If you aren't familiar with 2000's deep cut, Kao the Kangaroo, you can be forgiven. Seemingly lost to time, it has retained a niche audience down to its nostalgic feel and genuinely quite funny visuals. It managed to fit somewhere between "so bad it's good" and "hey, this is kinda good". Somehow, 2022's Kao the Kangaroo reboot fits into this exact space once more.
Taking the role of Kao the Kangaroo, you are left searching for your sister Kaia who has mysteriously gone missing. In doing so, you uncover a dark evil taking over the land's greatest fighters and turning it against you. You must battle some of these fighters to cure them of this darkness - taking you across lands filled with obstacles, puzzles and more.
The gameplay of Kao the Kangaroo is split up into two main sections: platforming and combat. Your combat starts out fairly simple, with a few punches and movement, but gradually gets a little more involved throughout the game. It doesn't tend to do this through mechanics, moreso through changing up how characters work and hoping you adapt. It is so easy you never really have to.
You have a small meter that charges as hits connect that can then be spent to do a huge AOE punch, stunning everyone. This can be cheated sometimes, hitting enemies that are already dead, whacking shields and playing around with the game's pretty mediocre hit bars. If you ever struggle, there tends to be some little mechanical flaw you can exploit to get by.
The platforming feels similar in this sense. It gets a little more involved as more arenas get unlocked but it never really manages to satisfy. Stiff controls, poor AI and weak puzzles leave the experience feeling a little shallow. This being said, there is undeniable charm to parts of what Kao the Kangaroo is trying to do. When still, the visuals can genuinely look quite pretty. In motion, they still work but funny tracking and an awkward camera left me laughing far more than its cheesy dialogue did.
In a sense, this is part of the joy of these styles of games. Kao the Kangaroo is a reimagining of a mediocre mid 2000's platformer in possibly the best way. Its story is melodramatic and cliche, the voice acting is hammy and things barely work. Despite this, there's a boisterous charm to it.
This charm doesn't waver as it changes levels. Using your father's boxing gloves, you can harness elemental energy throughout maps to solve puzzles. You can flick through up to three different elements that are all needed to solve specific issues.
Kao the Kangaroo tries a great many things throughout its runtime to keep you moderately invested in where it goes. You are sent into an ice realm, given new powers and face off against new baddies. Unfortunately, it is all building upon a shaky foundation that regularly comes crumbling down. Take the bosses for instance. They are generally quite menacing and require being taken down in very specific ways. Unfortunately, arena design and combat let almost every encounter down. Bosses feel cheap by design - more of a hindrance to your movement than a sign of how far you have come.
Every boss has a unique mechanic you are supposed to master but it all feels very "boss fight by numbers" by the end. The creativity you originally see feels much more like a team crossing off a checklist - an ultimately unsatisfying way to cap off an area. As well as this, many lf them just don't work mechanically, clipping through areas, glitching and flailing in many areas. It becomes hard to care when some of them can just be stunlocked into submission.
As you progress through the game, you get even more tools to play around with like a crystal that can turn on and off certain walls, objects and areas. It's a fun mechanic that is slowed down by the need to carry around a heavy crystal. This could have worked much better if combined with the gloves to turn on and off in the air. Ultimately, Kao the Kangaroo's relative easiness holds it back from ever reaching any real potential it has.
As is expected from a mid-2000s platformer - there are plenty of little things to collect. In every level, you can spell out Kao by finding all three letters. You can also find secret scrolls, pieces of a heart and coins that are used to buy hearts, lives and accessories. It's nothing too special but adds a certain replayability to levels. As the game will take you a handful of hours, this extra time is a welcome addition.
Kao the Kangaroo Verdict
Kao the Kangaroo is a hard game to recommend. Its platforming and combat mostly work but any real depth it tries to have crumbles very quickly. It does have a certain goofy charm but it's probably not worth the price of entry.
RealSport Rating - 2.5 out of 5
We reviewed Kao the Kangaroo on PS5 with codes provided by the developer.