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Kameo: Elements Of Power (X360) Review

Kameo: Elements of Power, developed by Rare Studios, is Microsoft’s “family oriented” offering for the Xbox 360 launch. And at first glance, Kameo appears to be your standard sugar-coated, kid-friendly platformer, but a good helping of gratuitous animated violence (Rated T for Teens) and a relatively complex and always-changing control scheme make this an engaging game for experienced gamers with more discerning tastes.


  When the game starts, you are immediately thrust into the action and given control of three of the Elemental Warriors. The music and setting of this opening scene gives you an immediate sense of the grand scale of the adventure on which you are about to embark. Quick pauses with on-screen text act as sort of an impromptu tutorial that not only explains how each warrior controls, but also gives you some insight into how their abilities can be used to get past specific obstacles. I found this “trial by fire” method of explaining the game’s mechanics much more enjoyable than your run of the mill training mission (although you will run into a mini-training session later on).

  The 15-20 minute (if you take your time) opening action sequence is followed by cut scenes containing narrative that finally clues you in to the “who, what, where, and why” of the story. This method of story telling, dropping the audience into a world without any real knowledge of what lays before them, is pretty unique as far as video games go and I’d like to see it used more, where appropriate of course. That’s not to say that this was done perfectly in Kameo. Immediately after watching the cutscenes, I pretty much knew everything that I was going to be doing for the rest of the game. I would have liked to see the story pieced together a little more deliberately, which perhaps would have allowed for more surprises along the way.

  Kameo is tasked with freeing her ancestors who are being held captive by her jealous sister Kalus. Kalus’ rage stems from her mother’s decision to have Kameo succeed her as queen of the Enchanted Forest, and she’s decided to exact revenge against her family. But she’s not going it alone; she’s recruited Thorn, the evil king of the trolls. In order to succeed in her mission, Kameo will need to use her powers of transformation magic, which allow her to morph into one of the aforementioned Elemental Warriors. Only one problem… the warriors are scattered all across the kingdom and a vital part of her quest will be to retrieve them.

  Make no mistake, though the game may carry Kameo’s name in the title, the real stars of the show are her warriors. Ten in all, each is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Major Ruin and Rubble, both rock-based warriors, are virtually impervious to fire, but very susceptible to explosions. A warrior’s elemental make-up not only determines the effectiveness of their defenses, it will also play a big part in how you plan your attacks. Ash, the fire breathing dragon, is most effective against ice-based enemies, but powerless against water-based enemies. Not all situations are this cut and dry and some situations will require a bit of experimentation, which is good thing.

  Movement is handled with the left-analog stick, while the right is used for controlling the camera. This is standard for pretty much every warrior except Deep Blue, a water-based character who controls differently in underwater environments, and when I say different, I mean different in a bad way. This portion of the game was easily the most frustrating, but not because it was terribly difficult. The controls were so “wonky” that I was still struggling with them by the time I finished the stage. In fact, the overall difficulty of this part of the game seemed to have been “dumbed down” with easier to kill enemies, and less of them…almost as if Rare knew they’d dropped the ball with the controls and didn’t want to frustrate gamers any longer than necessary. Not to dwell on the game’s low point, every other warrior in the game handles very nicely.

  Attacks are performed through a very intuitive system, which utilizes only the left and right triggers. This is amazing considering each warrior can perform five or six different moves. Not all moves are attacks. Some are designed solely for traversing difficult terrain and negotiating obstacles. Each warrior “comes standard” with three or four abilities with the option of upgrading these abilities as you progress through the game. Abilities are upgraded by retrieving Elemental Fruit, which can be found throughout the game world…sometimes easily, sometimes not so easily. Elemental fruit can also be purchased in shops, and/or earned by completing side-quests that are “hinted at” by NPCs throughout the game.

  The best moments in the game are those that reward you for combining the strengths of your warriors. The more warriors under your power, the more options you have in battle. Using Deep Blue’s oil slick ability immediately followed by Ash’s “Blaze” attack can be very affective against a pack of swarming trolls (if it sounds fun…that’s ‘cause it is!). In some situations, you have no choice but to use a combination of specific warriors and abilities to get past an obstacle. While this is okay in some instances, I found it to be a bit confining during the boss battles. Although the bosses themselves are some of the biggest and most interesting I’ve seen in an adventure game in some time, I was a little disappointed in the fact that there was only one way to go about defeating them. This usually involves the combination of a couple specific warrior abilities, and sometimes using other objects (always conveniently placed nearby). Historically, boss battles usually come down to recognizing a pattern, finding a weakness, and going in for the kill…and Kameo’s aren’t much different. But in a game that stresses and rewards creativity in combat everywhere else, I’d like to have more choices in how I do battle with the biggest and baddest enemies. This isn’t so noticeable early in the game, but later on, with more Elemental Warriors at your disposal, it becomes glaringly obvious.


  Graphically, Kameo: Elements of Power is one of the strongest Xbox 360 launch titles. While some might not find their tastes suited by its cartoonish art style, there is no denying that Kameo does some impressive things in the visuals department. What screams next-gen more than anything else in the game is the sheer quantity of characters on the screen at once, with little to no slowdown. The huge draw distance makes you appreciate it that much more. The character models are supremely detailed. The Elemental Warriors in particular, look absolutely phenomenal…but the quality visuals do not end there. In recent history, non-player characters (NPCs) have had the habit of looking somewhat blocky and out of place even in the most visually appealing games, not in Kameo. The inhabitants of the Enchanted Kingdom and surrounding locales have been given almost as much attention to detail as the game’s protagonist and her 10 alter egos. This helps to make the game world that much more believable. Well, at least as believable as a world with fairies, trolls, talking trees, and walking plants wearing boxing gloves can be! While the graphics are easily the best I’ve ever seen in a game of this genre, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if this is the best we ever see out of the Xbox 360 (which I’m sure it’s not). That said, it more than exceeds my expectations for a launch title.


  Qualities such as a beautiful soundtrack, excellent voice acting, great 5.1 surround separation, and crisp sound effects make Kameo one of the better sounding games in recent memory. The soundtrack, composed by Steve Burke, contains some really epic scores that add a great atmosphere to some of the large battle sequences. The voice acting, while a bit “over the top” at times, works well with the game’s whimsical art style. The voice acting of one particular character is a real standout. Ortho, an old and wise spirit trapped in a magical book acts as your guide throughout the game by giving you hints on what to do next. He reminds me of Sean Connery. I don’t know why that’s a good thing, but it just fits. The dialog with all of the NPCs in the game is fully-voiced, which is also a nice touch and something that is often omitted from games.

  Replay Value

  Adventure games are not well known for their replayability. Usually, only the best adventure games are worth going through even for a second time. Kameo breaks this mold by utilizing the Xbox 360’s Achievements system to give gamers a reason to give it another go. Once you have completed an action stage, you can go back to it at any time to try and improve your score. Your score in each stage, based on your effectiveness in combat, is ranked on a scale or A through F (I’ll let you figure out which one is the high end of that scale). You will earn an achievement for each stage you manage to score an A. For those that are really taking to the whole Achievement system, this will definitely give Kameo some replay value. I think this whole system deserves its own motto, “Xbox 360 Achievements…as if people with OCD didn’t have enough to worry about already!” The action sequences can also be played out in a split-screen co-op mode, and a “semi-confirmed” update through Xbox Live will reportedly give us the chance to experience Kameo’s co-op mode online. Players will also be rewarded for exploration. Developer videos, concept art, and alternate outfits for your Elemental Warriors are just some of the things you can earn as a reward for going over the game with a fine tooth comb.

  Final Words

  There has been a lot of skepticism surrounding this game. Being in development for four years and intended for three different consoles will do that to a game. However, the end result is unique, fun, and surprisingly polished. It is not a game for everyone, but almost everyone. Even the most hardcore first person shooter fans should find some enjoyment in this one (if they can just get past the idea that they are a fairy).

Microsoft Game Studios
Rare Studios
Action Adventure
Release Date:
November 22, 2005
Final Rating:

Author: Jaime Marks

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