It's Australian for crap, mate.
Who is coming up with stuff like Kao the Kangaroo? Why are they coming up with it? Who gave them the money and clearance to churn out games like this?
Whoa, started the ranting a wee early there. But if you've played this game, you'll understand why.
All things considered, Kao wasn't wholly doomed from the start. A game like this can work. Take a new, completely unknown mascot character and inject the little guy with personality. Run him through well-designed levels with a fun, natural challenge progression and voila - the Sonic the Hedgehog story (tonight on VH1).
But nooo. Instead, we get Kao the Kangaroo, a character as forgettable as Chubby Cherub and Jersey Devil. Is Kao pronounced "Cow," or is it K-O, hence the boxing gloves? You know what? It doesn't matter. Call him Zippy the Amazing if you want. Me, I've taken to calling him Krappo.
Krappo, er, Kao is a bug-eyed kangaroo with boxing gloves. He's only got one tooth, making him a kangaroo version of the even more irritating Croc. There's nothing remotely special about Kao. Apparently, the dumb marsupial has been kidnapped by a hunter and is trying to find his way back to his homeland of Australia. Personally, I want the hunter to make himself some kangaroo stew.
The levels are concentrated on track style courses ala Crash Bandicoot. There are some more diversified levels, but the overall feel is strict and confining. Some of the levels use vehicles, allowing you to control such tools of mobility as a hang glider, jet skis and a snowboard. Through it all, there's always one beginning and one ending, meaning brutally enforced linearity.
As you hop through the levels, you get to collect... get ready for this... COINS! Yes, coins! So original! So inventive! So sarcastic! Why does a kangaroo need coins? Cars? Women? Some bling bling? No idea.
Kao is obviously aimed at kids, but the level of difficulty isn't. The game is just far too unforgiving in its gameplay. Cheap hits abound. Mis-aligned jumps plague progress. Poor hit detection makes everything needlessly awkward. Mundane, boring flow offers little to keep you interested. It's not a challenge - it's a study in frustration.
Adding to the annoyance is the lack of true checkpoints. If you make it all the way through a stage and miss just one jump, you'll have to do it all over again. There are bonus levels that will mark your place, but if you die after you return from the bonus, it's right back to the beginning. Give me a break; the original Super Mario Brothers had a better checkpoint system than this. Being forced to repeat the same thing over and over is not fun. If it were, we'd all be working at the cracker factory dusting crackers with salt.
There are also points in the game when large objects suddenly come careening towards Kao, like, say, a spiked log of death or a giant boulder. The camera perspective suddenly switches, so Kao is now running towards the screen. However, the controls remain exactly the same, so you have to push 'Up' on the controller to make Kao run 'Down.' I recommend putting the controller 'Down' and walking 'Away.'
To compensate for the game imbalance, you are rewarded with a new life after every 50 coins, so you'll always have plenty of healthy lives to waste. Why not just make the game a bit easier?
The graphics are bright and colorful but the movement is jerky and dated. The modeling for the enemy characters falls flat, and Kao has the amazing ability to walk through most forms of shrubbery. Oh wait - that's just polygons colliding due to bad programming. If anything, these graphics only further support the fact that this is intended for blind kids.
The sound is not so bad...for all of 30 seconds, right before it loops. How fitting - repetitive music for a repetitive game.
Like the hundreds of shallow, empty side-scrollers that came out back in the NES days, Kao is just another pothole in the video game road. The game is obscenely generic, wildly frustrating and simply not worth the time. Kids will throw tantrums and adults will pull out their hair. I fear Kao is headed straight for the video game character wasteland, populated by such notables as Aero the Acrobat, Bubsy and Michael Jackson. Perhaps time will pave this over and allow us to get back to our otherwise happy lives...or maybe Mario and Sonic will steal Kao's lunch money and pants. Beats the Krappo out of me.