Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kameo (360)

Continuing my need to mine the back catalogue of 360 titles while I'm waiting for something cool and new to come out (especially since MS won't confirm Mass Effect's date), I got myself a copy of Kameo.

I think Kameo was one of the first 360 games I ever played - in the demo machine at a popular high-street electrical retailer. Looking back with what I know now, I can tell it was the first level, where the game pretty much throws you in at the deep end, with a selection of characters and a horde of trolls to fight. I thought it was awful and it helped reaffirm my thoughts that I didn't really need or want a 360 for five months. They probably could have picked a better demo game, to be fair.

After I got my 360 another demo became available, showing a wider range of the game-play available, and I warmed to it. The fairy forest place seemed more interesting, and the horseback fights against huge numbers of trolls suggested a nice variety of things to do. So now that it's on the greatest hits, or platinum, or whatever the budget re-release thing is called, I thought I'd give it a go.

The graphics are nice, but in a strange and over-detailed way. It's kind of like the difference between modern Disney cartoons that go for a stylised look, and Sword in the Stone, where they were clearly showing off how detailed they could make animated movies. I don't think the art style really works that well - it feels like it doesn't really know what it wants to be. It's a shame - I get the feeling they were pushed in this direction as an attempt to show off what the new hardware is capable of.

The other very noticeable thing is that the guy who wrote their particle system must have been the toast of the art department. There isn't a single location that isn't swimming in glowing dust or billowing clouds, and it makes some of the areas more difficult to navigate than they should be (and also a fair bit uglier).

The character designs are a bit of a let-down too. Generic-looking elves and trolls are the staple, but the "elemental warriors" that the game revolves around are also a fairly uninspired bunch. I think the problem here is that there are ten of them, and each has roughly one unique ability that level progression and puzzles might use. And since there are only 5 elements (fire, water, earth, ice, and plants) you get two characters for each (I actually had to check this just now, since I'd forgotten some of the warriors I'd unlocked - that's how memorable they are). Why not just make 5 warriors, making each of them twice as useful and more unique? It'd cut down on the "rescue X from the shadow troll" battle repetition too.

The controls aren't too bad - combat moves are all on the shoulder buttons, which makes them easy to access no matter what you're doing (though usually it will be fighting, since that's what the majority of the game is about) - though often your character will decide to 'lock on' to an enemy you're actually running away from, which makes you character judder as they try and point one way, and you try and get them to go the exact opposite direction.

My main gripe is that they were obviously quite proud of their spherical collision physics. There are a lot of puzzles in the game that are based around you pushing a globe-shaped object around, and two (I think) of the characters you can be travel using balls. Since these sections rely entirely on the physics engine they suffer the same quirks as any physics-based games do - sometimes you can have the right idea, but will fail just because there isn't enough "give" in the event. So after failing a few times with that approach, you'll think you're doing it wrong, and try something else. It can be very frustrating.

Overall I'd have a hard time recommending Kameo to anyone who wasn't a) quite hungry for a platform adventure type game, or b) a bit bored. It's cheap, and not just in the cost department.

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