Kao the Kangaroo review – Should have stayed in the pouch a bit longer

kao the kangaroo key artTate Interactive

It’s been almost 20 years since Tate Interactive’s platforming marsupial Kao the Kangaroo last appeared on home consoles, but he could’ve spent a little more time in the pouch.

For gamers who were around in the early 2000s, you may remember the surge of anthropomorphic platforming animals. Crash Bandicoot, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet & Clank flew off the shelves, and remain popular (if not present in Sly’s case) to this day.

However, Kao the Kangaroo wasn’t as fortunate. The lightweight boxing mammal debuted in the year 2000 and would appear in five titles altogether before going down swinging in 2005.

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But, in 2020, Tate Interactive announced that their prized fighter would be making his long-awaited return to the ring. Kao the Kangaroo (2022) should’ve been a rebirth for the franchise, but it struggles to catch up after its 17-year hiatus.

Kao the Kangaroo – Key details

  • Price: $29.99/£29.99
  • Developer: Tate Interactive
  • Release date: May 27, 2022
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch

Kao the Kangaroo trailer

Kao’s gameplay shows its age

3D platformers can easily suffer from a lack of innovative gameplay mainly because of the core premise of the genre. Jumping from one platform to the next may have been enough in 2000, but new mechanics are needed to make it in today’s gaming landscape.

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Sadly, Kao the Kangaroo feels much like the same game it was in 2005. The platforming is solid and combat is fun (at first), but there’s not much else Kao offers in terms of gameplay.

There are different orbs Kao can pick up to infuse his gloves with elemental powers, but these aren’t as cool as they sound. The orbs act like keys most of the time and add a little flare to combat, but they don’t feel powerful. They’re also placed in a way that takes away a sense of challenge that could have been implemented. It’s like the levels are constantly handing you keys to ensure you never run into an issue.

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Every once in a while, players are introduced to a “new” platforming mechanics, but they’re all elements of 3D platforming games that players have grown accustomed to. Grappling specific crystals and climbing vines like monkey bars are the basics of the genre these days, and it’s tough to get excited about their inclusion here.

The combat was something I thoroughly enjoyed for the first couple of hours of play, but toward the end of the jungle segment, it felt incredibly repetitive. Combat boils down to mashing the punching button until all of the enemies are off the screen. There’s no real challenge and most enemies you face only take three hits to defeat. While the first few punches you land are memorable, I just wish the combat system evolved throughout the game.

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kao the kangaroo fighting frogsTate Interactive
Kao the Kangaroo’s combat is delightful at first, but quickly becomes repetitive.

Dazed and confused by a barrage of bugs

Kao’s latest adventure certainly looks befitting of a 2022 release; it’s vibrant and fun and the character designs are great. The environmental storytelling is really well done and I loved the set design for most of the levels.

But looks can only get you so far, and Kao the Kangaroo has a bunch of other issues that drag its graphics down. Aside from the repetitive gameplay, there are several bugs that plagued my entire playthrough.

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On a number of occasions, the game’s music would stop part of the way through certain levels and I’d be forced to play large portions without the game’s soundtrack. This happened during intense chase sequences, daring portions of platforming, and even boss battles. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of the game, so to have it missing in entire areas is a real shame.

Speaking of sound design, Kao has a myriad of audio issues. Some sounds are incredibly loud or the same exact sound effect is used over and over. Sometimes during scenes of dialogue, the person speaking gets drowned out by music or ambient noise. And while rolling is a fast way to move around, I couldn’t stand the constant sound effect of it.

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During my playthrough, I also encountered a number of jarring visual issues; enemies that would die in mid-air would defy gravity, and some enemies would disappear mid-combat. And there were numerous collision issues that just didn’t make sense making Kao the Kangaroo feel unpolished.

kao the kangaroo chase sceneTate Interactive
Kao the Kangaroo struggles to introduce original gameplay mechanics leaving it stuck in 2005.

A story on the ropes

There isn’t much to be said about the game’s story that wasn’t already said in my Kao the Kangaroo preview from April. The voice acting is still bad, the writing is cringeworthy at times, and the story is very one-note.

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The writers use references from the past two decades as if they were grasping at straws for comedy. And when a recent cultural phenomenon is referenced (i.e. TikTok) it feels like an older person attempting to be relatable like the classic Steve Buscemi meme.

Even if you’re able to stomach the bad humor and poor acting, the story isn’t very deep. Kao makes it his goal to find his sister and father. Both of which, apparently, have either left Kao’s village or died — it’s hard to tell at first. Along the way, you learn about these dark crystals and save various biomes from their power. It’s just not very fun after the first few levels.

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Kao the Kangaroo offers a pretty solid platforming experience and its graphics and soundtrack offer a pleasant nostalgic experience. Its environmental design is so charming, and the characters are loveable despite their poor voice acting. However, this experience is stopped short by bugs, repetitive gameplay, and poor storytelling.

With a number of fantastic 3D platformers released in recent history, it’s hard to recommend Kao the Kangaroo. If Tate Interactive would have kept this game in its developmental pouch a little longer, a lot of its big issues could have easily been resolved. Heck, we already waited almost 20 years for this game, we could have waited a few more months.

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Reviewed on PS5

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