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Video Game / Kao the Kangaroo

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Kao the Kangaroo is a series of platformer games made by a Polish studio named Tate Interactive, starring the titular marsupial with boxing gloves. Each game has him go on a quest to save his animal friends from some kind of danger, primarily the animal-catching Hunter. The series was mostly popular in Poland, having not made much of an impact in the foreign markets.

The series consists of several titles:

In 2020, Tate Multimedia (Tate Interactive's new name) announced that a fourth Kao game was in development.

This video game series provides examples of:

  • 1-Up: The first game gives you one whenever you collect 50 coins, and occasionally when you pick up the question mark powerup.
  • Abnormal Ammo: Round 2 has catapults that fire giant pinecones.
  • Action Bomb: Round 2 has an enemy who's a dynamite stick on legs and who chases after Kao until it hits something.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The North American release of Round 2 uses the box art of Kao in an army helmet firing rockets out of a bazooka (which never happens in the game). It's a far cry from other releases, which show him just jumping happily with some enemies in the background. The former box art would later be reused for Kao Challengers though.
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  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: A lot of the bosses in the second game, to the point where the train engineer you fight at one point is bigger than the train itself.
  • Bag of Spilling: You do not get to keep the checkpoint flags between levels in the first game.
  • Bears Are Bad News: In Round 2, the first escape sequence involves you running away from a giant bear.
  • Bee Afraid: The forest levels in Round 2 have bees that will charge stinger-first at the ground to attack, and will remain stuck there for a brief moment so you can attack them.
  • Big Bad: In the first and second game, it's the Hunter who captures Kao's friends. In the third game, it's the Volcano God (or "the fiery guy") who unleashes lava monsters onto the island.
  • Bonus Stage:
    • The first game has a lot of those in the form of warp zones. They are often hidden in various places and allow you to collect a lot of coins.
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    • The second game has unlockable minigames, which can be accessed when you collect enough purple crystals.
  • Boss-Only Level: All 3 games have them, though Mystery of the Volcano only has one.
  • Bottomless Pits: Plentiful, especially in the first game.
  • Boxing Kangaroo: Naturally, Kao wears red boxing gloves and fights this way.
  • Button Mashing: All of the unlockable minigames in Round 2 require this, with the exception of the one where you shoot at targets.
  • Cash Gate: The hub world of Round 2 features a greedy pirate named Bossman, who guards a gate that leads to the final levels until you bring him 3,000 ducats. The gate is partially artificial, as there's no way to gather all the ducats before the game expects you to have them, as Kao gets two 1,000-ducat awards naturally (one from winning a boat race and another as treasure from a temple); you just need to have 1,000 of the remaining ducats in the game to move on from there.
  • Character Title: The games are named after their protagonist, Kao.
  • Checkpoint:
    • The first game is unusual in that checkpoints are collectibles, and you can set them up yourself anywhere in the level.
    • The second game has more normal checkpoint in the form of bells that save your progress when you pick them up.
    • Ditto for the third game, but in the form of tents that Kao goes into to take a nap.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: All games have a habit of not keeping any of the friends Kao makes between games. His kangaroo friends from the first game are absent in the second and third, and all the animals from Round 2 are missing from the third (aside from some pelicans that we never met before).
  • Collision Damage: Touching enemies hurts you.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Round 2 really goes to town with this trope, at one point having ice blocks situated in molten lava.
  • Cowardly Sidekick:
    • Round 2 has the pelican in the tropics levels, who can't follow you into the temple because he's afraid of the dark.
    • Mystery of the Volcano has the Shaman, who's really easy to frighten about the whole "lava monsters running around" business.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A lot of the battles in Round 2 become this once you get the infinite rolling upgrade.
  • Death from Above: All games have some form of flying enemies that swoop down on you when you get close.
  • Dummied Out: Mystery of the Volcano still has the upgrades you could get in Round 2 from collecting stars, it's just that they are inaccessible because there are no stars in the game.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: The Hunter, who's motivated solely by greed and pride when it comes to capturing the animals around Kao's home.
  • Elemental Powers: In Mystery of the Volcano, you have to find four elemental artifacts in order to open a door leading to the Final Boss. The levels that you find these artifacts in are themed after the four elements.
  • Excuse Plot: The first game starts off with the vague excuse of Kao escaping from his cage and then going on a quest to save his kangaroo friends, and then he's thrown into a collection of levels that rarely are connected to each other.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: In the first game especially.
  • Explaining Your Power to the Enemy: In Round 2, the octopus boss begins the battle by describing the exact method in which to defeat her, step by step, and only at the end does she go "How stupid of me - why am I telling you that?!".
  • Exploding Barrels:
    • In Round 2, there are no exploding barrels per se, but there are barrels that contain bombs, which Kao must jump away from when they're uncovered. Also, the train engineer boss will fight you by firing barrels out of a bazooka.
    • In Mystery of the Volcano, there's a few times where Kao must throw an explosive barrel at something to progress.
  • Exposed Eyeballs as Eyes: Kao's eyes are just eyeballs placed on top of his head. Notably, he's the only character in the series whose eyes are like this.
  • Exposition Fairy:
    • Round 2 has fireflies that give you tutorial tips.
    • Mystery of the Volcano has the Shaman's totem, though he's restricted only to the training level.
  • "Far Side" Island: The Hunter ends up marooned on one of these after being defeated in Round 2.
  • Floating Platforms: The first game in particular has a habit of using those, though Round 2 has some examples as well.
  • Follow the Money: The coins in the first and second game. In the latter, it's even pointed out by the Exposition Fairy right before a chase sequence.
  • Giant Spider: Round 2 has those in the form of enemies that descend from the ceiling and have to be quickly hit with a boomerang, or else they'll spit acid at you that somehow homes in on you.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Round 2 in particular has three types of collectibles, and each is required for unlocking something:
    • The coins allow you to reach the final boss.
    • The crystals unlock minigames.
    • The stars unlock upgrades for your attacks and skills.
  • Ground Pound: Both Round 2 and Mystery of the Volcano have it. It can be used not only to fight enemies, but also to press switches and the like. Round 2 even has an unlockable upgrade that turns it into a Shockwave Stomp.
  • Guide Dang It!: One of the levels in Round 2 requires you to reach a certain secret area in a very specific way in order for a specific enemy to spawn, so that you can get the last star in the level out of him.
  • Hat of Power: Round 2 has helmets that briefly allow Kao to fly.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: Round 2 and Mystery of the Volcano both have this, with the former being especially ridiculous about it.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": In Round 2, everyone refers to the animal hunter as just "Hunter" with capital H. Considering that we can frequently see his "H" logo placed on various objects, and considering that the Polish version keeps his name as the English "Hunter", it's fair to say that this might very well be his actual name or surname.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the first game, the captain boss can be beaten by making him attack you, so that his hook gets stuck in the ice.
  • Hub Level: Both Round 2 and Mystery of the Volcano have those, a city port in the former, and a pelican village in the latter.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Humans are the main antagonists in the first two games.
  • Idle Animation: All games have Kao using a jumping rope when left to his own devices for long enough. In the first game, he also looks at a clock, and in the second and third game, he'll jump at you and go "Boo!".
  • Indy Escape: Round 2 has quite a few sequences where you have to use a superspeed powerup to run away from something. The temple level outright has a fiery boulder chasing you.
  • Invulnerable Attack: In Round 2, the second to last upgrade you get from collecting stars is an infinite rolling ability, which makes Kao invulnerable to almost everything the game can throw at him.
  • Last Lousy Point: Round 2 in particular has a notable situation where in the second-to-last level, there's a hidden box with a single coin in it that you can only reach by utilizing your glide jump upgrade.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Both Round 2 and Mystery of the Volcano have those. The latter in particular has a level where you have to descend down a shaft where the artifact of fire resides.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: There's times in the second and third game where you have to find a firefly that will open a lock.
  • Magic Mushroom: Round 2 has one puzzle where, after you lead badgers away from a mushroom field, the mushrooms growing there suddenly grow to a monstrous size, allowing you to use them as platforms to progress further.
  • Man-Eating Plant: They show up as enemies in the first and second games. Both times they've got teeth and a tongue and lap at Kao like dogs. In the first game, they just bite Kao if he gets too close, and can be defeated like any other enemy. In the second one, they chew him up and spit him back out, and have to be defeated by rolling under their head and punching them in the stem.
  • Meaningful Name: Kao's name is actually — appriopriately enough — Polish spelling of "K.O." acronym.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Kao gets a second of invincibility after taking damage. whether on foot or in a vehicle.
  • Mini-Game: Round 2 has ones that can be unlocked after collecting enough crystals.
  • Mook Maker: Round 2 has a single box that produces running sticks of dynamite.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Round 2 uses a pirate-infested harbor as the Hub Level.
  • NPC Roadblock: Nearly the entirety of Round 2 revolves around collecting enough ducats to bribe the guard who is blocking the way to the Big Bad's ship. If you try to walk by without paying, he shoves you away. No, you cannot just knock him out, even though in later levels you defeat lots of mooks who look just like him with no problem.
  • One-Hit Kill: In the first game, if you crash into anything in the vehicle sections, you die instantly.
  • Pirate: One of the bosses in Round 2 is a pirate. You also encounter sailor enemies throughout the last two levels.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Parrot in Round 2. As one of the few animals to not get caught by the Hunter, he serves to guide Kao during the first half of the game by pointing him towards levels. After the underwater world, he gets captured and needs to be rescued from the Hunter's ship.
  • Poison Mushroom: The first game has a question mark powerup that gives you any random powerup or collectible in the game. On rare occasion, it gives you an otherwise unseen skull powerup that damages you when collected.
  • Power Up Mount: Kao can ride on his Pelican friend in two tropical levels of Round 2. He's heavier than Kao and has a wider turning circle, but can fly for a short time by Button Mashing, and grabbing fish in the air lets him fly further.
  • Punny Name: Kao is a pun on "K.O", referencing his status as a Boxing Kangaroo.
  • Random Events Plot: The first game can come across as this, considering that Kao's journey to save his kangaroo friends somehow winds him up on Mars at one point.
  • Respawning Enemies: Mostly in the first game, where all enemies come back after a very brief amount of time. In later games, they only respawn if you die.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: In the first game, you can destroy many of the scenery elements, and they sometimes contain collectibles and secrets. In the second game, there's lots of crates, barrels and pots that contain coins.
  • Rocket Ride: Round 2 has you riding on torpedoes in order to destroy cages that contain friendly turtles.
  • Scenery Porn: Some of the environments in the second and third game can look really good.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The first and second game both have one of those, although ice physics are not used very often.
  • Space Zone: One of the worlds Kao winds up at in the first game. Other than being set on Mars and on a space station, it controls no differently than the rest of the game.
  • Spin Attack: Kao can whip his tail in all games, though in the second and third he only does that while jumping. Round 2 allows for upgrading it into a legitimate spin attack that keeps Kao briefly suspended in the air.
  • The Spiny: The porcupine enemies in Round 2's forest levels. Since they're covered in spines, none of Kao's normal attacks work on them, only his Shockwave Stomp upgrade and boomerangs, but they never contain any stars either.
  • Squashed Flat: In the first game's Dreamcast version, Kao gets flattened if he falls from a high enough spot.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Nobody talked in the first game, which was changed in the later games.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Fall into a deep enough body of water, and Kao will drown instantly. Subverted in that if the water isn't very deep, Kao will extend his neck to ridiculous lengths to keep his head above the surface.
  • Tail Slap: Naturally, one of Kao's ways of dispatching enemies in every game is a tail-spin attack.
  • Take Your Time: In Round 2, the parrot says at one point that you have to hurry to get aboard the train engineer's train, but in reality nothing forces you to do so.
  • Tentacled Terror: The Octopus, the only animal to serve the Hunter in Round 2, is a giant octopus who imprisoned the sea turtles and filled the ocean with toxic waste. She fights by swinging her tentacles around and calling upon pink squids.
  • Temple of Doom: Round 2 has one in the tropics levels, with them being much more common in the Mystery of the Volcano.
  • Temporary Platform: All games have those. In the second and third game, you can find clouds that vanish after jumping off them 3 times, and wooden platforms that retract after standing on them. The first game has a secret area where you have to quickly jump on rapidly vanishing platforms in order to reach the prize at the top.
  • Threatening Shark: The first game has sharks that jump out of bodies of water in a predictable pattern, and also sharks that walk on land and wear lifesavers.
  • Totally Radical: The pilot pelican from the third game talks like this.
  • Unique Enemy:
    • In Round 2, the dynamite enemy described under Action Bomb appears only once in the entire game. Considering that it could be a source of a unique challenge across various points of the game, it's a wonder it's not featured more often.
    • Also in Round 2, the underwater level features a single ray enemy who shoots projectiles. It doesn't take any more punishment than other enemies in the level, so it's unclear why it doesn't have more presence. The Steam release alleviates it somewhat by having it appear two times and giving it a health bar (even though one of them dies to a single missile), thus turning it into a Mini-Boss of sorts.
  • Updated Re-release: The 2019 Steam re-release of Round 2 features support for higher resolutions plus modern Xbox 360 and DualShock 4 controllers along with Steam Achievements and cloud saves.
  • Video-Game Lives: Only in the first game.
  • A Winner Is You: The second and third game only give you a very brief cinematic and then throw ending credits at you.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The title screen of the GBA port has Kao drawn in a radically different way than usual, most notably having normal cartoony eyes instead of eyeballs situated on top of his head.

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