In modern gaming, it is fair to say that there is a severe lack of 3D platformers. Sure, you got the semi-recent Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart and Psychonauts 2. However, beloved classics such as Jak and Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Banjo-Kazooie, and Sly Cooper have been long lost to time. Well, Polish developer, Tate Multimedia is hoping to remedy that by bringing back a lesser-known icon in the 3D platforming community. Enter Kao the Kangaroo.
The original Kao was first introduced back in 2000 on the Sega Dreamcast to decent reviews that allowed the franchise to create a handful of sequels up until 2005. After 17 years of slumber, Kao is back again on an all-new adventure to rescue his sister and discover the truth behind his long-lost father.
“It’s a simplistic game by design that adds just enough variety to keep you engaged to the end.”
Kao is actually pronounced Kay Oh, instead of Kow, which makes perfect sense considering he wields two magical boxing gloves to knock out monster baddies. The game definitely plays and feels like the old-school platformers did, fulfilling a sense of nostalgia immediately with its jumping, dodge rolling, punching, puzzle-solving, and coin collecting. Controls are easy to grasp with minor mechanics added as progression is made.
It’s a simplistic game by design that adds just enough variety to keep you engaged to the end. Levels are well-designed, with various locations varying from beachy coves and fiery volcanoes to snowy peaks and murky swamps. Checkpoints are frequently scattered so you never feel like too much progress is lost should you die. Multiple friendly hub areas exist outside of levels where you can explore, find collectables, and talk with various NPCs.
“Combat in Kao the Kangaroo is satisfyingly weighty with each punch feeling impactful.”
The narrative being told here never reaches any nuanced heights, but in the context of the game’s target demographic, it’s not particularly detrimental. Kao wakes up from a bad dream and is determined to go find his sister and father. He leaves his home island to face the mysterious Eternal Warrior, leaving behind his worried mother and mentor koala. The story can feel like a drag at times, especially if you’re an adult, but it ultimately comes together at the end in a way that is surprisingly enjoyable.
Fortunately, the same childish quality that is attributed to the narrative does not apply to combat. It is satisfyingly weighty with each punch feeling impactful. It’s also fairly easy, with monsters going down in a few punches. However, I never found that to be an issue considering that fighting is a secondary mechanic. The easiest way to die is actually falling to it during platforming sections. Kao has a rage meter that builds up after stringing together consecutive punches, that he can use to unleash a finisher move that damages multiple enemies.
Each main area of the game culminates with one final boss battle. These might include some platforming, dodging, as well as punching. Boss battles are unique and incorporate multiple mechanics at once in order to succeed.
“What makes this game so excellent is how accessible it is, and caters to players of all skill levels.”
Aside from hopping and punching, a big portion of Kao the Kangaroo is the collectables. Hidden away in each level are the letters “K”, “A”, and “O” for you to find. These aren’t entirely useless, as they unlock cosmetic items in the shop. There are, of course, hundreds, if not thousands of coins to collect throughout each level that you can use to buy upgrades for Kao’s health or dress him up in snappy new clothes.
Other items include scrolls that provide more detail on the narrative and lore, as well as diamond gemstones. None of these are forced upon you. So, if you want to scratch that completionist itch, it is there for you as an option. The only collectable that blocks progression are runes, where a minimum number of them must be found to open up a level. Levels are replayable, so if you missed something the first time, you won’t be locked out of any achievements. What makes this game so excellent is how accessible it is, and caters to players of all skill levels.
“Kao the Kangaroo is a fantastic platformer that is family-friendly and enjoyable for people of all ages.”
The main thing that drew me to Kao The Kangaroo were the graphics. Everything in this game is so vibrant and colourful, from the characters to the environments. It honestly feels pretty on par with Rift Apart’s visuals. Even though the animations and voice acting are a tad janky, it adds a certain vibe to the game that makes it all the more quirky and cute. The game even goes to mention TukTak as a reference to the popular TikTok. I will say that the voice actor behind Kao himself is hilariously awkward to listen to. The world never feels empty with many characters going about doing their own activities and exchanging occasional dialogue with you. Playing this on the PlayStation 5 ran silky smooth, with no technical or performance issues whatsoever.
Tate Multimedia did a commendable job with the revival of the long-forgotten marsupial as well as instilling a desire for more modern-day 3D platformers. Sure, it doesn’t play as smoothly as Rift Apart, but it also doesn’t have the AAA budget that Insomniac had. Heck, Kao the Kangaroo cost less than half of what Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart does. It’s priced at a reasonable $29.99 while the launch price for Rift Apart was $69.99!
Kao the Kangaroo is a fantastic platformer with a charming narrative that is family-friendly and enjoyable for people of all ages. Whether you’re nostalgic for some old-school platforming or just want to play with your kids on family night, this game has got you covered!
You can pick up Kao the Kangaroo today for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Steam.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PlayStation 5, code was provided by the Publisher.