Kao the Kangaroo 2 Review & New Kao game announced for 2021
Kao the Kangaroo 2 is a classic platformer, that wasn’t really a part of my childhood, that came out in 2003. It has now been reformatted for the PC and is available on Steam for two dollars. While I hadn’t heard of the character myself, it apparently has enough of a following where it is getting a new game which is slated to come out in 2021. A trailer for which you can see below. Since they didn't put a '3' at the end of the title, I wonder if it's a remaster or a reboot?
But perhaps the best way to determine if on would want to pick up this new game is to go back and look at it's predecessor. Is Kao 2 worth even the partly entry price? Let’s give it a look.
The story is quite simple. There is a hunter that has kidnapped some of Kao's animal pals and now the kangaroo has to kick some poacher rear to free them. There is one problem though, and that is the Hunter has a goon blocking the route who wants 3,000 coins to grant entry. So now Kao will travel though forests, tundra, and seas to collect the cash needed to bribe his way in. I guess beating them up is out of the question in this case... for some reason.
A sampler of platforming
The game flows pretty quickly from one mechanic to the next, but also has some inconsistencies. When I first approached water in the forest level when I was learning how to toss nuts around, I thought if I touched the water I would die. Instead, Kao’s neck stretched hilariously long to keep above the water as the rest of his body walked at the bottom of the lake. During this moment he looked more like a giraffe than a kangaroo. But for most of the rest of the game, it changes by having the kangaroo instantly die when touching bodies of water. Unless of course you start the level underwater and in that case you can swim.
I guess we’ll just call him water versatile.
The game has a sporadic tone as once you get used to one mechanic you are suddenly doing something else entirely. While this does keep you on your toes it also doesn’t allow you to get too comfortable with the character and his different abilities in a standard setting. And before you know it you’re on a sinking poacher ship and fighting a fleeing Hunter.
To give more emphasis on this sampler feeling I found that the awards for picking up the purple shards were mini-games that didn’t really account toward any in-game benefit. It was quite strange to play a jump rope version of ‘Simon says’ only for the game to tell me “good job” before spitting me back where I came from. It kind of felt like I had just wasted time more than accomplished anything. I really didn’t care to collect the purple MacGuffins from then on.
Also there is a weird mechanic where you have to collect coins to progress to the final stage of the game. Of course, mathematically, you cannot collect the needed coin count without visiting all previous levels in the game. So despite your skill there is no level skipping here to pay off the door man. Though what is weird here is that in the final level past this bouncer bouncer there are still coins to collect that serve no practical purpose beside completionism.
Outside the approximately 5 hour main quest, there isn’t too much as far as side content goes. Though, I can appreciate a game that gives you a solid enough experience without overstaying its welcome and getting too repetitive. Especially when the game itself is so low in cost.
Good character and movesets
As far as Kao himself goes, I did like how the kangaroo handled and the skills in his repertoire. You can roll, kick, throw boomerangs, and ground pound. Each of these have upgrades that you can acquire through picking up stars. The upgrades are each rather significant, the roll being the most fun as you can then do so indefinitely making you able to control the kangaroo like a particular blue hedgehog.
And like that hedgehog there are segments that are based on fleeing where the camera faces your character while you bounce at high speeds to run away. I think these are done fairly well for the time as the camera does give you enough time to react to the things ahead.
There are enemies that certain tactics will be more effective than others, this forces you to change up how you approach different situations in the end. Some that are swarming can be dealt with a ground stomp, some you’ll need to swing your tail at. The bosses can take a bit to get used to. Ironically, the only one that didn’t need an explanation on how to deal with them was the one that decided to give you a monologue on their weakness.
Kao using his ears in order to make is way across overhangs instead of his hands was also amusing.
Overall, Kao the Kangaroo 2 is very smooth to control and the camera never gave me too much of a hassle. Which given that this game was originally released in 2002, is quite a feat.
The future for the franchise
The game is definitely worth its price tag for those that like 3D Platformer or kangaroos. However, if you are not into the genre this isn’t anything that will stick in the memory as well as a Banjo Kazooie or Super Mario 3D title. However, I would argue it is better than a few of Sonic’s 3D expeditions.
I’m wondering what the new Kao will set out to do in 2021. We don’t have too much information other than an odd trailer that reminds me of the celebrating exodus crab meme. You know the ones where the crabs dance on the beach with tropical music while celebrating the departure of someone the meme designer doesn’t care for? In speaking of memes, there was a scene in Kao 2 where I had to lead badgers back to their burrows to grow red cap mushrooms to move on. The aesthetic was very much that of the classic flash animation “Badgers, Badgers, Badgers (Mushrooms, Mushrooms)”.
This led to an interesting discovery that the game and flash animation came out the same year, only two months apart. Coincidence? Probably. But kind of funny.