Kao The Kangaroo
|a game by||Titus|
|Editor Rating:||5/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||6.8/10 - 10 votes|
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|See also:||Old School Games, 3D Platformer Games|
In the early 2000’s, there were few video game genres had quite as much cultural impact as mascot platformers. Whilst the genre wasn’t at the same height as it was during the 16-bit era, the introduction of the third dimension had done wonders for characters like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot. During the late-fifth/early-sixth generation, a few new faces tried to enter the conversation, one of whom – Kao the Kangaroo – actually tasted some success, but that was for his console appearances, NOT his forays into the handheld market.
A 2D twist
Whilst the first entry in the Kao the Kangaroo series on the Dreamcast made a name for itself in the 3D market, its Gameboy Advance counterpart opted for a much more primitive, but more appropriate approach. Taking place in a 2D plane allowed X-Ray Interactive to limit the number of controls, create more straight-forward levels, and at least in theory, create a simpler, easier to grasp experience.
Gameplay in Kao the Kangaroo consists of the player taking the titular marsupial from point A to point B. Fans of the 2D Bubsy titles will feel right at home with the general gameplay and feel. Along the way, the player must collect coins, fight monsters, and stay alive. Boss battles are plentiful here, but you’ll be lucky to get there – as the biggest battle is with the game’s control scheme.
Can’t be tamed
Kao’s control scheme is frankly jarring. In order to sprint, you must hold the up button simultaneously with the desired direction. This is crazy uncomfortable on original hardware, and just doesn’t feel intuitive in the slightest. The select button causes Kao to execute one of three attacks (with the others mapped to the B and Right Shoulder buttons), but all of these attacks have their problems when utilised, to the point where the strongest technique is to avoid combat altogether. You need to ask yourself if you’re even having fun when you’re playing a cheerful 2D platformer the same way you’d play Splinter Cell.
“Kao Blimey, look at that!”
Not all is terrible in the world of Kao GBA. Visually, the game is actually quite stunning. There are some incredible-looking backgrounds to the stages, that look years ahead of most of the titles available on the Gameboy Advance at the time. The character sprites are nothing special, but the stages themselves are really polished – at least in a visual sense. If you’re researching the capabilities of the handheld market at the time – this is a great example of how pre-rendered backdrops were utilized to make games look much more refined than they really were in a lot of cases.
As much as Kao the Kangaroo’s GBA port tried to encapsulate everything that made the 2D platformers on Sega’s 16-bit consoles so memorable, it ends up feeling like a run-of-the-mill experience with far too many issues to be enjoyable. Whilst it might look the part, there’s no excuse for its awful control scheme and gameplay concepts.
- Visually impressive.
- C’Mon! It’s a kangaroo!
- Poor control scheme.
- Best to avoid enemies altogether.
Download Kao The Kangaroo
Kao (pronounced "KO" not "cow") the Kangaroo may seem like a kid's platformer, but that's because it is. In spite of that, the game manages to do a number of things right: The camera is placed at a logical vantage point (although too much environmental foliage tends to get in the way). The controls are responsive enough, giving you free and easy access to Kao's one-two boxing punch, tail whip and kangaroo-jump; digital and analog control are supported, which is good since analog can sometimes be a little too loose for some of the more treacherous platforming; there are a good number of ways Kao can get around beyond merely being on foot, such as riding an alligator or a scooter, using a hang-glider, etc. But bringing the game down to earth is the occasionally draggy framerate, simplistic character models and environments, and an overall derivative feel of having been here and already done that. It's like a slower-paced Crash Bandicoot. Still, for younger gamers (under 10 years old) who own a DC, this is just about the right speed.