Rare is one of the most prolific game makers in the industry. They have been making games since 1983, and any long-time gamer has played and loved at least one of their games. Whether its Killer Instinct, Goldeneye, Donkey Kong Country, or Conker?s Bad Fur Day, everyone has a Rare title in their nostalgic library. In the past few years, however, they have worked largely under the radar. If Kameo: Elements of Power is a taste of what is to come, Rare is back!
Kameo: Elements of Power is not only a solid Xbox 360 launch title, but one that is strikingly unique. The main character, Kameo, is a fairy and the daughter of the royal family living in the Enchanted Kingdom. Kameo?s evil sister has betrayed and imprisoned the royal family with the help of evil Trolls, and the fate of the kingdom lies in Kameo?s hands. Something straight out of a Disney movie, right? Hell no! These are not your six-year-old sister?s fairies. These fairies kick butts and take names. Everything about the game is an action-adventure twist on a strangely familiar fairy tale. It is not a dark twist, however. This is no American McGee?s Alice ( which was also a stellar game). Kameo: Elements of Power is very much a young teen friendly game, but it also has broad appeal for adults. Its ?butt-kicking innocence? is what sets the game apart from the masses.
Rare has created an amazingly beautiful game, which is also surprisingly counter to some general Xbox 360 graphical expectations. Next-generation graphics have been praised for their realism, but Rare decided to create a fantasy world not constrained by realism. The game has a visual style all its own. The world is filled with bright and vibrant colors; in fact there are very few dark or bland areas throughout the entire game. Every inch is rendered beautifully with exotic plants and hulking beasts. The character models are each unique. Every creature, fairy, and citizen of the kingdom looks as if they belong in their own world. The sheer diversity of life found everywhere is astounding. The graphics are always smooth, even when hundreds of trolls, guards, dragons, and massive machines are battling it out on screen all at once.
The world is not only filled with artful creatures and environments, but beautiful sounds as well. The soundtrack ranks with the best orchestral adventure soundtracks on the silver screen. The music does a great job of setting the mood, and infuses the different environments with their own living personality. The sound effects are also well done. None are too over the top or annoying, even when used over and over. In fact, because the levels are often so large, sound becomes a key tool in avoiding attacks and finding enemies. Sound has a very effective role in how the game is played.
Figuring out how to play Kameo: Elements of Power is part of what makes it so much fun, even though the learning curve can be steep. Kameo has the ability to transform into ten different Elemental Warriors. These Elemental Warriors are different creatures ? an icicle-throwing yeti, a boxing weed, a fire-breathing dragon – each with their own special abilities and weaknesses. Transformation cues for any three Warriors can be bound to the X, Y, and B buttons at any one time, and the A button is either a context sensitive action button or returns Kameo to her original form. Gamers must learn to utilize every Elemental Warrior, and their specialized abilities, in order to survive. Transforming between the Warriors is effortless, but players will need to learn various combinations of Warriors in order to overcome enemies and platforming obstacles. The Elemental Warriors, through their movements, fighting style, and abilities, are endowed with separate and entertaining personalities.
A large portion of the game is dedicated to finding and upgrading the Elemental Warriors. Most of them have been trapped in Shadow Trolls, nightmarish creatures that serve as sub-bosses in the various areas around the world. Unfortunately, a few of them are not recovered until very late in the game, and so are not used to the fullest. The Warriors? abilities can be upgraded by feeding them Elemental Fruit that can be bought or won by completing the many side-quest found throughout the land. The side-quests are often as inventive and exciting as the main missions. Unfortunately there is no system to track or log the side-quests, and players just have to talk to everyone they see, which can make finding and remembering the quests difficult and frustrating.
Another unbelievably fun part of Kameo: Elements of Power may be overlooked by some players. Exploring the intricate towers of the Enchanted Kingdom or the wide-open spaces of the Badlands can uncover untold treasures. Bland as it may be, players can progress through the game by sticking to the main missions and side-quests, so there is no real incentive to take up exploring. However, that is not to say that players wont find their own incentives. The game gives few reasons to go trekking, but suffers less from this than most titles have because the game world is not overwhelmingly large. Gamers that choose to stick to the beaten path may find themselves leaving the game world too soon, but those that take the time to search the dark corners will find some of the most beautiful scenery and exciting bonuses the game has to offer.
Even the most well made single player games sometimes leave players with little reason to play through a second time. Rare has created a single player experience worthy of multiple run-throughs, but they also threw in a Co-op mode that really gives it replay value. As gamers play through different sections in single player mode they will unlock those sections for Co-op play. Then they can either fight with a friend or go online and battle side by side from across the globe. By putting a Co-op mode in what is essentially a single player game Rare will keep gamers playing for quite some time.
Kameo: Elements of Power is a strikingly original addition to the Xbox 360 launch lineup. It offers an awesome action-fantasy experience with the broad appeal every game hopes for. Rare quickly proves that next-generation graphics do not have to be about movie quality realism, but can come with a style utterly their own. Most importantly, though, it is amazingly fun.