'Kao the Kangaroo' (2022) Review
Then go. Kick butt, rip and tear, boop snoots — or whatever it is you kids say these days. Just find your dad and sister and bring them home.
-- Kao’s Mum
Kao the Kangaroo is a bit of a niche character in the animal platformer genre. If you had played his games back in the day, and were fond of the kangaroo, I’m sure you already played the new one that came out this year and are only reading this review to fulfill your curiosity. If you don’t have nostalgia for this series, then is this a game worth playing?
If you really enjoy 3D platformers, then this one is decent enough. It's fun, colorful, though not really challenging. If you're looking for the cream of the platformer crop, this one may disappoint, as there are some rough edges. It’s no Sonic Boom of a disaster, but there was at least one glitch that caused me to soft lock at the end of a level.
A bit of a predictable story
As someone who dealt with many narrative tropes over the three decades of gaming, this one was quite predictable. So much so that at the end of the jungle zone, about halfway through the game, I had made a prediction on who the final boss of the game would be. This prediction would be correct. Even if I didn’t figure it out at that point, by the end of the very next level with a tundra theme, the game was basically screaming it to the player.
It's still fun and probably a bit more memorable than the story from the other Kao game I played.
The monkey enemies in that jungle level do look a bit like NFTs, and the fact that they’re supposed to symbolize an industrialized greed taking over their land, I’m sure this was just a coincidence. So if you ever wanted to punch a Bored Ape, you got that going for you.
The graphics are quite nice.
I liked the kangaroo villa the game starts off in, a lot of care and detail went into making it feel homely. Overall the overworlds for each section had nice detail, it was sort of reminiscent of the original Spyro. One thing that was a bit jarring though was that the transition from the hub to the levels, and back, feel incomplete in a way. Usually there is a lack of fan fare in the level complete screens. Transitions feels jumpy. Levels can end at seemingly random moments as the flag for the end goal was never consistent.
It’s also not quite clear when it comes to collectable or unlockable progression. You can find these corrupt looking wells that have a mini-level challenge, sort of like those green runes from Doom 2016, but unlike that game there is no clear unlock or reward for completing these offshoot platforming challenges. In the end, it means that the player may choose to just ignore these.
The voice acting, while a bit odd at first, did grow on me. It is a foreign studio, and while a sentence or two were a bit choppy, the characters were still comprehensible and had some personality to them. My favorite moment was when I realized that the boxing gloves Kao was wearing seemed to have a similar voice as the Ancient Reptilian Brain from the acclaimed Disco Elysium. Though, it does not seem like the voice actor is the same, the cadence is similar enough where I could only joke about Kao’s gloves going through “One more [Purple] Door, baby.”
The line from Kao’s mom that led off this article, when she was wishing him well on his journey, told him to “Rip and Tear, boop snoots,” or “whatever the kids say these days”. In some ways I wonder if the writers of this line know that booping a snoot is a platonically positive interaction that is almost greeting-like, whereas rip and tear is a Doom 2016 reference of the most violent means. But since Kao’s mum is a bit non-versed on these trends, it works in its own Isabelle and Doomslayer kind of way.
But then Kao's mum made yet another arrow to the knee reference and ruined the moment entirely. To be fair, Doom did as well, but at least it was a bit more subtle. Skyrim is over a decade old at this point, can we go one year without a game referencing that line, please?
A weird theme that seemed to come up surrounding the corrupted gloves was that Kao would excuse wearing them, despite their corruption, because they reminded him of his dad. After he does this the other characters would just call him out on sympathy farming. Nothing else about Kao’s character pointed toward him being manipulative in that kind of way, so these moments made me scratch my head. It was a bit funny though, as unexpected things are.
I found it amusing that they brought back Kao’s underwater neck stretching ability to deal with him being in water. An amusing and toony way to work around a swimming animation for sure.
Of the Kao games I have played, this one was a bit more memorable than the others. I did play Kao 2 and the only two things I really remembered after the two years since that time was the stretch neck in water mechanic, and a part that seemed to be referencing the Weebel's Badger and Mushrooms flash animation. Though the game was released only three months after the animation so… coincidence?
But anyway. The game is a quick and fun platformer, and it has a kangaroo, which gives it some bias points. If they do continue to make more in the future, my biggest suggestion would be to work on the hub and level transitions to make the game feel a bit more immersive.
While the game was a bit short with four worlds, there seems to be new content coming out in the form of DLC, so perhaps there will be more meat on the bone given time. It's rare that I get to play a fresh game, so post launch changes sometimes happen I suppose. So this a pre-October 2022 patch review.