Kameo: Elements of Power
The world of Kameo: Elements of Power reminded me of Jim Hensonís fantasy films; imaginative, visually engaging and a little childish. The childish label certainly isnít a fault since itís just one of the things that helps bring out the fantasy world. The stirring musical score, with its catchy themes and superb chorus, promises an epic adventure game and the exotic locales deliver on this promise. When exploring the Enchanted Kingdom, a peaceful place with cute bug-like creatures floating around, itís hard not to admire the cascading waterfalls, glistening rainbows, and vibrant green flora. Itís obvious that a lot of love went into detailing the expansive environments, which include areas such as an underwater ruins and a vast battlefield of trolls and elves.
The characters also receive some wonderful detail. The heroine Kameoís tribal tattoos, green attire and delicate wings make her look like Tinkerbell with an attitude. Kameo looks appropriately tough considering the task thatís ahead of her. She must rescue her kidnapped relatives from the clutches of her jealous sister and the resurrected Troll King. Of course, Kameo has special abilities that take advantage of the fantastical world she inhabits. Throughout the course of her adventure, she gains the ability to turn into up to ten different creatures. These elements arenít normal critters, like bears or tigers. In fact, the most recognizable thing she can morph into is a dragon, with a termite carrying a cannon full of lava on its back coming in second. While the stunning graphics do a great job showing off the impressive environments, itís with these creature designs where the notable creativity is most evident. What other game has a rolling pile of rocks and a boxing aficionado/giant plant as playable characters? The different attacks are as varied as the ten creatures, from sucking enemies into a watery abyss, chewing up a troll and spitting him out, or spinning into an enemy a la Sonic the Hedgehog.
Now, as impressive as the music is and as charming as the aesthetics are, the gameplay simply canít compete. Thatís not a knock so much as a compliment towards the artistic qualities. However, the gameplay is still a little simplistic, particularly in the dungeons, which make up a good portion of Kameo. Solving the puzzles usually just requires turning into the most recently obtained creature and then using one of their skills. If for some reason youíre still stuck, the solution can be found by pausing to the menu and reading the tip, making the game far too easy.
However, the different creatures at least make for some varied action even though things are never too difficult. One memorable segment pits Kameoís water element, Deep Blue, against submarines and boats. Deep Blueís torpedoes are slow, so timing a direct hit is satisfying. Another fun creature to control is Major Ruin. By spinning into a ball and hitting ramps, Major Ruin can nail some air and get to hard-to-reach places. Up to three elements can be assigned to the face buttons at a time, and holding one of the buttons brings up a quick menu of who to turn into. Morphing on the fly is necessary, whether to solve a puzzle or to exploit an enemyís weakness, and the control scheme makes all of this a snap.
Elements also need to be used to complete sidequests in the few massive towns throughout the world. Exploring or helping out the inhabitants, usually by utilizing Kameoís elemental powers, nets Kameo with special fruit that allows her to learn new skills for each creature. Just taking things easy and spending some time with these optional tasks makes for some welcome variety after a lengthy dungeon. Another part of the world is the Badlands, which is a massive stretch of terrain that connects all the villages. Here, literally hundreds of orcs and elves fight nonstop in glorious battle. There are some amazing vistas that not only show of the beautiful landscape, but the epic battles as well. Although Kameo can plow through the soldiers on her horse, the interactivity is somewhat lacking. Aside from a couple missions and some abandoned huts, thereís nothing to do here aside from getting from point A to point B. In any other game this wouldnít be problem, but since the Badlands looks so astounding, I couldnít help but want to be more involved with this striking place.
A problem with the mixture of dungeons, towns and the Badlands is that it creates an obnoxious pattern that repeats itself throughout the game. First, you enter the village, find a mini-dungeon, fight a mini-boss, and then get a new element. With the new element, the large dungeon in the town becomes accessible. After that dungeon is beaten and a new element is gained, itís off to help the elves defeat some trolls on the battlefield. Finally, itís off to the next town to repeat the cycle all over again. Such a predictable pattern takes away from of the wonder and excitement that the fantasy world initially creates. The pattern repeats itself a few times, which is disappointing since Kameo is only around ten hours long. Some worthwhile features extend the playing time and somewhat help overshadow the predictable cycle. The most enjoyable feature is co-op play, which allows two players to tackle some of the dungeons. The only problem with this is that you have to beat the level first before it becomes available for co-op, so you canít actually go through the entire game with a friend. The levels can also be replayed for higher scores, which can unlock new costumes and videos. Itís nothing spectacular, but every little bit of replay value helps.
Even with a few problems, Kameo: Elements of Powers is recommended to anyone with at least a slight interest in fantasy. There are numerous moments of creative genius, which are all too rare in todayís cookie cutter games. The moving music, clever character designs and topnotch production values overshadow some of the gameplay elements, but it never stops the game from being fun. Much like Jim Hensonís The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth, Kameo isnít the most profound experience experience, although it certainly is memorable.
Eight out of ten