Kameo: Elements of Power Review
Plenty of original, funny, visually stunning, and fun-filled moments await in Kameo: Elements of Power, which is the first Xbox 360 action adventure game, as well as a standard-setter.
- Inventive, fun gameplay involves transforming into various cool, kooky creatures
- Plenty of variety will keep you guessing and entertained
- Drop-dead gorgeous visuals showcase the power of the Xbox 360
- Beautifully composed orchestral score, as well as tons of amusing sound effects.
- Disjointed introduction may be frustrating
- Fairly short game at fewer than 10 hours in length
- Two-player cooperative mode isn't very compelling.
The next generation of gaming is off to a very good start. As the first Xbox 360 game to be released, Kameo: Elements of Power turns out to be a fitting showcase for Microsoft's powerful new console. For that matter, the game's really no worse for wear despite several production delays during its many long years in development. This colorful, creative action adventure game is one of the most family-friendly titles among the Xbox 360's starting lineup, but it'll provide a great experience for just about any kind of game player. It's packed with clever and entertaining action, not to mention some of the most highly impressive, razor-sharp graphics you've ever seen, along with terrific music and sound. Kameo feels rather disjointed at first, and it's not a particularly long game, but it ultimately provides a rousing, memorable journey that'll be a fine way to excitedly spend some of your first hours with the new Xbox.
There's not much preamble at first, since the game thrusts you straightaway into a fairly challenging battle without bothering with a proper introduction. You play as Kameo, a slender elf princess with fairy wings and the unique ability to transform into a variety of different, unusual creatures. She's single-handedly assaulting an ominous castle occupied by untold numbers of surly trolls and their ugly, presumably smelly industrial contraptions. It turns out that Kameo's wicked sister, Kalus, is apparently in league with the vile troll king, Thorn. Together they've kidnapped Kameo's family and now threaten the Enchanted Kingdom, Kameo's home. So Kameo does what any young lady would do in her place, assuming that young lady could also transform into a yeti, a plant with boxing gloves, and a roly-poly elephant-mole thing at the drop of a hat.
The opening level of Kameo definitely shows off the game's fantastic visuals and audio (made exponentially better if your Xbox 360 is hooked up to a high-definition display and a 5.1 surround-sound system), as well as its distinctive mechanics. Provided you have some experience with other action adventure games, this one's easy to pick up and play, thanks partly to the responsiveness of the Xbox 360's excellent but familiar gamepad and partly to the onscreen prompts that constantly remind you which buttons perform which functions. Controlling the action from a third-person perspective, you can make Kameo run around (or hover around more quickly) using the left analog stick, and you can freely rotate the camera using the right stick. Kameo's attacks and other moves are mapped to the shoulder buttons, while her transformations are mapped to the face buttons.
For instance, she can morph into the pugilistic plant Pummel Weed at the touch of a button, at which point she can execute left and right jabs using the respective triggers. Pulling both triggers at the same time causes Pummel Weed to burrow into the ground, letting it slip under gates and also setting up a powerful uppercut. Kameo isn't much of a fighter herself, so she must switch between her different forms to overcome various obstacles and defeat all types of different enemies. Yet despite the relatively simple controls, the early going in Kameo may still be rather confusing, since you aren't given a clear sense of what's happening or how to play. Unless you've played a bunch of Metroid Prime, it'll especially take getting used to controlling the elephant mole guy, Major Ruin, who rolls around like a ball. Luckily, the game's got a built-in help system in the form of a self-important (but generally helpful) talking book that's always there to give you advice about your situation. So with a little patience and a few voluntary hints, you should be able to cross this first hurdle without too much trouble.
Suffice it to say you don't manage to take down Kalus and Thorn so soon. Bizarrely enough, once you finish the lengthy introductory mission, you'll find yourself in the Enchanted Kingdom being instructed on the very basics of gameplay--such as how to move around and rotate the camera--as if you hadn't figured all that out already. It's as if somebody decided at the last minute that the original opening of the game was too bland, so the flashy castle level was tacked on in front of it. Whatever the explanation, between the potentially frustrating first level (which forces you to get comfortable with some of the game's most advanced mechanics in what's quite literally a trial by fire) and the unnecessary and late instructional how-to back at the Kingdom, the first hour or two of Kameo may have you shaking your head. But then the game sets you off on a much more satisfyingly coherent sequence of action, exploration, and puzzle-solving sequences. And soon enough, the false start will be forgotten.
There's a lot of variety in Kameo. When you're in the Enchanted Kingdom, there's no danger. It's just you getting to flit around in a vibrantly detailed storybook world, talking to some goofy characters, finding hidden items, and so forth. The richly detailed gameworld rewards exploration to a certain extent, since you can find helpful items and other little secrets by straying from the beaten path. However, even though the gameworld consists of big, fairly open-ended areas, it isn't difficult to tell where you're supposed to go next thanks to the presence of a minimap, in many cases.
When you're traveling across the Badlands, the biggest area in the game, there's a full-on epic feel as you gallop on horseback amid ranks of literally thousands of warring elf and troll warriors. The Badlands sequences prove to make for some exciting interludes, as it's here that the troll armies are attempting to take down the shields protecting the Enchanted Kingdom. Meanwhile, you'll be called in to aid the defense. Massive troll artillery pieces and the huge scale of the conflict combine to make for a sharp contrast to the solo action adventure sequences that the game mostly consists of.
- Downloadable Game