Xbox, Gamecube, Nintendo 64; what do they all have in common? They were all once platforms for Rare’s Kameo: Elements of Power. Sure it has been a long time in the making, hell one of our editors actually played it on the Cube back at E3 2001, but it is finally here, and not on any of those consoles none the less. After spanning three other consoles she has finally landed on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and I can safely say the wait was worth it. With the 360 launch being dominated by sports and shooters this excellent adventure game is just what the doctor ordered, so sit back and find out why Rare still has the skills to pay the bills!
I am sure you are familiar with Kameo, Microsoft has been proudly touting its release for some time. Being one of three first party launch titles it had some big shoes to fill next to Gotham and of course Rare’s other game, Perfect Dark Zero. Being in development for 6+ years is usually not a good sign, in fact most games that take that long simply fizzle out at the end, yes I am looking in your direction Duke Nukem Forever! Thankfully Kameo is quite the opposite delivering a visceral experience that will certainly impress fans of the genre. You play as Kameo, an adopted elf girl who has been given the power to transform into elemental creatures. This royally ticks off your sister who then kidnaps the entire family and threatens to unleash a great evil and wage war upon the elf kingdom. Of course you must strike back, thus begins your quest to collect all the elemental warriors, who by the way have been kidnapped by Shadow Trolls, and rescue your family, while at the same time saving the entire elf kingdom. A little overwhelming isn’t it? Fear not though as each new warrior you collect becomes vital to your quest which is what gives Kameo that old-school feel where every time you obtain a new power the game cleverly makes you use it immediately.
Unfortunately skinny dipping is not an option in Kameo.
First let’s talk visuals, for being a game that has spanned four consoles Kameo sure doesn’t look like a six year old title! You can really appreciate the art direction, but don’t be fooled by the kid-like exterior; this game can be brutal at times. Most of the scenery consists of your typical videogame clichés such as the ice world and the effervescent fire level. However in Kameo all these levels make great use of your elemental warriors and are brilliantly designed forcing you to use different creatures to accomplish different kinds of puzzle throughout the game. There is also a main over world that you traverse to reach each section of the game ala Zelda; you can even ride on the back of your trusty steed to gain ground faster. The best part is as you travel across this area, known simply as the Badlands, there is a huge scale war going on that you can choose to participate in. This battle is true eye candy to the tenth degree with thousands of characters on-screen at once battling it out without even the slightest hint of slowdown to be found.
The sounds are just as impressive as the visuals, with top notch voice acting and an astonishing score you will certainly enjoy hearing this one come blaring out of that 5.1 Dolby Digital setup. The story progresses through a series of cut-scenes with the usual Rare humor and charm, these Brits sure know how to keep the player entertained. As I also mentioned the soundtrack is amazing, mixing some grand scale orchestra with your typical adventure music really give this game an epic feel, especially during the war scenes.
Of course no game can rely simply on sight and sound to impress the audience, there has to be something that keeps the player from simply staring at the running demo. Rare has been known for crafting some truly amazing games, whether you prefer the collect-a-thon that is Donkey Kong 64 or even the quirky yet addictive Jet Force Gemini this developer knows how to keep players in the experience. Kameo is no exception, the controls are smooth and easy to learn and learning each new character’s special abilities is easy as pie. The only gripe I had was that the first level felt a bit tacked on, it sort of throws you into the mix with three of your elemental warriors without giving you too much direction. Then after you lose them all, similar to any Castlevania title, then you reach what seems to be the tutorial level, makes you wonder if the first level was tacked on at the end simply to extend the play time.
Smack my bitch up!
This is of course an issue some may have with Kameo, it isn’t going to last you 30+ hours. Sure the game can be beat within 8-10 hours if you blaze right through it, but I actually enjoyed doing the side quests for the locals. If you did everything in the game I say it would probably weigh in at around 20 hours or so, but honestly length is never a factor for me in a game, I simply play for the experience and I hate games that drag along the story just to have 30+ hours of play time. With that said Kameo may not be the longest game you play all year, but I guarantee you it will be one of the best experiences you can get with the 360 launch.
Going back to the elemental warriors throughout the game you will obtain a total of ten, all of the having their own special powers. From Major Ruin who forms a sort of Metroid style ball that is used for reaching high plains to simply bowling over enemies to my personal favorite Chilla the cool gorilla that can throw ice spears and climb certain walls. As you progress through the game and collect each warrior new puzzles will appear that require their unique abilities. There are also some obstacles that you will run into before you have some of these warriors that you will be able to return to later in the game for all those completists our there who simply have to achieve every side quest, and believe me there are plenty of those in Kameo.
While the length and somewhat child like appearance may throw some gamers off I simply cannot recommend this game enough. It has been one of the more enjoyable launch games I have played in recent memory and it proves that Rare still has what it takes to make a truly epic game. While it may borrow a lot from other games it has enough of its own appeal to truly stand out among the pack. If this is kind of games we can expect to see on the 360 in the near future this system really has the potential to be a classic. I highly recommend everyone download the demo from Marketplace today and indulge yourself in one of the better 360 launch titles currently available.