The launch titles of any new console are always going to be a mixed bag, for any number of reasons. The best a console company can generally hope for is to have at least one killer app, and a couple of other half-decent support titles. With the 360, any obvious killer app seems to be missing, but most of the games available are, if not great, than good enough.
Kameo: Elements of Power is one such title. It’s the obligatory 3D platform game for the 360, and while it doesn’t always shine, it’s still a solid effort by developer Rare.
The game is based around a conflict between elves and trolls. Kameo is part of the royal elven family, whom she must rescue after her evil sister, Kalus, forms an alliance with Thorn, king of the trolls. It’s a fairly basic storyline, and one that will probably appeal most to younger gamers. Probably the best word to describe Kameo herself is ‘sassy’. Kameo has oodles of sass – she is, after all, a butt-kicking fairy girl, and incidentally wearing about as much clothing as you’d expect to see in a videogame made by guys.
The gameplay contains all the usual trappings of a 3D platformer, so if you’ve played any game in this genre before, chances are you’ll be fairly familiar with this title as soon as you pick it up. The big claim to originality here is Kameo’s ability to morph into numerous creatures, each with their own unique abilities. The wacky line-up of beings you can turn into includes a yeti, a plant with boxing gloves, and a pile of rocks. Each different form has its own usefulness in various areas of the game – a lot of the fun in Kameo comes from figuring out which form to use, and when to change into something else.
This can be a daunting proposition initially, especially since the start of the game throws you right into the thick of things. Without any preamble, you find yourself in command of Kameo and three other forms, and must get fairly adept at using all of them to make it out of the first stage. The confusing thing here is that, just as you are getting the hang of things, the level ends – and then places you in Kameo’s home village, where a more conventional tutorial takes place. This strange pacing can be quite off-putting, but if you stick with it, the game picks up again and provides quite an adventure.
Graphically, the game is fairly impressive. There are some moments where you are reminded that you’re playing on a next-gen console. Other moments, however, are less enthralling – the presentation of the game is never terrible by any means, but you generally get the feeling that this game could have been made quite happily for the original Xbox, especially if you’re not playing on a high-def TV. The music and sound effects share a similar story – mostly okay, with occasional moments of greatness. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the voice-overs. They range from merely bad, to downright terrible. Kameo herself sounds like a whiny teenager – which might have been the intention, but the result is grating.
If you’re the kind of person who likes their platform games, and aren’t put off by the cutesy nature of Kameo, it’s easy to recommend this one to you. For everyone else, rent this one out before buying it – if you manage to overcome the stilted opening sequences and are still hooked, then go for it.