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‘Kao The Kangaroo’ Review: Bouncing Back With A Bang

‘Kao The Kangaroo’ Review: Bouncing Back With A Bang

Thanks to Tate Multimedia's joyous reboot of the franchise, Kao the Kangaroo is back and he's looking better than ever.

You could very much be forgiven for not having heard of the Kao the Kangaroo franchise. This short-lived series of 3D platformers burst onto the scene back in 2000 to very little fanfare but after a whopping 17-year hiatus, Kao is back with a bang - and now, this former SEGA Dreamcast has-been is set to make his marsupial mark on today’s consoles.

Tate Multimedia’s franchise reboot, Kao the Kangaroo (not to be confused with the original game of the same name) is an homage to the very best the platforming genre has to offer. Full of interesting obstacles, well-realised environments and unique boss fights, I had far more fun playing Kao the Kangaroo than I ever expected. A complete reimagining of the series, Kao the Kangaroo sees boxer Kao embark on an epic journey to save his sister Kaia, all whilst uncovering the secrets of his long-lost father. Along the way, Kao faces off against a series of fighting masters, all under the dark influence of the Eternal Warrior.

Take a look at Kao the Kangaroo in action below!

As with most platformers, Kao the Kangaroo’s story is basic but it’s perfectly passable and keeps the purpose of the gameplay ticking along nicely - even if there are no plot twists or surprises in store. It didn’t hugely bother me. The cutscenes were kept to a minimum and I think that was the right call. Platforming has never pitched itself as the genre to take you on a deep, thought-provoking adventure so it’s not something I expected to see. I will say, there are some questionable jokes. Kao is told off by his mother for spending too much time on “TukTuk” which is obviously an alternate version of TikTok. I can’t say the humour did a lot for me, but it did perfectly suit the goofy nature of the main character and the overall vibe of the game.

The platforming gameplay itself is certainly where Kao the Kangaroo excels. From the opening tutorial to the final boss fight, I never tired of the gameplay. Each level offers its own unique challenges. Kao the Kangaroo perhaps fails to bring anything new to the table, but it’s certainly a compilation of the platforming genre’s greatest hits. As I slid along rails, I had strong flashbacks to last year’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. In the levels that I ran towards the camera chased by a giant gorilla atop a rolling barrel, I could feel Crash Bandicoot’s influence on the game. I can’t think of a platforming element that I’ve come across in another game that Kao the Kangaroo doesn’t employ - and it employs them flawlessly.

Kao the Kangaroo /
Tate Multimedia

For the most part, Kao the Kangaroo has a similar approach when it comes to level environments. There’s your typical platforming settings like the snowy level, the tropical level… you get the idea. Later in the game though, you’ll experience a carnivalesque fun house, and this originality truly elevates the game. Wandering down tight corridors plastered with psychedelic patterns, I questioned where I’d come from and where I was headed next. The game’s villainous creatures (which are actually kind of adorable) were hidden in little alcoves or behind corners, genuinely catching me by surprise. It’s the first time I’ve played a platformer that had that scare-maze-like element of not quite knowing what lies around the bend, even if it is just a monkey throwing fruit. It’s certainly the most immersive level here, and I would’ve loved to have seen more environments like this, breaking away from the usual platforming fare.

As a PS5 owner, I’ve played the delightful platformer Astro’s Playroom which utilises the console’s DualSense controller to great effect. I understand that given Kao’s cross-platform release, it’s harder to tailor the experience to each console’s capabilities, but I couldn’t help but notice a complete lack of movement when it came to my DualSense. I couldn’t even say for sure that I got as much as a tiny rumble. Having experienced a game like Astro’s Playroom, which truly elevates the platforming genre, Kao the Kangaroo does feel a little still.

Kao the Kangaroo /
Tate Multimedia

There are a couple of minor areas where Kao the Kangaroo lacks finesse. Throughout the various levels, you’ll have the option to collect diamond-like gems, scrolls, coins, and letters that spell out Kao. My problem is, despite the fact that I spent a decent chunk of time collecting the gems and letters, there’s no real incentive to do so. The coins I could redeem for clothing or extra lives, while the scrolls unlocked character profiles. I suppose the gems and letters allow you to chase 100 percent completion on a level, but it would be nice to be rewarded for your efforts.

This is a short game, taking between five and six hours to complete in its entirety. There are plenty of lengthy games these days though, so something like Kao the Kangaroo is refreshing. It’s the perfect light-hearted romp to while away 30 minutes here and there amidst your larger games. Having played the game largely across two sessions, I was left wanting more. Kao’s story wraps up nicely, but I was still surprised to see the credits roll and would’ve loved to have seen another handful of levels thrown in. That being said, my disappointment at the length can only be a testament to the fact that I had a lot of fun whilst playing.

Kao the Kangaroo /
Tate Multimedia

Kao the Kangaroo may be too lacking in originality to stand the chance of being a game of the year contender, or even the best example of its genre this year, but it does excel in what it set out to achieve - to celebrate the golden age of the 3D platforming genre. Thanks to this reboot, Kao has every reason to proudly stand alongside Crash, Spyro and Mario as bastions of the genre. There’s lots of fun to be had running, bouncing, jumping, sliding, climbing, skating, and fighting yourway to completion, and if a sequel is announced, I know I’d play it in a heartbeat. Kao the Kangaroo has officially bounced back in style.

Pros: Intuitive gameplay, wide variety of obstacles, a feel-good factor

Cons: Could be longer, needs an incentive for collecting items, not very original

For fans of: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, Astro’s Playroom

7/10: Very Good

Kao the Kangaroo is out now on PlayStation (reviewed on PlayStation 5), Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. Review code was provided by publisher Tate Multimedia. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Tate Multimedia

Topics: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Steam