Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kya: Dark Lineage & Kao the Kangeroo: Round 2 | PlayStation 2 Tuedays #7

Today, we’re going to look at not one, but two platformers that really took me by surprise.  I recently had some store credit for my local pre owned game and movie shop, and was struggling to find games that I wanted to make up the full amount.   There were a few games that I weren’t too sure about, but I decided to take a bit of risk and pick them up – they were only £2 each, after all.  Much to my surprise, both of them turned out to be really well put together, and I ended up playing each of them for way longer than I expected to when I just chucked them in for a quick go.  Please note that I haven’t yet finished either of these games, but the quality of what I have seen is really high, so I am fairly confident in recommending both titles especially as neither of them will break the bank.

First up, we have Kya: Dark Lineage, which was published by Atari and developed by Eden Studios in.  Eden Studios are more well known by gamers for their driving games, such as the V-Rally series and Test Drive Unlimited, but they certainly have proven with Kya that they know what they are doing when it comes to putting together a polished platformer.  The game begins with a CGI scene set in our world, where Kya hears a creepy noise in her house at night and goes to investigate.  She discovers that her half brother Frank has found a secret room that Kya’s long absent father had blocked off.  After picking up a strange amulet, Frank is sent through a portal to another world and, fearing for his safety, Kya dives in after him.

After a rather rough landing she wakes up to see a group of furry creatures called Nativs looking down at her.  Before she has long to take stock of her situation however, she is forced to run for her life as the group comes under attack from the evil Wolfun.  After a very extensive tutorial sequence the group eventually arrive to the safety of the village, when you are then told how to fight and given your first proper mission in this new world.  Kya: Dark Lineage impresses from a technical standpoint right away – the graphics rival the likes of Jak and Daxter in terms of their detail, and loading times are cleverly obscured to the point where you barely notice them.

The game frequently switches from one style of gameplay to another, such as floating on a stream of air, riding a magic board down a slope, or beating Wolfun into submission.   Not too far into the game, you are informed that these Wolfun are actually Nativs  in disguise.  Once they have been knocked out, you can use your power to revert them to their original form.  As you save more and more Nativs throughout the levels, new shops will be built back in the hub village.  The items sold there will usually grant Kya some new ability which she will need to learn in order to advance any further.  The currency for these shops comes in the form of Nuties, which are dropped by enemies and also found in crates that can be destroyed.

The other game I would like to cover is Kao the Kangeroo: Round 2.  I was vaguely aware of this title before buying it but had always dismissed it as just another generic platform game.  However, just like Kya I discovered a bit of a hidden gem.  Development duties this time belong to a Polish company called Tate Interactive,  and the game was published by JoWood Interactive in Europe.  I have not played the first game in the series that was available for the Dreamcast, but it would appear that this game picks up some time after the end of the first one, with Kao incarcerated in a cage by a dastardly hunter.  After being broken out by his parrot friend, you are told that the hunter as also captured many other animals, and from there in becomes your mission to set them free.  Kao, armed with his trusty boxing gloves, a deadly spinning tail attack and other items like boomerangs, sets off through several worlds with 4 or 5 missions within them, in order to help his friends.

I was really surprised with just how well this game is made.  The controls are really solid and responsive (which is of vital importance in a platformer), the graphics are excellent, and a nice variety of things for you to do just in the first world.  It is very much a collect-a-thon style platformer in the style that Rare made for the Nintendo 64, though thankfully it doesn't go overboard with it like Donkey Kong 64.  Instead your limited to three things you have to hunt down and pick up in each level: stars, which are typically dished out for defeating enemies in combat, coins, which are strewn everywhere throughout a level as well as found in breakable post and crates, and purple gems with a usually a bit more tucked away than the coins, and unlock extra mini games in the hub world.

Like I said at the beginning, I was lucky enough to find both of these games for £2, though they normally go for a bit more than that.  Should you happen to spot either of these games in your local game shop or perhaps at a car boot sale or flea market, I would certainly consider giving them a go if you enjoy a good 3D platformer now and again.

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