Kao the Kangaroo Review

Home » Game Reviews » Kao the Kangaroo Review – A Very Fun and Colourful Platformer

Kao the Kangaroo is a very fun and colorful platformer. It’s not a lengthy game and it certainly is a smaller budget title, but for the scope it’s trying to achieve it’s an enjoyable experience. It’s a good reimagining of the classic Kao the Kangaroo games and if you’re looking for an accessible platformer game that’s not too long, I strongly recommend checking out this title.

One of the first questions many newcomers to the Kao franchise would ask is, “Do you need to play the original three Kao the Kangaroo titles?” The answer is not at all. This game is a reboot with a completely new and unrelated story to the previous titles. It does have some returning characters, but even so it’s definitely not necessary at all to play the old titles. If you did play the old Kao titles in the old days, though, you’ll definitely pick up a few extra references here and there.

I played the original three Kao games before playing this title for the purpose of this review. I won’t spoil the plots of any games herein in case you want to check them out as well.

Kao the Kangaroo (2000) has an extremely self-contained plot where Kao fights a hunter and is a fun, but very basic platformer title. Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2 introduced a wide cast of characters, including Gadget, an engineer who appears in subsequent games as well. It’s a platformer action game where Kao saves not just himself, but also his friends from the hunter who returns for revenge. It featured voiced dialogue and new mechanics such as throwing objects.

The third game, Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano, has Kao collecting artifacts across an island to defeat a monster in the volcano and save his friends again. It introduces more gameplay mechanics such as flying a plane with Gadget and shooting down enemy planes. The third game was not localized in English on its original release, it was only translated in English when it was later released on GOG.

I’d recommend checking out the trilogy if you have spare time because they’re solid platformers and aren’t to lengthy. The second title in particular is my favorite of the trilogy and was always very underrated. It’s really great to see old platformer IPs making a comeback. Krome Studios recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of TY the Tasmanian Tiger.

Image: Tate Multimedia

Back to the review, Kao the Kangaroo is a platformer on the easier side. It may start off a bit difficult because you only start off with 3 health points, one of which is removed each time you take a hit or fall down a pit, but it is upgradable over the course of the game which I’ll explain in greater detail later.

It does have a “lives” system, but I was never able to run out of lives to see if you actually get a game over screen. The game plays like a modern kind of platformer. In the old days, you’d lose a whole life for just falling down a pit, but in Kao the Kangaroo you only lose a single point of health, making it hard to run out of lives because thankfully there aren’t instant deaths.

Say you have 5 lives for instance with 3 health points each. You’ll need to take 15 hits to run out of them rather than losing a life for each hit like the old days.

The first level of the game is a tutorial level where you learn how to fight and platform in Walt’s Dojo and the game provides plenty of hints whenever a new game mechanic is introduced. The game reminds you of mechanics later in the game as well and provides generous hints to ensure you don’t get lost.

The best way to describe this game is that it’s a action platformer with collectibles. You have many different kinds of collectibles to gather in this title, but most of them aren’t mandatory to progress the story. The game is organized in 4 hub areas which each have about 3-4 levels and a stage boss.

The main collectible are runes which are required to access new levels. There are 50 runes in the game, but you don’t actually need all of them to access the final level (in case you didn’t want to 100% complete the game to get the ending). These runes are typically not hidden in stages and are generally on the main path in the level. They can also be found in the hub areas.

There are collectible coins in the game, which are used for purchases. The coins are not unique in the levels and can be grinded by replaying the levels. You can use coins to buy extra lives, heart upgrades, and costumes. Costumes in this game are only for aesthetic purposes.

You’d most likely be buying the heart upgrades because that is the most useful gameplay wise (you can take more hits before you die). In this game heart upgrades are acquired in quarters, so you need four of them to get an extra heart. You can also find heart pieces hidden in levels. If you collect and buy all heart upgrades in the game you can upgrade Kao’s health from 3 hearts to a total of 10 hearts, making the game significantly easier.

There are collectible scrolls which contain game lore you can read in the menus. These are dropped by new enemies you encounter and can be found throughout levels as well in secret areas.

Image: Tate Multimedia

Each level also has 3 “K A O” letters you can collect which will allow you to unlock new costumes for Kao to purchase with coins. Like other collectibles, they are generally in secret areas of the level and they’re not too difficult to find.

Jewels are another collectible found in the game, but I could not find a purpose for them aside from increasing my completion percentage. There are also unique treasure chests which contain a large amount of coins, helpful for making purchases at the shops.

All unique collectibles also make a hymn noise when you’re close by to help you find them. Most levels in the game will usually have a “main path” as well as a few branching paths leading to extra collectibles. Some are hidden well, but they were never unfair. I’d never find a collectible from, say, falling down a pit randomly. I was always able to move the camera around to find collectibles.

kao the kangaroo
Image: Tate Multimedia

There are switches used to open doors in levels, and they’re sometimes used to open optional doors containing these collectibles. Sometimes you have to be careful not to go too far in a level because you can’t readily return, such as if you go down a slide and now you can’t explore a room that you saw before that was off to the side. This kind of issue happens in most platformers though.

The levels themselves are usually 10-20 minutes and if you forget or miss a collectible you can generally just run through the level in under 5 minutes to get it. This was actually something I disliked in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, which had brutally difficult collectibles to find as well as excessively long levels that made it arduous to return for collectibles.  

This game has no missables because you can replay all the stages and you can skip cutscenes to get through the levels faster.

The game is not hard and has plenty of checkpoints throughout levels. You return to these checkpoints if you fall down a pit or if you lose all your health. In the event of falling down a pit, it returns you to the last checkpoint, but only makes you lose 1 heart instead of an entire life.

The combat involves Kao punching enemies. The combat in this title is on the easier side. There are airborne enemies as well, but Kao is able to jump up and spin to hit them.

There are boomerangs spread throughout levels that can be accessed through dispensers. You can use these boomerangs to easily hit airborne enemies. Sometimes these dispensers are available to use on the enemies, but sometimes they’re not around as well. You can only get 1 boomerang at a time from a dispenser and you’re not able to carry more than 1 boomerang with you.

The boomerangs are generally used to hit switches to complete puzzles and I often found it easier to just jump and spin to defeat airborne enemies while platforming.

Boomerangs were very handy when I encountered a “big room” full of enemies. These large areas would often have junk items hanging overhead, which Kao can shoot with boomerangs to cause the junk to fall onto the enemies, encouraging the player to think about how to defeat enemies rather than just rushing in all the time.

Kao will need to dodge the enemies’ punches or shots to avoid losing health. Kao has a dodge button which is extremely handy. It’s actually possible to jump and spin to parry incoming projectiles, which will reflect projectiles back to the enemy to defeat them. As well, when Kao does enough punches in a short time period, you can activate a strong ground punch that is an area of effect attack to help clear enemies surrounding you.

There are boss fights at the end of each hub area, contained in their own levels. They are not hard at all. These bosses are just like bosses in other platformers such as Crash Bandicoot. You need to dodge their attacks and wait until they are weakened to attack them. The bosses in this title have distinct phases as well, so although there aren’t too many bosses they are each very unique. Most of the time dodging will suffice and sometimes you’ll need to parry a boss’s projectile, but the timing of the parry is very reasonable.

kao the kangaroo
Image: Tate Multimedia

As you progress through the game, Kao will obtain more abilities that he can use throughout levels. He will acquire fire, ice, and wind moves from elements he finds in the levels. Fire is typically used to burn down obstacles blocking his path and to power boilers. Ice is used to freeze water to allow him to walk over it. Wind is used to move floating platforms towards him. By the end of the game it was really fun to use all of these elemental powers to solve puzzles with many moving parts, and these puzzles were never hard by any means.

Another unique gameplay mechanic in the game is the “eternal world”. When activating crystals in levels, it activates another dimension which basically turns transparent platforms solid, but only for a limited time. These make for fun timed platforming puzzles.

There are also “eternal wells” scattered throughout levels, which are challenge levels where you collect gems. These eternal wells may be a little more difficult than the actual level, but they’re never too hard at all and the game always manages to be extremely accessible.

Without providing any spoilers, the basic premise of the game is that Kao has a nightmare about his sister being trapped in a dark world and he sets out on an adventure to find his sister and father (after asking his mother for permission of course). Kao goes to Walt to receive training at a dojo and he sets out to find other dojo masters as well.

The story is the basic kind of story you’d find any other platformer, but it gets the job done and it gives you a reason to explore different lands and fight different kinds of bosses. The cutscenes are not lengthy and help break up the platformer action after every few levels and helps to add to Kao’s character development.

The main story cutscenes are all voiced. There is extra dialogue that you can get from talking to the characters in the hub areas that is unvoiced. The dialogue was very funny and made many references to other games and songs. Within just a few hours of playing, I heard characters saying phrases such as, “I’m here to fight and chew bubblegum”, “Rip and tear”, “Hello darkness my old friend,” and even Kao’s mother says she doesn’t want to go with Kao on an adventure because she doesn’t want to “take an arrow to the knee”.

In terms of the graphics, it’s a smaller budget title, but the art direction was very well done. The game features many colorful graphics and there are many distinct biomes, from tropical islands, jungles, icy hot springs, to even a spooky carnival. Each of these areas will also have unique enemies and bosses.

One of my favorite areas of the game was the jungle, where Kao was platforming across tree branches and fighting monkey enemies. There were many route splits and collectibles along the way. It’s very fun to platform up to a high area and look down on the level you just went through.

Another high point of the game for me were the snow levels. It was a combination of a training temple and hotsprings, so there was plenty of fascinating temple architecture to see combined with icy mountains and misty hotsprings. The puzzles were great as well, involving Kao using both fire and ice abilities to melt and freeze objects to progress through the level. The best part was finishing the level and looking down at the level you just platformed through.

kao the kangaroo
Image: Tate Multimedia

The soundtrack was also well made, and featured many tracks to suit the mood of each kind of area.

I don’t have too many criticisms for this title. It is a bit on the shorter side. It took me 7 hours to achieve 99% completion of the game (I was unable to find one gem, but I know it’s somewhere hiding). It may take you a shorter amount of time to beat the game if you’re not aiming for 100% completion.

I also found invisible walls sometimes when exploring hub areas. I wasn’t able to find anything game-breaking though, so these tiny glitches were just inconveniences and didn’t really impact the fun of the game.

I played through the original Kao trilogy before playing through this title, and this one is definitely my favorite. I feel that the developers have learned from the mistakes of older platformer games and have modernized the gameplay formula for 2022. This game is very fair and reasonable with its difficulty in platforming challenges and finding secret areas for collectibles.

All in all, it was a very fun game to play through. Whereas other games were too arduous and difficult to achieve 100%, Kao the Kangaroo was really not too hard at all and was very reasonable to complete. You unlock more and more abilities and hearts as you progress through the game as well.

The plot was simple, but very upbeat and characters each had their own motivations in each hub world. It’s a nice game to play for relaxing and destressing. It’s not a perfect game, as the levels are sometimes short and you can likely beat the entire game relatively quickly, and sometimes I’d run into invisible walls while exploring the hub areas. But those criticisms are really just nitpicks. It’s still a very fun experience and I really recommend you to check out this title.

Kao the Kangaroo

Our Score: Great

Pros

  • The artstyle is very vibrant and colorful. The characters also have distinct designs.
  • The gameplay is addicting and offers many quality of life improvements compared to the older games, so it’s never overly difficult.
  • There are a variety of levels and biomes to explore, along with plenty of collectables.
Cons

  • The voice acting can be bad at times for the protagonist. They went for a Polish voice actor speaking English, and don’t get me wrong his English voice is decent but at times the delivery can sound awkward.
  • The game is on the shorter time, even if you go for all the optional collectibles.

Brandon Harris
Reviewed on PC

Brandon is a passionate gamer and reviewer who respects the artistic and technical prowess that goes into creating interactive experiences. He enjoys playing the guitar, volunteering, and traveling to experience different cultures.


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