I played an old video game and would like to write about it (Kameo: Elements of Power)

I don't think it unfair to say that I've been blogging about some ancient and obscure stuff recently. Between games that (thankfully) no one bought, Russian-developed Heroes of Might and Magic derivatives, and generally terrible independently developed Role Playing Games. Well, today is... probably different, inasmuch as you've probably heard about this game if you haven't played it. But before we get into that fun write-up, let's talk about other games:

Still playing King's Bounty Warriors of the North too. Still pretty good, despite being notably less stable than its brethren. Quicksave often!

I've made the mistake of committing to buy the opposite version of Pokemon that a friend gets (sounds like he's getting Y, so X it is), so you'll probably see something on that in the near future... assuming I don't quit out of boredom like I did with Black version. I said I was done, but they get me every time. Nostalgia is a funny thing. I was 7 when I first played Pokemon Red. Seven! Like anyone that age who played Pokemon, I pretty much exclusively used my starter and whatever Legendaries I caught, because kids are dumb and you'd be surprised how far you can get with mostly just Venusaur. My recent adventures with bad minimalistic roguelike something something caused me to reinstall The Binding of Isaac and Dungeons of Dredmor. I really don't like The Binding of Isaac, as I've quickly remembered. I don't like the way you have to aim your shots with momentum, I don't like the disturbing imagery and I don't like the part where I'm terrible at it. Dungeons of Dredmor is pretty great though, especially with the three expansions that add such great skill trees as "Emomancy" and "Paranormal Investigator". I'm still not great at roguelikes, especially when I get impatient and inevitably make a mistake that leads to my demise, but at the very least it feels like I can compensate for bad luck unlike FTL where the right drops are almost necessary to beat the final boss. I also "finished" MGS Peace Walker via the HD Collection (the idea of playing that game with the PSP's awful control scheme seems like an exercise in pain) and was originally going to feature it as part of this blog, but I figured that would make it way too long and also I may as well get the "true" ending that requires me to grind out enough parts to finish Metal Gear ZEKE before rendering final judgement. Expect that next week, because I've already written most of it. All this Zelda talk has made me want to finish OOT Master Quest too.

Right, what were we talking about? Oh right. Relevant video games. Like ones from 2005.

Kameo: Elements of Power

Did the 360 really launch 8 years ago? Geez.

Is, at the very least, much better than Grabbed by the Ghoulies or most of the Xbox 360's launch lineup.... which is about the highest level of praise I can muster for it. On my magical rainbow journey to discover the Rare games I missed between Starfox Adventures and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, I've come to the rather dark realization that for whatever greatness they achieved during the N64 era, they didn't exactly end up in their current situation as a shambling corpse/Kinect studio by chance. It's competently made, controls well and has some pretty great character abilities, but I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by the entire thing. A lot of that has to do with where games have come in the past 8 years, but even if I were to have played it when it came out, I sort of doubt I'd have been significantly more wowed. Still better than Ghoulies.

This game makes a lot more sense once you remember that it was originally developed for the Gamecube, essentially scrapped, redeveloped for the Original Xbox and then prettyfied for the 360 Launch.

As Kameo, resident fairy elf princess lady, you need to rescue your family from Trolls and your evil sister. To do this, you go through no less than four (4) different worlds, solving puzzles and murdering things with the help of the Elemental Warriors, cartoonish monsters that range from a plant that punches people to a dragon to weirdo stretchy monster. If this was a Zelda game (not an unfair comparison, though Starfox Adventures is still more of a Zelda game), these elemental warriors would essentially be the items, because Kameo isn't much good on her own. Each elemental warrior has one or two abilities that allow for puzzle solving or traversal (If something needs to be lit on fire, you probably should use Ash the Dragon, if a wheel needs to be turned maybe try Deep Blue's water spray, etc), some of which can also be used in combat, and there is a lot of that. The combat isn't especially deep or nuanced, but there's some satisfaction and fun to be had switching between the elemental warriors to get your combo meter up or whatever, and if you want an “A” rank (The only achievements in the game that seem in any way difficult) I'd imagine you'd have to perform well. Also much like a Zelda game there's a pointless overworld that adds absolutely nothing to the game, and you're not going to find much use for some of the 12 elemental warriors past puzzles that require their use, compounded even more by the fact that you receive them right up until the end of the game, a game that I beat in 7 hours. Forty-Below might as well be the Rod of Control from Twilight Princess with all the use I gave him.

Press RT to win combat.

If I really have a problem with Kameo (and I don't really have much of a problem with it), it probably revolves around the game lacking any sort of real challenge or difficulty. Much like Grabbed by the Ghoulies, it feels like Kameo was going to be a bigger, more ambitious game at one point (unlike Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo is still a game that is occasionally fun) but a lot of that ambition was lost between it being developed for 3 consoles and then clearly being focus grouped as the token “Family” game for the 360s launch. The way the game condescendingly offers hints (i.e. exact directions on how to proceed) any time you get remotely stuck in what is already a stupefyingly easy game probably doesn't help either. There's a certain cynical bent to it, as if to say that this is not only a kid's game, but also kids are stupid and need to constantly be prodded in the right direction to avoid getting stuck. Hey there Microsoft suit probably responsible for this, I played Banjo-Kazooie when I was 6, give me some credit. I'm glad I played Kameo, because it's an easy 600 achievement points and still has some Rareware charm to it, but by the end I was less than enthused by the whole thing. Having played plenty of bad games recently, it's not a bad game, but it isn't great either. Maybe my prior complaints sound like nitpicking but there are also a handful of puzzles or sequences so poorly designed that I had to check the hint to see if I was doing anything wrong. Relying on touchy video game physics to successfully roll bombs at a boss is not a fun or rewarding mechanic.

Oh, for extra fun, here's a video of the Original Xbox version going through the same poorly-made introductory sequence that you go through in the retail version of the game.

I hear there's a co-op mode too, so maybe I'll force my friends to play it. Other than that though, I think I'm done with playing middling to bad Rare games and will probably play through Banjo-Tooie or something as a palette cleanser. Until next time?

Posted by Mento

Man, how much do I want the two Banjo games to finally drop in price on XBLA. 1200 just seems like a little too much for a digital version of a fifteen year old game. I've probably just been spoiled by Steam and all these bundles - I just bought that Focus Home Interactive Weekly Humble Bundle, despite it being four mediocre CRPGs (hint, hint) and Cities XL.

But in all honesty, I'm kind of hoping you'll switch to a quality game that you'll actually enjoy. There's a point when happy schadenfreude becomes painful fremdschämen. Of course, if you ever wanted to check out a certain Descent-inspired dungeon crawler...

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@mento: Given that I could purchase the much-maligned Assassin's Creed III for as low as $12 this very minute, paying $15 for a 15-year-old N64 game could be a difficult pill to swallow. Doesn't change the fact that both are terrific, but yeah, Xbox Live Arcade is soooooo 2009.

Posted by dankempster

I picked up Kameo a few years back in very similar circumstances to yourself - namely, I'd played Nuts & Bolts, and wanted to check out some of Rare's other work to see if I'd enjoy it as much. The answers ranged from 'hell yeah' (Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise) to 'oh dear' (Perfect Dark: Zero). Kameo is, at present, the only one of Rare's Xbox 360 games that I own but haven't played at all. This blog has re-affirmed what had me interested in it in the first place - namely the Zelda-esque premise and mechanics, combined with the Rare logo stamped on the box - but it's also solidified a lot of my worries about actually playing the game - like the fact it's incredibly short, and not very difficult.

I guess what I'm saying in a very round-about sort of way is that it looks like Kameo is going to stay on my Pile of Shame for a little while longer.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@mento: FFFFFFFFF what is up with stupid forums eating half of my posts. I'll have you know that I can now claim to have played a full 10 minutes of Decent to Undermountain before the game crashed. Based on those 10 minutes, I can conclude that it's probably not great. Maybe I'll give it another try, maybe tweak some DOSbox settings but I'd much rather trick someone into making a Let's Play of it.

@dankempster: Right. Almost forgot about Viva Pinata. I hear those two games are actually good, so maybe I'll refrain from playing them until I get through my current stack of terrible (oh hai there Sonic Chronicles). It's funny though, because Kameo being short and easy means you could finish it in one or two sittings... as opposed to something like Final Fantasy VII.

Posted by Guesty_01

When Kameo came out I fully enjoyed the experience. Even revisiting it 2+ years later I still had a good time with the game.

It's the kind of game that doesn't seem to come along very often any more.

Posted by MB

Hard to believe this game is from 2005. I think I rented it for the quick achievements once...it's been so long, and I can barely even remember what I had for dinner last night.