Kao the Kangaroo marks the return of a 3D platformer franchise from the heyday of the genre. Pure nostalgia, or a refreshing new take on a classic formula? We checked out the PlayStation 4 version of the game to find out.
Developer and publisher Tate Multimedia might not be the most prolific and well-known name out there, but their Kao the Kangaroo games have received somewhat of a cult status over the years. As a mascot platformer that wasn’t tied to a particular system (like Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter), its protagonist seemed like a natural fit for the gameplay that was typical of that era. Kangaroos are naturally known for their jumping ability, can be fierce brawlers, and with a little design work they can look super cute in a videogame.
While the original Kao wasn’t all that adorable to see (in hindsight), this new reboot looks much more cartoon-like – something akin to the recent reboot work that was done on the Spyro games, but with a little less polish. This can be seen in cutscenes where the voice work and animations aren’t too inspired, but in general this looks like a very serviceable nostalgia-infused 3D platformer.
What’s nice is that this isn’t just a remake of one of the older games though – this is a brand new Kao the Kangaroo adventure with an original story and level designs we’ve never seen before. Sure, they’re heavily inspired by the mechanics and visuals of the games we played twenty years ago, but that actually brought a smile to our faces because everything was old and new at the same time. We’ve seen jungle environments before and we’ve seen ice cold mountains as well, but not these particular ones.
The Kao the Kangaroo reboot definitely plays it safe in this regard, but those with nostalgia for the classics won’t mind. They’ll be happy to hop around somewhat generic levels, smacking your boxing gloves into enemies through button-mashing combat that isn’t exactly deep and solving the occasional puzzle along the way. For some lasting appeal, you can also head back in and try to grab all of the collectibles by exploring the nooks and crannies of each level in search of gems, coins and the letters in the name Kao. Mechanics we saw back in the 2D platforming era as well, but Kao is here to show us they endured for a reason.
This is definitely a smaller scale production than the likes of Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart though, and this can be seen in nearly every area of the game. From production values to level designs and gameplay mechanics – Kao isn’t looking to push the envelope, but luckily it has a price point to match. We’re less lenient towards some of the game’s rougher edges though, which include textures popping in and some rough camera work at times. We’re happy to lean into the nostalgia factor, but things that clearly need patching are hard to overlook.
If you don’t have any love for the classic games from Kao’s original era, then you’ll have a hard time overlooking this reboot’s shortcomings. However, if you have a fondness for classic 3D platformers, and for Kao in particular, then this will tick all of your boxes – though without innovating or pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in 2022. Kao plays it safe, but that’s just fine.