I bloody love a cartoony, colourful old-school platformer. My formative years were spent playing Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie and after getting some hands-on time with Kao The Kangaroo, it’s pretty clear Tate Multimedia has been inspired by the best platformers of yesteryear.
There’s a bit of Banjo-Kazooie. A bit of Spyro and Crash Bandicoot and plenty of retro platforming fun to be had. I just have one problem with Kao The Kangaroo…
WHY THE BLOODY HELL DOESN’T HE HAVE AN AUSSIE ACCENT?!
Kao The Kangaroo Preview
That minor (but not really) issue aside, Kao The Kangaroo is a colourful platformer for all ages. In the hands-on preview, I was able to play through the Dark Forest level. Presumably a level that comes early on in the game, in The Dark Forest Kao has just received his boxing gloves and is on his way to find Terror’s lair. With Walt — the spirit walking Koala — along for the ride, Kao jumps, double jumps and punches his way forward.
It’s immediately clear that Kao The Kangaroo is drawing on both Crash Bandicoot and Donkey Kong Country as its main influences. There are coins to collect and crates to smash in addition to the letters K, A and O. Kao also needs to grab a number of diamonds and some other random bits and bobs to 100% the level. Moving through The Dark Forest, I don’t get a massively Australian feel from it. Kao is a kangaroo and Walt is a koala sure, but there are some crabs, giant insects, frogs and fish to deal with and the environments don’t scream Australia to me.
Then again, Crash Bandicoot was never the most ‘true blue’ ocker representation of the land down under. It just feels like a missed opportunity to have a game starring a kangaroo not be as Australian as possible. I did only get to see the one level though, so perhaps I haven’t gotten the full picture.
Aside from standard platforming fare (ground pound, jump attack and double jump) and his 3-hit punch combo, Kao is also able to unleash a special finishing attack when charged up. This is a great way of clearing enemies from the screen, especially as they tend to swarm you and you’re only able to take 3 hits before you’re done for. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’ll likely learn more moves and abilities as you progress, though what they could be is a mystery at this stage.
The gloves themselves present a great opportunity to expand gameplay options. In The Dark Forest, the gloves speak to Kao and reveal themselves to be the Eternal Gloves, a corrupted artifact. By attacking special crystals, the Eternal Gloves allow Kao to view the ‘Eternal World.’ Here, invisible platforms become corporeal and give access to sections of The Dark Forest that would otherwise be impassable. Kao The Kangaroo seems like it’s being aimed at a younger crowd so I’m not expecting anything too tough, but there’s plenty of room for puzzles using the Eternal Gloves and their powers.
Partway through the level, Kao gains access to a boomerang to attack far-off targets. Unfortunately, it’s a bit janky at this stage and using it in combat isn’t advised. It does work well for hitting out of reach crystals and dropping cargo bags onto enemies but beyond that, I think the mechanic needs a little more time in the oven.
Visually, Kao The Kangaroo is a real treat and the Unreal Engine proves, yet again, why it’s become so ubiquitous. Exaggerated and out of proportion anthropomorphic characters blend seamlessly with the detailed and colourful, yet largely flat textured environments. Tate Multimedia has definitely gone all-in on the Saturday morning cartoon look and feel and has nailed it. The large blocks of colour stand out from one another and give Kao The Kangaroo an easily understood visual language and style.
The music and sound design are exactly what you’d expect; ripped straight from the early 2000s mascot platformer best-of CD. Tribal-ish percussion is the name of the game and it hums along in the background, occasionally rising when you get into combat. The tunes aren’t something you’re going to be humming 20-odd years later — thank you very much Mumbo’s Mountain — but it’s nice and adds to the overall spirit of the game.
It’s difficult to know what to expect after playing just one level of a game, but so far, Kao The Kangaroo seems like a genuinely fun and inoffensive return to the mascot platforming goodness of the late 90s, early 2000s. There are tonnes of things to collect, secrets to find and enemies to bash. Oh and also, there are secrets behind the waterfalls.
TAKE THAT POKÉMON LEGENDS ARCEUS!
Kao The Kangaroo is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S in 2022.
Kao The Kangaroo was previewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.