Kameo: Elements of Power Updated Impressions

Microsoft and Rare stop by to give us a new look at the upcoming Xbox game.

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Kameo: Elements of Power is the upcoming Xbox platformer from UK-based Rare. The game has been in development for quite some time now, and it has experienced more than its fair share of scrutiny since Rare became a part of Microsoft's development studios. Originally slated for release on the GameCube, the title has since moved on up to the Xbox. While the game was originally expected to hit quite a bit sooner than its current estimated release of early next year, that obviously hasn't happened. However, while shifts in a release date can sometimes spell trouble for a project, they can also bode well, as evidenced by Knights of the Old Republic and Ninja Gaiden. So the question burning through our minds when representatives from Microsoft and Rare stopped by with the game was obviously, "Is it going to be success or trouble for Kameo?" The answer? Read on.

Rare's George Andreas tells us what to expect from Kameo. Click the stream option for a larger view.

For those who aren't up to speed on the who and what of Kameo, we offer this primer: Kameo is an elfin princess who is on a race to save her people from a pack of nasty trolls that have invaded her land. While you'd think a saucy little elf would be up the creek in the face of hordes of trolls, Kameo is more than just a pretty face and some wings. Thanks to the kinds of mystic forces that always come in handy in these types of situations, Kameo is able to channel the spirits of varied warriors and turn herself into a menagerie of ten creatures, two per each of the elements in the game--plant, water, rock, fire, and ice. Each form will have unique abilities that you'll be able to upgrade as you progress through the game and encounter tougher foes.

While we saw the game in action at this year's E3, the work-in-progress version we checked out today was actually further along and showed off improvements and new areas since the E3 version. The demo began by showing off the improvements implemented into Chilla, Kameo's spiky gorilla form, in the same castle level seen at E3. However, this time Chilla has been given many wondrous new ways to torture the assorted trolls that are looking for trouble. You'll now be able to impale them on the spikes on Chilla's back and then use them later for such things as a club or even a projectile.

The castle level also provided an opportunity to show off Major Ruin, Kameo's armadillo form, who also has a knack for impaling trolls (which seems to be a running theme) by running over them as well as by taking crazy, speed-fueled leaps. Both forms also let us get a feel for the game's combat system, an old-school brawl-fest complete with a scoring system. But, while the few games that use scores these days don't do much with them, your scores in Kameo actually serve a purpose. The game will feature a pretty robust selection of unlockable secrets and your score will be your ticket to opening them up. Racking up points seems to be a satisfying experience that's heavy on the beating and maiming. The better you get at dispatching your foes, the higher your score goes. When you get really good you'll start to earn "brutal," "flawless," and "frenzy" ratings that serve as point modifiers to further boost your earnings.

Kameo will rely on a number of alternate forms to defeat her enemies.
Kameo will rely on a number of alternate forms to defeat her enemies.

Rare encourages you to go mental with the inclusion of the "warrior's focus" bar, a meter that, when full, will let you slow down the action "Matrix"-style and extend your combos. The nice thing about this combo-extending feature is that it will let you use your different animal forms in tandem to create a large and very painful string of beatings by mixing the various attacks. For example, you can impale a batch of trolls with Major Ruin and fling them off in focus mode, sending them sprawling into the air, at which point you can switch to Chilla and fling ice spears at them--all of which adds up to a tasty beating worth a good chunk of points.

Aside from the improvements since E3 as well as the combat system, we got to check out other types of gameplay and some boss battles. Our demo also showed Kameo heading out and helping some locals in a sequence that leaned a bit toward the sort of gameplay we'd expect from an action RPG. In this segment, Kameo discovers that a local plant creature is having some problems with the trolls, so she goes to help. After rescuing the animate piece of fauna from its foes, Kameo is rewarded with food that she can use to upgrade her monster forms. Another level shown starred Deep Blue, Kameo's water creature form, which seemed to channel the aquatic sequences like those in Metal Slug for its fast-paced combat. While he looks like a pushover, Deep Blue is actually packing some serious firepower in the form of torpedoes. As a result, a battle between him and a submarine isn't as one sided as you'd think…

The boss battles pit Kameo against the Shadow Troll in a battle set, unsurprisingly, in the shadow realm, a psychedelic area that mixes light, shadow, and general weirdness into a unique, eye-popping area. The battle forces you to track the troll via his shadow and with the presence of bats. Tracking his whereabouts is key, as you'll have to bop him with a special item. Another boss battle we saw made inventive use of Kameo's forms by forcing you to swap between Snare, another plant form, and Chilla when facing off against a giant metallic terror. You'll use Snare to pick up and fling little critters that are around you onto your considerably larger opponent. While this only succeeds in getting the creatures stuck on your foe, switching to Chilla lets you dole out the pain; if you use Chilla's spears to hit one of the big enemies, you can set off a chain reaction of explosions that pack some serious damage.

From the looks of things, Kameo has made a smooth transition from the GameCube to the Xbox.
From the looks of things, Kameo has made a smooth transition from the GameCube to the Xbox.

Kameo's graphics are looking great. After seeing the game on and off, beginning with its GameCube incarnation, we can say that Rare is doing a fine job in becoming one with the Xbox hardware. The game now sports an impressive layer of polish with a hefty amount of slick visual effects that run the gamut from showy particle effects that cascade all over the screen during explosions to subtle reflections and lighting effects in the underwater levels that highlight the environment. The different environments we saw were rich, varied locales filled with little bits of animation, such as moving grass, that lend them personality.

We have to say that, at the end of the demo, we were optimistic in our musings about how Kameo: Elements of Power is coming along. The game looks great and has some fun and engaging gameplay. The variety in the various critters Kameo can become keeps things fresh, and the combat/scoring system is a nice old-school touch. There's a lot of promise here and Rare appears to have the time it needs to button things up, so we're anxious to see how everything comes together. Kameo: Elements of Power is currently slated to ship exclusively for the Xbox this January. Look for more on the game in the coming months. Until then, check out our interview with George Andreas from Rare along with footage of the game in action on Kameo's media page.

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