Kao the Kangaroo for the Game Boy Advance re-creates last year's Dreamcast game through the use of vibrant 2D character sprites and lush background paintings. Once again, Kao has been kidnapped from his home in the Australian Outback, and it's up to you to help him return. What follows is a 22-level adventure that's not entirely unlike Nintendo's Super Mario World, except that it's significantly more dull and frustrating.
Within each location, you have to guide Kao to the exit by jumping across platforms and attacking and/or dodging enemies. Scattered in copious numbers throughout each stage are gold coins, which earn extra lives, keys to unlock hidden areas, and a number of useful weaponry items, such as flying gloves or time stoppers. Should Kao run out of health, you'll lose a life, though heart items within each stage can bolster his health meter. Every five stages, you'll earn the luxury of facing the area's boss and participating in an end-of-area toy/vehicle stage.
Tragically, Kao the Kangaroo's greatest shortcoming is that it adheres too much to the above formula. Level designs are tedious and often amount to nothing more than contrived excuses to make you leap across alternating sets of bottomless pits and snarling creatures. The game's overall collision detection and character momentum exacerbate the problem, so it is terribly easy to simply slide into oblivion. Boss battles, which ought to break the monotony, only deepen the frustration further by requiring upward of 50 hits to advance. Kao's designers redeem themselves slightly during the game's vehicle stages, in which you can ride a snowboard, airship, or Jet Ski through a number of exciting obstacle courses. However, these four stages hardly compensate for the rest of the game's tedium and monotony..
It is such a shame that a game that plays so terribly has to look so nice, because Kao the Kangaroo is truly beautiful. Colorful forest, snow, aquatic, and desert areas are drawn with a great attention to detail and charm. Likewise, the number of graphical effects is astonishing. From blowing snow to undulating waves, it is as if Titus has incorporated full-motion video into 2D backdrops. Character sprites are pleasing and large, even if there aren't more than a handful of enemies per area. None of the above can be said for Kao's audio, however, as the cheesy midi loops and borrowed Dreamcast samples do nothing to enhance the game's overall presentation.
Investigative players will quickly recognize that Kao the Kangaroo uses the same general code base as Titus' other recent adventure game, Prehistorik Man. The controls are, in fact, identical. Unfortunately, while both games excel in terms of visuals, Kao falls much shorter when it comes to gameplay. The ability to backtrack to prior stages is a nice addition for replay's sake, as are the five bonus stages, but not when revisiting the game means sliding off yet another ledge or hunting down your 859th coin.