Kao the Kangaroo is a throwback to the days of gaming where you got what was on the disc, nothing more, nothing less. If there were bugs and glitches, there were no day one updates or massive patches three months post release. Simpler times, when cute animals were given voices, abilities, and stories.
Kao the Kangaroo reminds me a lot of my younger years playing Spyro. The comparison is easy to make. A colourful platformer where you go from hub world to hub world, collecting relics, diamonds, and coins, all while punching and pounding enemies and smashing crates to collect whatever is inside them. Sure sounds very Spyro-y. Boss fights at the end of each hub world before moving on to the next. Again, very Spyro-y. And that’s a good thing because Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon is one of my all-time favourite games, and any game that aims to replicate its success is sure to be a hit with me.
And a hit Kao is. The platforming is basic enough that my young son, Charlie, can pick up the pad and play through a level, but with enough challenge for him to remember who the man of the house is and ask me for the occasional help.
Combat is very simple, with Kao’s moves being limited to a simple three-hit combo, a jumping tail whip, and a ground pound. Simple, but effective, and again, great for younger players who prefer mashing buttons instead of Dark Souls-style measured combat. I did find it to be a little too simple at times, and I found myself wishing that Kao’s gloves packed more of a punch with their abilities that are gained throughout the story.
The story goes that Kao’s sister has gone missing, so he sets out to save her with the help of his father’s magical, talking boxing gloves that can be used not only in combat but also to help solve the game’s simple platforming puzzles.
Throughout the game, Kao can collect three different powerups for his Tyson hands: fire, ice, and wind, with the latter only really coming in right towards the end of the game.
Fire gloves can melt ice blocks, reveal secret side passages, and deal an explosive blow to enemies. The ice gloves can freeze water, stopping waterfalls in their tracks and opening up new climbing paths to collect hidden collectables. And finally, the wind power – the weakest of the three – is less wind, and more pull; it’s used to pull objects toward Kao, like moving platforms or blocks to reach higher areas.
To be honest, I found the powerups to be underwhelming. In the course of solving puzzles, they work well, but with their only being three, they get a little tired after a while, and their effects in combat aren’t really pronounced. Again, I can understand the reasoning – too many powerups and you risk confusing the smaller players. There’s a balance to be found and Kao falls just a little too far on the side of simple for my liking.
Combat isn’t the big pull, though – exploration, platforming, and collecting shiny things are what players want, and that’s what Kao the Kangaroo delivers well on.
Each themed hub world contains a handful of levels, each being unlocked after you’ve collected a certain amount of magical rune stones. Again, a little like Spyro unlocking portals with his dragon eggs. I liked it, and I knew where I stood, most of the time.
I had a few occasions where I was genuinely stumped as to what I should be doing next. One boss fight ended with a cutscene that my son Charlie decided to skip – what’s his rush? He’s six! – so I didn’t get the full whack of the cutscene which would have told me what to do. I ended up running around the Frozen Mountains hub world for over an hour, trying to figure out what I needed to do to get to the next world. I spoke to the guy who transports Kao around – much like the frog and his hot air balloon in Spyro – and he gave no advice. After smashing everything, collecting everything, and teaching my son some choice swear words, I finally figured it out – go to the travel point and choose the next location.
Annoying is not the word, and I wish that the game had done a little better at guiding me onwards. A map? An on-screen hint? Anything would have been better than nothing.
It’s a small gripe and maybe the biggest one I have, so that’s something. For the most part, Kao the Kangaroo was a really fun game to play through with my kid, and we both enjoyed the vivid graphics, the old-school gameplay, and to some extent, the story. However, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. I mentioned this in my preview, but I expected Kao to be Australian, for obvious reasons. Instead, he and the rest of the cast have dodgy accents, most likely spoken by actors with English as their second language. It wasn’t a big deal for Charlie, but as a foreigner living in a foreign land, I’ve got an ear for it and it’s something I noticed right away, and never stopped noticing. That’s just me being picky…
Kao the Kangaroo is a fun game for kids and adults and it’s surprisingly lengthy, so don’t be afraid that you won’t be getting your money’s worth. There are plenty of levels to explore, stuff to collect, and even some cool costumes to buy for Kao, one being his original model from the PS2 games. I didn’t even know Kao was around back then, but I certainly know of him now, and I’m looking forward to his next adventure. Let’s hope it’s not more than a hop, skip, and a jump away, eh. Get it, hop, skip, jump? Alright, I’m done. Sorry.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5.
Summary - FantasticSummary - Fantastic
- Fun, simple gameplay suitable for all ages
- Bright, popping graphics and a well animated characters
- Lots of collectables to hunt down, but not too many or too difficult to find
- Some minor audio bugs during cutscenes drown out the sub-par voice acting
- Lack of direction can be confusing, especially for younger players
- The magical gloves feel underused in combat