Kao the Kangaroo is a Crash Bandicoot wannabe, but I think thats okay

Once upon a time in video game land, everyone wanted to be Crash Bandicoot. Heck, even I wanted to be Crash Bandicoot and ride tiny, adorable polar bears through snowy landscapes – albeit maybe without the nitro crates. So were born a number of look and play-alikes, including Kao the Kangeroo. But, like Crash, and unlike many of their contemporaries, Kao is making a comeback.

Originally released in 2000 on the Dreamcast, Kao wasn’t one of the 3D platformers that gained mass acclaim worldwide, but it was hugely popular in Poland where developer Tate Multimedia is based. This new game isn’t a sequel, but rather what studio head, Kaja Borowko, calls “a complete reboot”, with the hopes that it attracts fans old and new to this fresh marsupial adventure. As someone who’s always been a fan of platformers like this, I was more than intrigued to take a look. 

Kao the Kangaroo gameplay, from deserts and ice to water rapids and frogs

(Image credit: Tate Multimedia)

What’s strikingly clear is the game’s inspirations – there’s plenty borrowed from Crash Bandicoot and Donkey Kong, among others. There’s an Australian marsupial hero, a missing sister, boxes to smash, a floating head of a side-kick through levels, glowing items to find, letters of Kao’s name to collect…  the list goes on. And I’m on the fence as to whether that’s to its detriment.

Time to Kangaroo down

Kao the Kangaroo gameplay, from deserts and ice to water rapids and frogs

(Image credit: Tate Multimedia)

While being true to your inspiration isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you do need something a little unique to set yourself apart. For this Kangaroo, its gimmick is Kao’s magic gloves, which once belonged to his father. Not only do they talk to him, but they allow him to interact with what’s essentially another realm. What that means is some rather inventive gameplay, using the gloves to interact temporarily with the world, gain fire abilities, and no doubt other tricks down the line. It’s not totally original, but helps make for some interesting mechanics like boomerangs and other in-world items to interact with, which helps keep each level feeling unique.

Of course, there are also the classic platforming moves too. There’s a ground pound, jump, dodge roll, double jump, and even a nifty tailspin you can combine with a jump to take out more nimble foes. You can chain together attacks, moving from target to target, in a way that’s almost Batman Arkham-esque, which also lets you fill a bar to unleash a more powerful attack, which is seriously satisfying as that also stuns any nearby enemies. It’s a nice little system and quite the surprise for a classic 3D platformer like this. 

Kao the Kangaroo gameplay, from deserts and ice to water rapids and frogs

(Image credit: Tate Multimedia)

There is some pretty ropey, cliched dialogue though, along with stilted voice acting that detracts from the fun. But, that doesn’t entirely stop Kao’s little adventure from being quite the laugh. There’s a silliness to its humor and creativity to its character designs that can’t help but endear you to it. Little hub worlds let you explore, chat, and find collectibles between the individual levels, and it’s beautiful in a cartoonish sort of way. 

But that makes it a tricky one to form an opinion on. Because there is plenty to enjoy with Kao the Kangaroo, it makes the negatives more palpable. Between the dialogue, the really awkward camera controls, and what I assume are pre-release bugs, it’s difficult to know whether to recommend it at this stage. It’s due to launch sometime this summer, and it’s worth noting that it won’t be a full-priced title, but in an age where there are so many other brilliant platformers like Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Crash 4, or even Yooka-Laylee, is it enough to just be another? Perhaps, particularly for a family-friendly affair, but I’m not sure whether Kao the Kangeroo has quite enough to become a true star in such a busy gaming landscape.

Kao the Kangaroo is dropping on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam sometime in summer 2022.

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