Kao the Kangaroo serves up plenty of 3D platform-hopping challenges on the PC or Dreamcast console. Following in the mighty big footsteps of franchise characters like Mario, Sonic, and even Crash Bandicoot, Kao will lead gamers on a colorful, good-natured adventure through large 3D environments, accented by daring leaps and goofy enemies. Aside from making use of his training as a semi-pro boxer, Kao will also need to swim, snowboard, and even hang glide to make his way through the adventure that awaits.
Despite what many of you think, Dreamcast fanatics like myself do play games on other platforms! Yes, and as you slowly pick up your chin from the floor, we are also aware of this PC platform and, personally, some of my best video game experiences have come from playing PC games. However, among all the first person shooters, role-playing games, real-time strategy games, and other PC genres I've played, the platformer is pretty much an extinct beast on the PC. Perhaps it's because playing a platformer with keyboard controls is kinda weird... or maybe it's because not many developers can make platform games that keep us interested. And then, there's Kao the Kangaroo, and if it sounds like I'm leading up to saying the game sucks donkey balls, I'm not... but Kao is hardly worth anyone's time, especially since the game has hardly any kind of originality or fun.
Now, I'm all for "keeping it real"... that is, playing games that don't introduce anything innovative or unique, but just keep the a solid standard of gameplay fun. And Kao is as standard a 3D platformer as you're going to get. Kao has been kidnapped from his home and you have to guide him through numerous levels, filled with enemies and obstacles that'll make life rough for a friend from down under. But Kao ain't no wimp; armed with his deadly boxing gloves (a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves... go figure) and an assortment of attacks like a 1-2 combination punch, a tail whip, and powerful Power Glove attack... actually, that's all his attacks. Anyways, with these skills and his jumping ability, as unoriginal as Kao is, as long as the gameplay and visuals impress, we'd be jumping for joy, no?
I wish... let's start off with the gameplay and controls. The gameplay is as standard as a platformer goes; each level, with the exception of boss levels, you get Kao from point A to point B. There's not really any branching paths to take, though there are "hidden" warps that lead you to bonus games. Bear in mind, hidden is used here lightly, as finding these secret warps are ridiculously easy. In fact, the whole game seems to be made for kids when it comes to the difficulty. Even bosses aren't that hard to beat as most of their patterns can be figured out in the first 5 seconds. However, as easy as the game is, there's one thing that kept me from blowing through this game in an hour - controls. While moving Kao isn't that difficult, control issues with the camera pop-up very often as the camera "follows" Kao's movement. So when Kao jumps, the camera "jumps", and that gets really aggravating. And in certain chase sequences where Kao is running toward the player, the controls really get weird. Maybe I'm being over-critical, but generally speaking in video games when you have chase sequences where you see the character running towards you, you would usually press down on the control pad. Well, in Kao, it's the opposite - you press up to run "down". Awkward controls in sequences make it somewhat difficult to keep yourself entertained.
Then comes the graphics; with simple textures and low polygon models, Kao isn't very exciting. The world of Kao The Kangaroo is certainly colorful, but quite bare of any decorations. The frame rate is decent, but we've certainly seen better with another beautiful platformer (i.e. Rayman 2). But the most annoying problem encountered with the visuals comes in the form of camera angles. Although you can change your perspective from three different views, you basically have no control over the camera angles. This becomes truly bothersome when the game shifts to different perspectives - side scrolling and chase sequences - where sometimes you won't be able to see platforms when performing a jump sequence. Additionally, the few background elements that are seen in the game have an annoying habit of blocking your view often. I doubt even kids could enjoy a game like Kao.
As delightful as our cartoony kangaroo is, Kao The Kangaroo just wasn't exciting enough for me mainly because I've played this type of game so many times already. If the gameplay was solid, then perhaps I could look past that, but with awkward controls and an unfinished feel, Kao The Kangaroo tries to leap just past the standard but falls short of making the jump to the next platform.
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