Kao The Kangaroo was among the platforming mascots that never set the world on fire when he first debuted on the Sega Dreamcast in late 2000. It followed the hallway-based level design formula that Crash Bandicoot was known for and added the unique twist of allowing players to create their checkpoints. When it was ported exclusively to PC in Poland, the game found some success and managed to sell some 45,000 copies.
Although never quite reaching the stardom of other 3D platforming giants such as the Crash Bandicoot mentioned above or the forthcoming Sly Cooper, the little guy was lucky enough to see two sequels during the sixth generation of home consoles. So although he may be a little late to the party, this ‘roo will soon be joining his outback buddies Crash and Ty when he leaps this generation in summer 2022.
Tate Multimedia has put much love into bringing this character back, and it indeed shows in the above trailer. In a generation filled with lazy ports with ever-so-slightly-upscaled models and textures, it would have been easy to pull a GTA Remastered Trilogy and call it a day, considering the obscurity of this franchise. Instead, the game is a brand new adventure adopting a contemporary aesthetic. While some may be quick to draw comparisons to Toys For Bob’s work on the Crash and Spyro properties, I don’t think the similarities in the presentation are necessarily a bad thing.
How does it play? Fortunately, Tate was kind enough to give us all a brief gameplay demo in celebration of Steam’s NextFest event, which aims to put the spotlight on several upcoming titles. You could download it here until the 2nd of this month, and although the demo was (unfortunately) not available on consoles, that could always change soon.
The demo consists of one level, presumably quite early into the adventure. The level design here is more Kao 2 than the original game in that it’s still quite linear, but there are enough branching paths to explore along the way to keep you engaged. Kao himself handles pretty nicely and has retained his repertoire of punches, rolls, butt stomps, and that all-too-useful tail whip attack. The combat here is a huge step up from Kao 2, even if it’s still simplistic. Perhaps the most significant change is that Kao can now parry enemy projectiles using his tail whip, which proves quite helpful on some monsters close to the end of the demo.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a 3D platformer without some trinkets to track down, and you’ll be seeing plenty along the way. Although their purpose is kept a mystery (for now), you can collect the letters K-A-O to spell out the protagonist’s name from some dark crystals and scrolls dropped by monsters. Unlike The Legend of Zelda, there are even heart pieces to collect that will undoubtedly boost Kao’s vitality later on. In addition, there are these strange fountains that you can take a dip in that theoretically lead to challenge rooms of some sort in the final product.
Although (surprisingly) the Kao series slipped under my radar back in the day, I’m just as excited for this revival as I was for Crash and Spyro after getting a taste of the action. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me in the demo was the voice acting, but I also wasn’t expecting to be blown away by it in the first place. Of course, things could always change between now and Summer 2022, but as it stands, I think we’ve got an (unexpected) winner on our hands.
Kao the Kangaroo is expected to launch on all platforms and PC this summer. It’s also worth noting that it will be receiving a full retail release.