Kao the Kangaroo Review – Up for the Count

The 3D platformer series Kao the Kangaroo returns in an all-new adventure that sends you jumping and punching your way through a variety of colorful stages.

Kao the Kangaroo
Developer: Tate Multimedia
Price: $30
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a Switch code for review.

Kao the Kangaroo is a revival of the old 3D platformer series of the same name. This new entry in the series follows Kao as he sets out on a journey to find his sister and father, who have gone missing. Along the way, he picks up the Eternal Gloves, boxing gloves with a mysterious power and a connection to the Eternal World that threatens to consume everything.

The story is fine, but nothing special. Some plot points could have been fleshed out better, and I would have liked to see more interactions between Kao and the gloves, since traveling with vaguely-malevolent talking boxing gloves feels like the perfect opportunity for banter. I also wasn’t crazy about the occasional references to popular culture or social media. As it is, the story serves as an excuse to travel from place to place.

The platforming feels pretty good, if a little awkward when it comes to grabbing ledges. You have a double jump, a ground pound, and a couple moves only applicable in certain situations, such as swinging across gaps at grappling points. Combat, meanwhile, consists of a three-hit punching combo and a few other moves, and it feels pretty smooth. You also can pick up elemental charges for your gloves, which are used to activate switches and get past obstacles. The element you need is always nearby, though, and it’s not possible to waste charges, so it really becomes a matter of figuring out how to reach the elemental charge when you need one.

Levels have fairly linear structures. There are side paths along the way, which you can explore to find more of the game’s many collectibles, but ultimately you’re trying to reach the end of each stage. However, each group of levels is accessed from a hub world. These hub areas are more open and encourage exploration to find all of their collectibles.

The primary collectibles you’ll need to obtain are runes, which unlock new areas. Runes are placed throughout the main path of each stage, so collecting them is fairly easy. In the hubs, you’ll need to search a bit more carefully, although some runes only spawn in the hub after you’ve completed certain stages. In addition to runes, you’ll also collect coins, jewels, and scrolls, as well as the letters K-A-O in each stage.

Coins can be used at the hub areas’ shop to purchase extra lives, heart pieces to increase your total health, and optional costumes for Kao. These costumes become available for purchase as you complete stages and find sets of K-A-O. Meanwhile, scrolls provide lore snippets about areas, characters, and enemies. I’m not actually sure what jewels do. There are a lot of them, but I never saw a use for them beyond being collectibles.

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Overall, Kao the Kangaroo is a fairly easy game. There are optional side levels that will test your platforming or combat skills a bit more, while rewarding you with coins and jewels, but extra lives are so abundant that I never felt in danger of running out. Boss stages also increase the challenge by adding a bit of a puzzle element, but they never get too tough.

I love 3D platformers. I enjoy exploring levels and grabbing every collectible I can see. Despite its short length, Kao the Kangaroo called out to my 3D platformer loving heart. I was quite happy with it until I ran into technical issues. Performance on the Switch can be rough at times. The frame rate gets choppy when too much is happening on-screen at once, which didn’t bother me too much until the final area, where it got especially bad. The sound also glitched out in the final stages.

However, I ran into a much worse problem than that. Kao the Kangaroo exclusively uses auto-saves, yet the auto-save system has a bug where it stops working. When I was halfway through the game, I took a break, only to find that when I reloaded, my progress had reverted back to the first stage. I didn’t dare quit the game during my second attempt, but after the end credits sent me back to the title screen, I reloaded out of curiosity and saw that I was once again in an early area. This bug soured what was otherwise a good experience, so I hope this issue will be patched soon. (As of the time of writing this, the bugs have been fixed in the Steam, Xbox, PS5, and PS4 versions.)

Aside from the save bug, Kao the Kangaroo is a fun 3D platformer. Although the story is a little bland, it makes up for it with fun stages and plenty of collectibles to seek out.

The Final Word
If you love 3D collect-a-thon platformers, Kao the Kangaroo is worth taking a look at once its bugs are patched. It might not bring anything new to the genre, but it’s a short slice of what makes 3D platforming fun.

-MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good

Samantha Lienhard

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