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Kao The Kangaroo

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Titus
Developer: X-Ray Interactive
Media: GD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

As Platfomers go, Kao the Kangaroo is of the 'good-looking, solid playing, thoroughly average, colorful 3D' type. 3D Platformers as a group tend to vary in quality, but Kao resists most of the classic boo boos. In terms of the images and characters, Kao scores well. Fantasy lends itself well to design, since nobody's going to say, 'I actually remember that mustachioed pig with a lollipop weapon being somewhat smaller...' X-Ray Interactive, the East European development team that put Kao together, has a fertile imagination and created great looking levels with lots of interaction. Sure, they look like an amalgam of every 3D Platformer you've ever seen, but those of us always up for some good platforming action will just feel that much more at home. The music is fair to middlin', with some pretty annoying martial arts music I almost went bonkers listening to. Very silly stuff, but nothing out of character for a game about a platforming kangaroo.


The premise is simple; return this marsupial to Australia! After being kidnapped, Kao must fight his way back through over 50 levels, riding vehicles, fighting baddies and (of course) collecting coins. He's feeling especially ripped-off since he was a finalist for Survivor 2, so watch out bad guys! ;) If you've played games like Croc, Crash, Mario or Rayman, Kao will feel like slipping into a warm bath. The jump, tail-whip and punch reminds me most of Croc, especially the tail whip. Luckily, Kao has less boxes to push around, and looks a lot better. His coin collecting adds to the 'oomph' of his attacks, and he's got a little heart meter that shows how much life he has left. One really nice element that helps extend the appeal for this game is the mechanism for marking waypoints. Basically, markers are hidden through the game that let Kao find his way back after losing a life, and can be picked up and put where you think you need them. Hardcore platforming fans may never need to drop one of these, but that also means you're going back to the beginning of the level when you croak. Levels are large, so the markers come in handy. Other pickups include a Power Glove that works like a homing missile against enemies, ice blocks that freeze enemies in place briefly, and a 'Speed Up' item that gets Kao hopping. Most of these are out in the open, but in places that require some careful hopping. Dispatching enemies and exploring is the name of this game, but lots of vehicles factor in, along with some light puzzle activity. I liked the vehicles, and they're used sparingly so as not to take away from the pace. Bosses prove a challenge, and have to be dispatched by weakening them in creative ways before you can get in a punch. Kao is a very linear game, and could have benefited from the 'hub' concept becoming more popular in Platformers, but each level is different enough to maintain interest.


3D Platformers tend to suffer from camera problems, and Kao is really no exception. Maintaining a steady cam, moving around in a free look, and letting the camera move in auto-mode is all possible, but lining up jumps and facing enemies can still be tricky. Add to this some very weird decisions on how to orient the camera and controls in critical parts of the game, and you've got cheapness. I wouldn't say that anything about the control or camera is insurmountable, but when will we be free of this stuff? As the consoles get better, you'd expect these issues to go away. Otherwise, Kao is a cinch to learn and fun to play, but bring some patience for those iffy-code moments.

Game Mechanics:

There's not a lot more to say about Kao, but one element of control deserves mention. For some reason, there are places during the game where Kao triggers a trap that sends a giant log, boulder or whatever crashing down behind him as he runs away. The camera swings to a view that shows Kao running toward you, but instead of the logical control change that would have you pulling the analog stick toward you, control remains the same as if you were still in an 'over the shoulder' perspective! Very tricky, but luckily, left-right control stays the same and you can dodge obstacles or set up jumps as needed. Why control was left this way, I don't know, but it makes for stinky stink. Kao supports the Jump Pack if you have it, and not much else is configurable besides sound and music. There is no auto-save in Kao, and I found to my surprise that when you finish a level the VMU beeps like it's saving, but doesn't! I played more than a few levels, turned off the Dreamcast, and came back to find my progress was erased, so I learned this the hard way.

Titus and X-Ray go formula for Kao the Kangaroo but manage to pull out a decent showing. Good graphics and gameplay are all that most gamers need to have fun in this genre, and Kao even introduces a nice feature in the way it lets you drop waypoints where you need them. If you've played Rayman already, this is probably worth a look, and any platforming fan not worried about groundbreaking innovation will have a good time.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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