Square Enix deserves kudos for not being afraid to make such big changes. That being said, for all of its grand spectacle and bombastic Eikon battles, Final Fantasy XVI turns its back on many of the themes and mechanics that brought it to the table in the first place. Whether this decision was right or wrong is debatable. Fans who have grown up with the series are entitled to feel more than a little disappointed though. Ultimately, much of what many love about this series has been mercilessly swept aside in Square Enix’s attempt to attract a bigger audience.
Ultimately, the main reason people play video games is to have fun. And Kao The Kangaroo delivers this in abundance. There is a fine line between taking inspiration from something, and just plain copying something. Kao The Kangaroo walks this line very precariously, and a couple of times it does verge on copying. Particularly collecting the letters K-A-O in each level, and the chase segments where Kao is running away from something towards the camera, have pretty much been lifted straight from other platformers (Donkey Kong and Crash Bandicoot, respectively). Despite the lack of originality though, Tate Multimedia have successfully created an extremely well-rounded platformer. Ticking all of the main boxes for visuals, gameplay, and aesthetics, it’s a slick, modern take on a beloved genre. If you’re willing to overlook a bland protagonist and a forgettable cast of characters, you will find a lot to love about Kao The Kangaroo.
For a developer’s maiden title, Dolmen is a really ambitious project. In some places, it works. The boss encounters are the high point and for Soulslike addicts, they alone are probably enough reason to check the game out. There are, however, some glaring issues that prevent this game from getting anywhere near the heights of a Dark Souls, or even a Nioh. Poor enemy and level design, lack of visual or audial atmosphere, and a story that doesn’t engage the player. The list goes on. On balance, the bad probably slightly outweighs the good. Too much emphasis was placed on difficulty, without ensuring there was enough meat on the bone in other areas of the game. However, for Soulslike fans, there is certainly enough here to warrant a look, especially at its launch price point. The raw difficulty, and the tough, engaging boss encounters, provide more than an ample challenge for those looking for their next fix in this post-Elden Ring world.
The finale of the campaign is undoubtedly one of the high points. A couple of near-end frantic and action packed segments reveal more twists and revelations than a rerun of a Jerry Springer episode. After the credits roll in Stranger of Paradise, you are treated to a fun endgame that has the potential to be entertaining, and even better, the game’s co-op feature allows you to buddy up with 2 of your pals for some friendly monster slaying. The problem is though, that getting to the finale may well prove too difficult for some. Not because of the game’s actual difficulty, but because of the string of huge issues that litter the game. The graphics, the characters, the dialogue, the inconsistency amongst levels and boss design. You could literally spin a roulette wheel with all of these things on it, and whichever one the needle lands on has the potential to make this game very tough to play through. Given the pedigree of both Final Fantasy and Team Ninja as developers, it is incredibly disappointing that this game fell so short of expectations. The combat is super fun throughout, and the story concludes very cleverly, but these things are dwarfed in comparison to all of the issues Stranger of Paradise presents us with.
When I look back on my time with Elden Ring, it will be remembered extremely fondly. The genius minds over at FromSoftware have actually outdone themselves here. A project so bold in scope and ambition does not really have the right to deliver on its promises. Yet, despite a couple of minor inconveniences, that is exactly what Elden Ring does. A new bar has been set for the open-world genre, and everyone else has been forced to sit up and take notice. If you haven’t been a fan of FromSoftware’s previous titles, you are unlikely to have your mind changed here. But for everyone else, either veterans of the Souls series or newcomers who have never tried these games, you absolutely owe it to yourselves to experience this game.
Without a doubt, Whalefood Games, which impressively consists of just the creator Jonah Wallerstein, created a really fun, enjoyable game here. It is perfect for groups of friends to kick back and enjoy playing together while getting competitive and providing some real laughs along the way. While it definitely has a limited shelf life, your time spent with Kung Fu Kickball will be remembered fondly. You’ll no doubt keep it stored away for parties when you can prove you’re the best once again!