they induce. They definitely do for me. Needless to say, when Tate Multimedia's Kao the Kangaroo (pronounced Kay-O) popped up on my radar, a game that brings the platforming character back after almost 15 years, I was instantly intrigued.
Set to launch this summer, this 3D platformer follows a young kangaroo that is tasked with heading out on a dangerous and important adventure to save his sister. As kangaroos are known for their prowess in boxing, this title sees the marsupial protagonist wielding magical boxing gloves that help Kao punch through the various enemy types that are intending to cut his adventure short. While we still don't know exactly when Kao the Kangaroo will launch this summer, I've had the chance to get hands-on, where I've been able to play through a bunch of the game ahead of its upcoming release.
As Kao the Kangaroo isn't a AAA project, it does lack a little bit of the finesse that other great 3D platformers do. It's a little bit rough around the edges at times, the voice acting isn't great, and the mouse and keyboard controls can be a tad finicky. But this was a preview build so it'd be fair to assume that some of these areas will be hammered out and be better come launch.
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On the more positive side of things, Kao the Kangaroo does offer up a lot to look forward to. It plays very smoothly and seems to be optimised rather well. Likewise, the visuals and environments are very impressive and vibrant, and really nail that 3D platforming aesthetic, regardless of whether you are exploring the fiery Lava Caves, the icy Frozen Mountains, the verdant River Track, or any of the hub locations (such as Hoopaloo Island) that define each of the unique major biomes.
As for the gameplay itself, Kao the Kangaroo feels like a great 3D platformer. Each level is unique and serves up its own set of challenges. There's traditional leaping and bounding over various platforms to reach an end goal, all mashed up with combat sequences we're you'll be expected to put em' up and punch a whole range of animal enemies (be it frogs, monkeys, or flies). I will say that the combat isn't as easy as a lot of platformers, and will require a little bit of strategy and skill, assuming you don't want to lose too many lives, especially during the early stages of the game when Kao is more prone to death due to fewer available hearts.
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To this end, there are collectibles and upgrades that can be found and acquired. The collectibles are largely attributed to level progress, and could mean finding K, A, and O letters hidden around each level, or grabbing various gemstones that are dotted around. For the most part, these will take you off the beaten path of the mostly linear levels, meaning you will have to keep an eye out for nooks and crannies that hide secrets as otherwise you'll struggle to achieve 100% completion in each level.
Upgrades on the other hand work similarly, but are generally less well hidden. You can find heart segments, which when four are collected, will reward Kao with another heart to absorb damage before ultimately dying and losing a life. Likewise, life tokens can be found in certain places, to ensure you have plenty of safety blankets if a level is proving to be a challenge. There are also a few other upgrades that can be found, which are tied to the magical boxing gloves, and will infuse them with certain elemental powers, such as fire to be able to burn spiderwebs that are blocking access to some areas. The catch with these is that they are generally level-specific and are not permanent.
While the gameplay is fun and oozes the charm of iconic platformers, Kao the Kangaroo doesn't seem to be a very long game at all. While I can't talk about the whole game, I have been able to play the first three main areas, and assuming you really explore everything on offer and hunt for 100% completion, these will probably take you around 60-90 minutes per area. Without spoiling anything, don't expect there to be loads of other areas to check out after this to pad out the storyline. While game length isn't usually something I like to focus on, it does feel as though this platformer is in a little danger of concluding before it ever gets the chance to fly.
Yet, with this being the case, there's no denying that this is an ideal game for anyone who is a fan of the platforming genre. It's shaping up to be delightful, fun, charismatic, and visually-striking, and is definitely a game that will feel right at home for fans of the older Kao the Kangaroo games, and new fans of the series alike. With a little bit of fine tuning before launch, this game is absolutely one to watch, assuming you're a fan of platforming or are looking for a charming video game to occupy you for a few evenings this summer.