Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: May 5, 2001
With Survivor: The Australian Outback finally completed, we can look back on the lessons that were impressed upon us when the social dynamic started to run out of good footage. Instead of Rudy’s gruff comments or Richard’s scheming, this batch of Survivors seemed to spend hours waxing philosophic about their environment and about the families they were missing back home. No matter how rough things got, though, the Survivors always knew that modern amenities were only a tribal council away, and that after barely more than a month they’d be heading back to the comforts of their homes. Such assurances are not given to Kao the Kangaroo, however, so when faced with a tough situation, he fights his way to freedom like a true survivor. Owners of the Dreamcast can follow this brave marsupial as he heads home, and maybe even offer him some assistance, in the Titus-published Kao the Kangaroo.
The story, such as it is, plays out in the opening cutscene: Kao, a free spirited joey, wanders too far from home chasing butterflies and is nabbed by a malicious figure known only as The Hunter. Breaking free of his cage and discovering a pair of conveniently placed boxing gloves nearby, Kao embarks on his voyage home to Australia. While probably a bit of an homage to the kangaroo who pestered Sylvester the Cat in the Looney Tunes cartoons, the boxing gloves serve more of a purpose than just decoration. Apparently having studied under some fine pugilists, Kao can unleash a wicked three-hit combo at will. Should the situation call for more distance than fisticuffs will allow, then Kao can spin quickly to knock enemies around with his tail.
These two attacks will prove vital as Kao travels home, as there are a wide variety of enemies looking to permanently stall his migration. Among the cast of evildoers are angry sailors, Eskimos on the hunt and even Aborigines from the Kao’s homeland. There are also other animals bent on our hero’s destruction, including a party hat-wearing pig that attacks with a lollipop and a shark that would seem more vicious if he weren’t wearing a circular lifesaver. There are some unique Boss characters as well that exhibit significantly more durability and capability than their lesser brethren. There’s Bear, the giant forest-dwelling taxidermist along with The Captain and The Alien, who command distinctly different types of ships. Even Zeus, the king of the Greek Pantheon gets in on the action, tossing lightning bolts about his stage and trying to electrify the poor kangaroo. Those with a sense of proper dramatic structure will be pleased to note that Kao is given a chance to even the score with The Hunter, who kidnapped him in the first place.
Chances are that the paper-thin story and silly enemy descriptions will have cued most readers in to the target audience for Kao the Kangaroo. Young gamers will find plenty in which to delight as they explore the lush jungles, volcanic mountains and other exotic locales visited during the course of the game. In all there are 25 levels to explore, divided up into five different worlds, each of which is concluded with a boss stage. The levels are fully three-dimensional and their platform jumping nature will be instantly recognizable to fans of Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventures or Crash Bandicoot. While traveling home, Kao will have to negotiate slippery logs strung over lava pits, islands suspended miles in the air, electric force fields and poison gas, among other environmental hazards.