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Kao the Kangaroo (PS5) Review | Plus PS4 via BC

The late ’90s and early 2000s was the golden era of 3D platforming, the genre was in its infancy with many developers trying their hand at either making new IPs in this format or transitioning existing franchises into it. Some were incredibly successful, such as Mario 64, whereas others have become infamous for how bad they turned out – Bubsy 3D anyone?! There were also a plethora of games which were fun to play and sold well, yet they vanished into the ether as gaming trends moved on and gamers became more interested in other genres. Today I’m taking a look at one such game – Kao the Kangaroo, a new entry in the 3D platforming series in almost 20 years – that’s something I never thought I’d be saying!

Kao the Kangaroo was originally released back in 2000 on the PC and Dreamcast. Following this, two other games were released in 2003 and 2005, the former on PC, Xbox, PS2 and GameCube, but the latter only on PC. Aside from these main titles, a completely different GBA game was released in 2001 with the same “Kao the Kangaroo” title and in 2005 a PSP game was released which was basically an enhanced remake of Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2 (maybe a possible PSP Classic on PS Plus?!?). All of these were developed by Tate Multimedia, the same developer which has developed and published the new 2022 “Kao the Kangaroo” – yes, it’s the third (different) game with the same name!

So, after playing through the entire game on the PlayStation 5 via Backwards Compatability, then getting my hands on the native PlayStation 5 version and playing halfway through that, what do I think of Kao’s new adventure? Has it come at the right time, where remasters, reboots, and remakes are proving very popular for nostalgic titles, or is it stuck in the past and possibly unable to appeal to modern younger gamers? Let’s find out…

Kao The Kangaroo 1

I like fire… (PS4)

Kao the Kangaroo is the story of Kao (pronounced K.O., not “cow” as I’ve been saying), an anthropomorphic kangaroo. After having a dream of his sister Kaia, who ran away from home to search for their long-lost father, Kao believes it’s his destiny to set out and find her and discover what happened to their father. His mother reluctantly allows him to leave, after having no success stopping the others from leaving previously, but under one condition – Kao gets help and training from Master Walt first.

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On his way to Walt’s dojo, the spirit of Kaia leads Kao towards his father’s gloves, a pair of possessed boxing gloves which enhances the wearer’s strength whilst enabling the use of elemental abilities. These mysterious weapons were buried due to their connection with the evil that’s plaguing the world, yet they seem to bond with Kao and obey his command, so Walt decides that Kao can keep them as long as he can show that he’s in control rather than the gloves controlling him.

Once he vanquished the evil that’s infested his home island, Kao and Walt set out to find his sister, cleansing each new location and freeing the famous ‘fighting masters’ from their dark influence in hopes they can point them in the right direction. As he progresses, he’ll become stronger, inherit new abilities, and meet a range of quirky characters. Will he find his sister, discover what happened to his father, and return home to his mother in one piece? I guess there’s only one way to find out…

Kao The Kangaroo 2

Can you find everything?!? (PS4)

Gameplay
Kao the Kangaroo is a 3D action platformer that’s influenced by the golden age of 3D platformers yet modernised for the current era. I absolutely love the platforming and combat within the game, everything is very smooth, responsive, and tight – nothing felt ‘floaty’ or out of my control. Each stage has a very nostalgic design to them, reminding me of old-school 3D platformers with its A-Z approach yet complete with hidden areas, secrets, collectables, and simple puzzle platforming elements (such as hitting switches and dodging hazards).

When in a stage, the goal is to simply make it to the end, talk to the person of interest (or destroy them), and then exit the level. However, there are a number of different things to keep an eye out for – KAO letters, cauldron missions, scrolls, life pieces, crystals, runes, and chests. Runes are important as they are used to unlock subsequent missions, the others are all optional yet are required for trophies and to make Kao stronger and richer. Without a guide, expect to replay the same mission multiple times in order to find everything as some are really well hidden!

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Each island also has a boss stage which is simply the encounter without any actual stage element beforehand. I personally didn’t have any issues with the bosses, once you’ve learnt the pattern they follow then each one is quite simple to defeat. Taking these down provides a little story and then the next island is unlocked for you to explore, yet you can still return to any previous island and face their bosses whenever you wish. 

Kao The Kangaroo 3

Power Slam to hit everyone! (PS4)

Satisfying combat
I’m a big fan of 3D action platforming games, especially those which are clearly influenced or inspired by games from my youth. I was very impressed by just how satisfying and responsive both the combat and platforming are within Kao the Kangaroo. Combat is simple, you have a single button to attack, Square. Circle lets you roll to lightly damage the enemies and butt-stomp in the air, but Square is your main attack for punching and whipping your tail.

Well, there is one other attack – once you’ve hit the enemies enough times, you fill up a power meter. Once this is full, pressing Triangle will slow down time as Kao delivers a powerful ‘finisher attack’ – basically a ground-pound that damages everyone around your target. This is a devastating attack that has the potential to wipe out an entire group or at least leave them very low on health. As you begin to chain together butt stomps, punches, and then a finisher, it all flows seamlessly and feels very satisfying.

You’d think that having a very limited set of moves would result in a game with bland and repetitive combat, but I never felt like that. The bosses and bigger enemies often require you to do different things such as disabling shields by hitting crystals or avoiding their attacks until you see an opening. I’d also say that the majority of the game isn’t actually fighting, it’s making your way through the beautiful stages and searching for the collectables. Speaking of…

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Kao The Kangaroo 4+1

Run! (PS4)

Platforming heaven
I love the level design in Kao the Kangaroo. Each island has its own theme, complete with a set of stages that follow the same design. I honestly felt like a child again as I played Kao the Kangaroo, the nostalgia for this old-school genre kicked in and I loved every second of it – going off the main path to discover secrets, backtracking for things I missed, and randomly jumping into waterfalls hoping to find a secret cave. The enjoyment was further enhanced by the gorgeous visuals.

Looking at the images I’m sure one game instantly comes to mind – the remake of Spyro the Dragon. That’s what I instantly thought of while playing thanks to the lush green grass and bright purples. I also thought of the semi-recent remake of Spongebob and Crash Bandicoot 4, all of which are top-tier 3D platformers that a lot of people hold very close to their hearts. I never actually played the original Kao the Kangaroo games when I was younger, yet I imagine those gamers will feel the same about this as people did about the games mentioned above.

Aside from the platforming and combat segments, there are a few chase sequences which I’m not a fan of. They perform perfectly in Kao the Kangaroo, I’ve just never liked them. Basically, have you played Crash Bandicoot? If so, do you remember the stages where you’re running towards the camera, unable to see what’s coming up due to the focus being on the big thing rolling after you? Well, that’s basically how these segments work – thankfully, there’s only a handful of them within the game. 

I do love that Kao the Kangaroo is very faithful to the era it’s influenced by, everything has been modernised without drastically changing the gameplay and mechanics. As such, it’s very easy to just pick up and play the game no matter what your age or skills are, this is a game for everyone to enjoy whether you want to sit down and play it all in one go or spread it out over a number of days or weeks. 

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Kao The Kangaroo 5

I didn’t know kangaroos could do this… (PS4)

Elemental puzzles
Kao’s gloves aren’t just there to enhance his physical attacks, they can also absorb elemental orbs to perform various actions. For example, if you have a fire orb then you can burn cobwebs, activate floating platforms, and light fires, whereas the ice element lets you freeze water so you can walk on it or see what’s behind the flow. Although quite a simple mechanic, it greatly enhances the gameplay by offering new solutions to problems and making the game more varied.

There are also boomerang pods found scattered in certain levels, presenting you with Australia’s weapon of choice which you can throw at enemies, switches, and dangling items which are just waiting to be dropped on someone. But, that’s not all they do, if you hit them whilst in possession of an elemental orb, the boomerang becomes infused with that element as well. This means you can now throw a flaming boomerang at objects to burn them from afar or freeze waterfalls so you can climb up the wall behind the water. 

The endangered long-neck kangaroo
This isn’t really related to this section, or the review in general, but I had to talk about Kao’s neck. There are moments where you have to climb across a vine bridge, using your ears as if they’re hands – which is strange in itself – but pushing Tringle allows you to extend your neck and pick up items further down… Yeah, he stretches out like the Teacher from Little Nightmares 2! Also, whilst writing this review, I just noticed that when you’re within shallow water, if it would potentially cover your head, he also extends his neck like a periscope. Again, this isn’t really relevant to the review but I just find it quite hilarious and disturbing!

Kao The Kangaroo 6

Collect the gems from the floating platforms… (PS4)

Collectable woes
Kao the Kangaroo has a lot of collectables to find within each stage and the hub worlds. Four types of collectables are documented on the stage information screen – Runes, KAO letters, Gems and Scrolls. This is a handy tally that lets you know if you’ve collected all of these from the stage, so you can go back to it if you’ve missed any and it’s required for a trophy. However, the game annoyingly doesn’t tell you which stages have cauldrons, chests or heart pieces within them.

Why is this annoying? There’s a trophy for finding all the cauldrons and maxing out your life bar, yet without any indication of which stage contains the ones you’re missing, you need to go on a wild goose chase and replay every single mission in hopes of finding them. Thankfully, the cauldrons (which are secret levels) are numbered, so you can work out where the ones you don’t have are, sometimes, but the heart pieces are not labelled in any way. Due to this, I’m missing a single piece of heart and I have literally no idea where it is – I guess I’ll have to wait for a guide and replay every stage.

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As you play each stage, you’ll eventually end up in possession of a small fortune of gold coins. These can be spent on extra lives, heart pieces and new costumes. I love some of the costumes you can buy, I’ve opted for a purple skin and clown’s nose but you can change into the visual design from previous games should you choose – like how you can change Lara Croft in Tomb Raider to her previous ‘pointy’ fashion.

The one collectable I’m confused about is the crystal. Each stage has a certain number of these, and so do the hubs, yet I can’t figure out what they do. I can’t see a trophy regarding them, they don’t give you money to spend in the store, and there’s nothing which unlocks if you have them all (I think). They seem important though as when you die in a stage and respawn at a checkpoint, the gems are taken off you and placed back where you got them from, whereas all other items and coins you pick up remain in your pockets. I spent so long trying to find every single one of these, yet I don’t know why…

Below is the PS4 on the left and PS5 on the right:

ps4
ps5

Technical
I’ve taken a look at a few previews for Kao the Kangaroo and one thing seems to stand out, other sites seem to hate the voice acting! I’ll be honest, at first, I thought it was a little iffy but it eventually grew on me. Some of the lines are delivered without much emotion and/or emphasis, but I thought it added to the humour and quirkiness of the narrative. Kao himself sounds like the voice actor who voiced Darren from Black Mirror 2 and 3 on PC (it’s not him, but it sounds like it), which I found quite entertaining.

In terms of the performance, I initially played the entire PS4 game on a PS5 via Backwards Compatability. The game ran at a smooth 60fps and looked great as the cartoony art style and bright colours aren’t affected too much by the resolution. Since then, I’ve tried the game on a PS4 Pro and it’s also 60fps and the same resolution (from what I can tell). I then got my hands on the PS5 version and that’s also 60fps but the resolution now looks much higher, possible 4K, and it has HDR. So, no 120hz mode but it does have HDR within the native PS5 edition.

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Why am I talking about both versions – it appears that you have to buy either the PS4 or the PS5 version, I don’t believe that cross-buy is enabled. This is a shame as the Xbox version is listed as ‘Smart Delivery’, meaning you DO get both versions over on that platform. However, other than the higher resolution and HDR, the PS4 version runs just as well as the PS5 version. Additionally, the PS5 version does have activity cards and some trophy tracking functions, but the activities simply load your game and the tracking just tells you how many of an item you have and not always where you’ve missed them.

Kao The Kangaroo 8+1

It’s very pretty on the PS5 with HDR (PS5)

Invert option needed
One final issue I have with the game – and this is a big issue for myself – there’s no Y-Axis invert option for the Right Thumbstick. As someone who can only play games with invert enabled, whether it’s a first or third-person game, I’m always disappointed and angry when a game doesn’t include the option to invert. As such, I’ve had to resort to playing the game with my Nacon Revolution Ultimate Pro PS4 controller as that allows you to invert the axis at a hardware level.

But, as you know, PS4 controllers don’t work with PS5 games. So, I have to connect the NACON controller to my PS4, remote play my PS5, and then turn the TV to the PS5 HDMI channel so I can essentially view the game directly whilst controlling it ‘remotely’ via my PS4 which is sitting next to it. This process isn’t the developer’s fault, it’s an issue with Sony as they refuse to let people use DS4 controllers, despite them working fine if you’re remote playing the native PS5 games – however, I would be very grateful if the developer adds a Y-Axis invert option so I don’t have to do this cumbersome setup.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Kao the Kangaroo (2022) is the perfect modernised reboot of the classic early 2000s 3D platformer. The game delivers a lot of nostalgia despite being a new game in the series, taking me back to my childhood when games were simple yet highly addictive and fun to play. The story offers around ten hours of gameplay, more if you’re wanting to grab the platinum trophy, which is a perfect length in my opinion. Whether you played the original games or not, fans of 3D platformers should certainly check this out – it’s just so colourful, fun, and satisfying to play. As it stands at launch, there’s no invert Y-Axis option and some collectables are incredibly hard to find due to no tracking details – but, other than that, I really enjoyed my time with the Kao the Kangaroo.

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On a side note, I’m hoping we get some DLC which lets us control Kao’s sister. Without spoiling anything, when you eventually meet up with her she is dressed strangely and says “it’s a long story” – it’s a story I want to hear, so I’m hoping there’s more content on the way.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Kao the Kangaroo

£24.99
8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • Great level design which has modernised the classic 3D platforming genre
  • Solid combat and gaming mechanics
  • Very colourful and playful visual design
  • Easy enough to just pick up and play o matter what age or skill level you are
  • Quirky characters and funny dialogue

The Bad:

  • No Y-Axis invert option
  • No cross-gen on PlayStation, despite having it on Xbox
  • Some voices take a while to get used to
  • No indication of where some missing collectibles are
  • No Y-Axis invert option
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Ake P.
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