Kao the Kangaroo Review

Matt Lorrigan

Kao the Kangaroo isn’t exactly the most iconic platforming character from the turn-of-the-millennium. Sitting lower on the pecking order than games like Spyro the Dragon, Jak & Daxter, or even Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, Kao found an audience regardless, offering a Crash Bandicoot-style platforming adventure on the Dreamcast with its own marsupial mascot to rival the iconic bandicoot. Kao went on to have a few more adventures, but by the time of his last game - 2005’s Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano - the mascot platformer genre was in decline, and Kao disappeared into relative obscurity.

However, nearly two decades and one hashtag campaign later, Kao the Kangaroo is back in a brand new adventure. Developer Tate Multimedia, who created the original games, has clearly seen the renewed demand for 3D platformers like Crash Bandicoot 4 and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and decided to bring the ‘roo out of retirement for another swing, in what turns out to be a surprisingly well-crafted platformer.

Run for your life!

The Polish developer has taken the smart approach of pulling inspiration from a ton of more well-established platformers, taking elements from each and mixing them together into a fairly cohesive whole. During your time playing Kao, you’ll find the collectible letters of the Donkey Kong Country series; the grind rails of Ratchet & Clank; the hub worlds of Spyro the Dragon; and the ‘running into the screen’ set pieces of Crash Bandicoot. There’s not much here that you won’t have seen before, but luckily it’s all wrapped up in an art style that really pops. Tate Multimedia has done a great job redesigning Kao for the modern era, without the upsettingly bulbous eyes of his older incarnations (although that old design can be unlocked for fans of the previous games).

Kao the Kangaroo is split into four distinct hub worlds, each with its own distinct theme and four to five levels in each. Each level is pretty lengthy, with several types of collectible to find, and the game does a good job at hiding its crystals, collectible KAO letters, coins, and scrolls behind hidden paths, optional puzzles, and, occasionally, waterfalls, which is always appreciated. The movement feels nice and smooth for the most part, with a handy double jump, as well as the ability to grab ledges, meaning you’ll rarely miss your jumps, and the colourful stages are a joy to admire as you adventure through them. Each level offers a nice blend of Crash Bandicoot’s linear paths and Spyro’s open areas, although some feature a single gimmick, such as sliding down an icy path, or running from a gorilla riding a barrel, to change up the pace.

Each hub world, and the levels within it, also have a nice throughline to follow. Kao’s second world, in particular, is reminiscent of Juicy Jungle from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, as you follow the production line of an energy drink from beginning to end, in an attempt to sabotage it. Rather than offering individual, disconnected levels, there’s a real feel that you’re working your way through a world towards a grand finale, and it’s bolstered again by great art design throughout each level.

If that’s all we had to tell you about Kao the Kangaroo, it would be a pretty quick recommendation for any 3D platformer fans, but unfortunately, there’s a litany of issues at launch which really let the game down. While we understand that an indie developer like Tate Multimedia doesn’t have the same budget as an Activision or a Sony, Kao the Kangaroo is clearly a game that needed more time in QA.

Kao the Kangaroo can look really lovely at times.

Several visual bugs are present in Kao the Kangaroo, with textures loading in late, or destructible pieces of the environment floating in the air, even after you’ve broken them. The audio is, quite frankly, a mess at times. While the music is decent, if slightly forgettable, the game will frequently play the wrong audio, or no audio at all. Music will cut out mid-mission, leaving you leaping through a silent library rather than a raucous rainforest. Sometimes boss fight music will continue playing during the following cutscene, so loud you can’t hear the characters speak - although that’s sometimes a blessing, given the occasionally questionable quality of the voice acting itself. 

Even the platforming itself isn’t safe from glitches and bugs. Ledges which Kao has to hang from and shuffle across are present in nearly every level in the game, but you’ll frequently find yourself bumping into the underside of them, or falling to your doom trying to grab one, at no fault of your own. The camera needed a lot more work too, and while it does its job well in open areas, it doesn’t fare well in tight spaces, frequently clipping through the scenery.

These problems are all the more frustrating because the core gameplay of Kao the Kangaroo is really solid. It brings a few good ideas to the table, such as Kao’s elemental boxing gloves, and even the combat is surprisingly fun, if a little simple. The levels are mostly well designed and great to look at, even if the whole game isn’t that original. But it’s absolutely essential for 3D platformers to be tight and consistent from beginning to end, and Kao the Kangaroo needs a lot more polish from its developer to make it great. Maybe it will become an easy recommendation after a few patches, but for now, you'll have to take the good with the bad.

Kao the Kangaroo

Kao the Kangaroo is a well-crafted game that pulls inspiration from several other platforming greats, but a lack of polish and an abundance of bugs end up dragging it down.

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The music in Kao the Kangaroo works, but it can be a bit forgettable. Combine this with some dodgy voice acting and loads of audio bugs, and Kao is best played with the volume down.


Kao’s art style is really lovely, and exactly what you’d expect from a modern 3D platformer. Levels are well designed, with some great details, even with the occasional visual glitch and dodgy camera.


Kao the Kangaroo’s platforming is surprisingly solid, with well-designed and varied levels throughout. Kao himself is easy to control, with a nice varied moveset, although there’s not much here you won’t have seen in other platformers.


Visual bugs, audio bugs, and even some gameplay bugs leave Kao feeling unfinished. The levels are long, and the multiple collectibles mean there’s lots of content here, but the game hasn’t launched in a good state.


Kao’s trophy list is a short one, but if you’re enjoying the game, it should be a pretty fun one to complete, rewarding players for finding all of the collectibles on their way to finishing the game.

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