Malik (1/19/05)

Kameo (360)

From Rare

When the 360 launched, a few months back, many considered the launch to be nothing short of lack-luster. We were given a long string of ports and sequels from EA, Activision, etc. However, hidden in this flood of repetition was one other type of game. The type that only Rare could give us; the often delayed and console moving games. 

Thus, we 360 owners were given one of the poster children of the 360 launch; Kameo. With it's promises of hundreds of characters on screen at once, all doing different tasks, while shining in HD visual glory, things looked bright. However, they looked a little too bright for some...the word might be "kiddy". So, with the hype and the lack of praise, how did the game actually fare (and not just in some sad looking sales figures)? 


It's a little conventional and a little fresh. Much like how this game is a little "kiddy" and a little dark. You might say that the plot and look of Kameo both fall into a unique field of opposites (and let's not mince's much like another title of the same general genre that failed despite it's glory; Beyond Good and Evil). 

You play, surprisingly, a character named Kameo. She is the next in line to rule over her kingdom of faeries, elves, and dryads (to name a few). For hers is a world of some of the happier of fantasy races and designs. She lives in a large palace located on a flying continent that overlooks a world of bright and happy shades of blues, greens, and browns. At first glance, hers is a very happy world. 

However, when Kameo's bitchy older sister, Kalus, who was overlooked at the next ruler of this land, gets tired of Kameo's perfection and how people adore her a little too much, she makes a pact with evil. She releases Thorn, the king of the trolls, who was once sealed away in stone. In the past, he had led the trolls, who were once friends of the other races, in a revolt to conquer the land. However, with the help of the Elemental Spirits, the kinder races beat him back and sealed him in his less flexible form. 

When Kalus released Thorn, she formed a pact that would enable her to rule the Elves instead of Kameo. In order to fulfill this, Kalus and Thorn abducted all of the royal family, except for Kameo. Kameo thus tried to rescue her family and defeat Thorn with the power of three elemental spirits that were in her possession. However, in her initial attempt as a savior of her people, she was defeated and her elemental spirits were stolen from her. 

Thus, a grand war between the Elves and Trolls has begun. While the grand armies of each side face off on the ground, in massive numbers, Kameo starts her quest. In order to beat Kalus and Thorn, she seeks to rescue her family and to reclaim the elemental spirits that can give her the power to ultimately face off with Thorn, one on one. 

While this all might sound pretty saccharine in nature, looks can be deceiving. The story treads a unique line that only Beyond Good and Evil has tread properly in the past; when things are happy, they are quite happy, but when things get dark, they get mighty dark and twisted. Don't expect a simple fairy tale plot...and don't expect the plot to go light on content. This is a great game with plenty of plot and a good number of twists along the way, assuming you are willing to seek out the plot and not just expect it to be delivered on a silver platter. 

Game Play 

Think of this game as a cross between a typical Zelda style game (like BG&E) and a platformer (like Mario). 

When you are free roaming in villages, you have a feel in the controls of a Zelda game. You will talk to people, buy a few items and power-ups, and you will look for hidden bonuses. Shops will offer you chances to buy larger wallets (like in a Zelda game), elixirs (heart to speak), and extra costumes. You will also be able to buy, and find, fruits which can be used to unlock new abilities in your alternate forms. You will also solve some problems for villagers ("my house is infested with bugs", and so forth). You have seen this all before with both BG&E and Zelda...but it doesn't make it any less fun to experience in this new world with a new background story to the events. 

It will also feel like a standard adventure/RPG, like Zelda, when you are roaming from one location to another in the main world. In fact, much like the more recent Zelda games (OOT, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker), there is a central main world that has various exits that lead to new main areas. Each sub-area will include a village with a dungeon or two within the town. While you roam the main world, you also can seek out hidden fruit and elixirs, mini-games, and ride a horse for quicker transportation (like with Zelda...). 

However, this Zelda inspired genre is broken once you enter a dungeon. While you still have the same level of exploration as one would expect, the combat is what truly changes the feel of the game. When you battle an enemy, you will not just fight one. You will face onslaughts of foes from all sides. You will have epic battles that will test you abilities as both a gamer and you thought processes in how to tactically face the challenges ahead. It's never as simple as the slower paced Zelda battles, and it's never a mindless button masher like one would find in more combat heavy of titles. It's a unique blend of the two that will await you. True, the game never gets overly challenging, but you may find yourself continuing a few times here and there as you get an idea of what is expected of you. 

Combat, however, is pretty unique for this style of game. Your elemental spirits are your only true weapons. You can freely map three elemental forms on the four face buttons of the 360 (the A button being reserved for reverting to Kameo's base form). Each one will have multiple attacks that will be controlled with the left and right triggers (usually LT will be one action, RT will be another, and both together will be a third ability, with some unique variations and modes along the way). These abilities are what those fruits you've collected are for. Each ability can be upgraded or unlocked by giving one to three fruit to a spirit. 

Each spirit will also have it's own unique feel and unique strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, Major Ruin is basically an exploration spirit that can roll around as a ball and charge up both vertical and horizontal movement for speedy dashes and jumps. Usually this form will not leave you much to be desired for combat, but it can help you cover ground quickly when combat or exploration requires some speed. 

Chilla, a large icy behemoth is slow and sturdy in combat. However, he can use the icy spikes that grow on his back as projectiles for sniping enemies, or up close he can impale enemies on these spike to reserve for weapons later on. Once an enemy is impaled, Chilla can either throw the enemy as a projectile, or he can swing the foe as a club to inflict damage to both the make-shift weapon and a new target at the same time. 

Another form, Pummel Weed, is a brawler. His abilities include a fast left-right combo of punches that can easily preoccupy a single enemy as it's face suffers from constant jabs. Also, PW can partially burrow into the ground and come flying up with a strong upper cut. 

These are just the three forms that you begin with prior to Kameo's defeat at the hands of Thorn and Kalus. As you play, you will unlock a half dozen of additional spirit forms that range from snipers, to brawlers, to ones that will just confuse and astound you as you discover their strange abilities are actually potent attacks. These attacks will also soon reveal themselves to be important tools in exploration. 

If anything, that's one of the most amazing aspects of this title. While an ability may look entirely offensive, defensive, or not combat oriented, you will soon learn otherwise. That trick of Pummel Weed to partially submerge and deliver an offensive attack will soon reveal itself as a way to explore some smaller and tighter areas. Chilla may look like a brute, but he's also the only spirit capable of climbing icy walls. The abilities and the strategies are nearly limitless. 

Also, by allowing one to map three different forms to the controller at once, the combinations become important. For example, you will often times have a icy wall in front of you, but a gorge separating Chilla from his easy assent. So, you simply use Major Ruin to dash across the gap, switch to Chilla mid-dash, and then climb up the once distant wall. 

Also, as you face the hoard of enemies, you will start to accumulate bonuses and special points. This is another thing that separates Kameo from Zelda. Each stage will record your final score and will effect you ability to unlock unique secrets. While it's not crucial to unlock these objectives (I know I didn't get any...), they give a reason for replaying old dungeons. Also, while you earn these bonuses, you will also come across focus mode. This occurs when you score enough rapid hits on a foe and you enter Kameo's version of bullet-time. During this time you will be able to score rapid hits on enemies and see special enemies that normally move too fast to be detected (and can be killed for extra points). 

However, to help in the theme of Kameo and the dark meets light feeling of the game, there are some brutal things that can await the cleaver gamer. If you get Chilla to impale a foe (which seems brutal enough), you can proceed to toss this hapless foe into a pool of lava, off a cliff, or wherever you chose. The environment is a potent weapon and you will be rewarded (through your score) for the more gruesome means of dispatching the trolls that stand in your way. 

So, while it may seem unusual, you can think of this game as a Zelda-meets-BG&E-meets-Final Fight-meets-Mario Sunshine...and then some. Yet, while this game may barrow heavily from other established games and genres, in the end it will leave a fresh a unique perspective on what games could be in the new generation...and once you beat the game and grow tired of trying for high scores on the various dungeons, you can grab a second player co-op the beaten that's replay value and innovation that doesn't need to be crammed down the gamers' throat. 


In a word...DAMN! This is a pretty game. While the visuals are heavily shaped with bright colors and fantasy elements, these are some of the best looking visuals ever seen on a console game. If you happen to have an HD-TV hooked up to your 360, you will be amazed. 

This game is able to give realistic particle and lighting effects (fire/flames are especially brilliant), highly detailed characters, and 720p resolution...all while showing off armies of hundreds of trolls and dozens of Elvin soldiers locked in brutal combat. Did I mention that this all occurs with no slow down? Yup...that's nice. In fact, not only is this a centerpiece of Kameo, but a true testament to where video games are heading; it's heading towards epic battles that make the old one player versus a dozen foe battles feel paltry and pathetic in comparison. 

While there aren't exactly the amazing cut scenes that seem to be anticipated of all games in the current generation, there are enough brilliant visuals to go around. The in game engine suffices nicely in presenting plot while still looking amazing enough to make one feel like they are dealing with an "official feeling cut scene". 

In the end, it's hard to pin point the exact wonders of the visuals for Kameo. However, the sum of the parts far exceeds anything since before, and may set a benchmark for future games for quite some time. 


First off, like I usually dread, there is voice acting. It's not too horrible, and most voices are the end, once again, I say that games need better voice talent. You will not be left with too many reasons to dread the voice acting, but you will rarely be left with a reason to celebrate the spoken part of the dialogue. At least the most outspoken character, Kameo, is voiced with enough skill to never get on one's nerves. 

The rest of the audio is amazing. The sound effects, along with the ambient noises, really draw the player into the action. If a scene is tranquil, you can expect the soft sounds of flowing water, chirping birds, gentle footsteps, and maybe the occasion gentle splashing of a child playing in some body of water. However, once the action picks up, you will be treated to the clank of metal striking metal, the whooshing of strong wind gusts, the roaring and hissing of open flames, and the grunts and screams of people in the throws of combat. The effects will always sound real and match the mood with near perfection. Even footsteps will change in their sounds depending on who's walking and what surface they are walking on. 

The music, like the ambient sounds, also matches tightly to the situation at hand. In a village, one could expect soft music that feels like the jovial tunes that fit in in a Hyrule (Zelda) village. Once combat begins, trumpets will blare, cymbals will crash, and the tempo will pick up. The music, while never quite memorable, is definitely always appropriate.


While some people can call Kameo short, uninspired, or confused on it's target audience, the truth is not so bad. In reality, this "short" game supplies just as much entertainment as any other title in the genres it covers (brawling or Zelda-esque adventure). There is a good 10+ hours to the game, and there is far more if you take the time to explore some of the more hidden of goodies. When you throw in co-op for any completed levels and the chance for getting high scores and unlocking extra secrets through replaying past levels, you have a massive game for it's genre.

As for that crap about the game being confused on it's audience...sigh. The simple truth is the game is a lot like Beyond Good or Evil was (or like the novel Stardust by Neil Gaiman). This is a fantasy game for a more mature of audience. In other words, this is a game that is perfect for someone who's advanced to more mature of themes, but still longs for the colorful days of Mario and Zelda...a lot like how Conker's Bad Fur Day did, but with a more involved plot and a lot less (as in none) poor jokes.

So, in the end, Kameo gives a brilliant level of visuals, audio, and technical aptitude, a deep and interesting plot, and one hell of an addictive game play engine. Throw all of that together, put in some extras to enhance replay, and you are left with a great gem of a game. The only thing one could reasonably ask for, at the end of the game, would be more (which is what we should always leave a game wanting). So, only for a few unpolished and underused elemental spirits I give Kameo a 9.25 out of 10.