Kao the Kangaroo is a 3D platformer developed by Tate Multimedia, in which you attempt to rescue the titular kangaroo’s dad with a haunted pair of boxing gloves. The game flows from combat to platforming and back several times throughout each linear level, and while there are a few alternate paths for collectibles, the majority of the shards needed to unlock levels are on the main path.
Combat with a pair of boxing gloves turns out to be much like combat in any other platformer; you have a three-hit combo, a jumping attack, a ground slam, a super move usable once your attacks fill a meter, and a dodge roll that also hurts opponents a little.
In Kao, the moves don’t chain into one another well and the targeting can be finicky, but the biggest issue is that it doesn’t offer anything new. It’s decent platformer combat with no distinguishing features.
The platforming similarly lacks anything unique. You can jump, double jump, ledge grab, and use elemental punch abilities to remove obstacles from your path. The dodge roll moves faster, but you can’t do anything else until the roll animation is finished. And there aren’t any advanced movement types like a long jump or dive, meaning the platforming boils down to using your very basic abilities in predictable ways. There are some rail grinding and sliding sections, and most of the platforming is pleasant. But it feels a bit like going through the motions.
The elemental punch abilities are weirdly powered by individual drops of energy, which means the designers had to place them right next to the objects they interact with. For instance, you’ll find a plank that you need to fire punch to burn, but right next to it is the necessary drop of fire energy, which makes you wonder why the energy isn’t just permanently usable.
The times the game doesn’t place the object and solution right next to each other, you end up backtracking or walking around looking for hidden energy, which is worse, not better. Technically, some of these elemental interactions are used as puzzles, but the majority of them barely qualify.
There are three levels, a small hub, and a boss per world. With four worlds total, that’s 5-ish hours of platforming, which might be too short for some players.
The story is exactly what you’d expect from a 3D platformer from the mid 2000s where they got the programmers to write the story and then translated it from Polish. It’s mostly average, grammatically correct but awkward dialogue with little tension and a few egregiously unfunny references — is an arrow to the knee still funny to you?
Kao is a reboot of the Kao games from the early 2000s, and it closely emulates the era’s linear 3D platformers. This draws unfortunate comparisons to some of the best platformers ever made. The game’s pleasant, but that feels like damning it with faint praise when I’d describe my favorite platformers as genuinely fun.
That said, the game has a charm to it. The art feels generic and is hamstrung by a small budget, but the world is colorful and fun to jump around, and the game reminded me of picking up a bargain bin platformer and realizing it was a good bit of fun, even if it wasn’t a hidden gem.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a hit of nostalgic 3D platforming action, you could do worse than this game. But if you’re looking for a highly refined game with tight level design and a unique take on the 3D platformer, I’d look elsewhere and see if the devs do better on a possible sequel.
Kao the Kangaroo releases May 27 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC for $29.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Kao the Kangaroo.