KAO the Kangaroo (PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, X/S, PC)

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, 3-D platformers were all the rage.  Many of them had popular mascots like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and more.  It was kind of like how in the early 90s, 2-D mascot platformers were the big thing, thanks to Sonic.  But for every popular character, there are many forgotten 3-D heroes, like Billy Hatcher or Super Magnetic NEO.  Another forgotten 3-D mascot was KAO the Kangaroo.  First appearing on the Dreamcast, he actually got five games before never being heard from again.  Until now.  KAO the Kangaroo is back with a new game that’s more of a reboot than a remake, and it’s just like the 3-D platformers you remember, for better or worse.  It’s available on all current game systems and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

In the game, Kao (pronounced K-O) lives on a tropical island with a bunch of other talking animals.  When his dad and sister go missing, Kao searches for his dad’s boxing gloves and goes after them.  But why did his dad hide the gloves, and why do they give off a purple glow and talk to Kao?  Are they cursed?  You’ll find out in this 3-D adventure.

Kao can do all the things that a typical 3-D action hero can do.  Jump, double jump, punch, roll, ground pound, and more.  They do a good job explaining most of the moves, but sometimes they miss some or don’t describe them very well.  You’ll visit small hub worlds with a few levels in each, plus a lengthy boss fight and bonus areas that test your platforming and combat skills.  The main levels are fairly linear, with secrets off the beaten path and crystals you can punch to temporarily reveal hidden platforms and such.

It wouldn’t be a 3-D platformer without things to collect and this one has plenty!  You’ll find stone runes hidden all over the place in the hub world and levels, and you use those to unlock new stages.  Coins are also everywhere, and you’ll use those to buy extra lives and heart pieces to increase your health meter.  And you can also buy outfits for Kao to wear.  I love the outfit that makes him look like his classic character from the first game, googly bug eyes and all!  You can also find diamonds and letters that spell out KAO in every stage.  Unfortunately, the game doesn’t tell you what they do or why you should collect them.

But that’s not the only problem in the game.  With all the heart pieces you collect, losing a life from being hit hardly ever happens because your health bar can quickly grow and heart pickups are easy to get.  But what does kill you most are falling into insta-death pits, water, lava, and more.  And it’s hard to judge jumps because of the perspective sometimes. Even though checkpoints are all over the place, if you run out of lives completely, you have to start the level over again.  And since levels can be pretty long, that can get annoying.  It caused me to lose interest in this game faster than what I normally would have.  I’m all for games with classic sensibilities, but the lives system has got to go.  Other than that, if you miss the 3-D platformer era of gaming, you may want to check this one out.

Kid Factor:

KAO the Kangaroo is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, and Comic Mischief.  You punch cartoony animals that fall over and disappear when defeated, and that’s it.  Didn’t really notice any blood.  Reading skill is helpful for some of the text, and younger gamers may have trouble with the more difficult obstacles and bosses.

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