One of the games that I questioned having on the Xbox 360 was Rare Software’s Kameo: Elements of Power. I felt this way because of the cartoon-like look. It simply didn't look the type of game a hardcore gamer as I consider myself to be would be interested in. Don’t get me wrong, media attention to the game was almost overwhelming, but I didn’t see the point. Well… now I do. Kameo is a game that I wish I noticed a lot sooner.
Starting right from the beginning you get a taste of the game’s action with an epilogue that serves as a nice tutorial and a “get to know the enemies” stage. You go through the level experiencing different obstacles with your elemental warriors (I’ll explain this later on in the review), and generally getting a feel for the game. Furthermore, the epilogue sets up the dramatic story of the character which you play, Kameo. Kameo is an orphaned elf who becomes part of a royal family of the Enchanted Kingdom who is betrayed by their own daughter, and is taken into captivity by Thorn, the accomplice and the King of Trolls. Towards the end of the epilogue, Kameo loses her elemental warriors trying to fight for her family’s release.
Without your elemental warriors you aren’t very powerful, and there is no way you can fight Thorn or your sister. Playing Kameo, it is your mission to retrieve your elementals, and gain the power you will need to fight for your family’s survival. These elemental warriors, or spirits, are used with Kameo’s changeling powers. Each of the 10 elemental spirits you encounter in the game have various fighting abilities, and different moves that will allow you to explore the game fighting enemies and solving puzzles.
Starting off with one elemental spirit, you are challenged to go out to the Badlands, the front for the battle against the Trolls to search for the other warriors. You encounter a massive battle between the Trolls and Elves, hundreds of units all fighting independently in a spectacular scene similar to something you would see in a movie. The best part about this is that the player gets to take a horse, and trample through the whole barrage of Trolls to continue your quest out to the various areas.
The only real traveling happens in the Badlands. At most, short distance to get from one area of the game to the next. You’ll go through four different areas searching for your warriors; each is as aesthetically pleasing and unique as the next. In these areas you will encounter towns and village people, as well as creatures and enemies unique to the area that make the environment truly come alive spectacularly. Not once did I encounter any empty space throughout the game, and felt totally immersed with the surroundings.
Throughout these levels you encounter small side-quests by the village people, and will reward you with elemental fruit, a sort of power-up fruit that is used to train your warriors new fighting techniques. The side quests are usually fun, but often become systematic and overplayed as you near the end of the game and it seems like you’ve done the same quest multiple times. Not to mention you are trying to reach the 4 members of your family, who is scattered throughout each of the areas.
Each area has one main boss (and mini-bosses) which when fighting become tedious and somewhat annoying. But, this doesn’t differ from the myriad of other games with similar boss battles where the bosses seem to change tactics as you deplete their health with each hit.
Bosses aside, getting to them is the more fun part involving your elemental spirits. The game even offers sort of an interactive help guide, the Wotnot book and the spirit inside of it Ortho. He will be the most help when fighting bosses where it’s likely you won’t have any idea how to defeat them. This was a nice idea, and nonetheless helpful as the boss battles will get intense trying to figure out which warrior will do what damage to the monsters.
Kameo isn’t as much of an epic story as I was hoping to play and unfold, but it was certainly fun playing and beating up the trolls in more than gruesome and humorous ways. The side-quests and missions were more than fulfilling (annoying to an extent) as were the bosses. The game took me a little more than 12 hours to complete, doing most of the side-quests and searching the nooks and crannies for the little surprises left around. This is a great amount of game play, and its all filled with little empty space and kept me wondering for hours.
Replay ability is something that I am contemplating. The game is more built around the idea of puzzles and less toward the battle sense of it, so replaying the game defeats the purpose of figuring out the puzzles – because you’ve done them already. The game offers a way to back and do particular levels, but as I said it almost defeats the purpose, despite the idea the game uses points to unlock things – mostly concept art and tidbits from the developers.
Graphically the game kept true to a distinct feel of a mystical environment. I don’t believe the game to be a showcase of the capabilities of the Xbox 360, but I do believe it has some design theory applied to it that I feel other games should follow. The little things that you get to notice is astounding, such as squirrels scurrying around, fairy-like orbs flying around, the list continues. The game is less than a graphical masterpiece, but I think it to be a masterpiece in environmental design and immersion.
To add to environment, the musical soundtrack is nothing but superb. Adding to the impressive effects of your surroundings makes the game come alive and manipulates your mood to the highest degree.
Overall, Kameo was a fantastic experience. Although some parts became annoyances, and some features were soon felt to be overplayed after a while, gameplay was more than clever and the quests quite attractive. The game in my opinion wasn’t a great the best showcase of the potential of the Xbox 360’s high-end graphics, as seen in other launch-title games. Much of the community exclaims this game to be a Zelda killer, although it has elements that made Zelda a great game, Kameo cannot compare with its miniscule plot and limited options to explore the world. Before you know it, the game is over.
And the Scores...
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