Way, way back in 2005, a new game appeared from Rare. Now, I had been aware of Rare’s work for a good long time, having played such classics as Sabrewulf on my ZX Spectrum, and also having fallen in love with the original Killer Instinct arcade game in 1994, when I was a fresh-faced young man. So, having played the conversion of Killer Instinct on the SNES to death, the news that Rare were due to release a game for the shiny new Xbox 360 was very welcome indeed. So come with me down memory lane while I cast my mind back to a time when the world was a much shinier, much more hopeful place than the one we see today, with the elemental good times of Kameo: Elements of Power.
The first thing to say about Kameo is that it certainly took its time arriving. During its development life cycle, it was pencilled in for a grand total of four different consoles: the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, then the original Xbox, and finally it was finalised as a launch title for the awesome new Xbox 360. The story was the usual kind of throwaway nonsense, if I’m absolutely honest, and the Big Book of Character Cliches was raided mercilessly for the narrative. Kameo is an elf, and she has to travel the world to recover her elemental powers so she can rescue her family from her outcast sister, Kalus, and the Troll King, Thorn. The tutorial/introductory level was interesting, as in it Kameo does have access to three of her elemental powers, but at the end of the level she is ejected into the outside to grow stronger and try again. And thus begins her journey.
The way that the elemental powers were implemented made things interesting. Instead of having creatures under her control (which was apparently the plan from the start, turning the game into an almost Pokemon-like experience in the early days), Kameo can instead morph into the shape of the creatures, such as a fire breathing monster who can light torches, right up to a plant-type thing that can punch enemies, using the well-known trope of violent plants. In all, Kameo has five separate powers to choose from, these being Fire, Plant, Rock, Ice and Water, and she can use two different forms of each power, making ten “Elemental Warriors” in all for her to utilise. Each of the powers is found or activated just in time for it to become useful, so while the game does have some puzzle elements built in to it, the majority of the time all you need to worry about is to think back to which power you got last, then utilise that to make progress.
I think it was fair to say that the puzzles were solved more by the application of a judicious beatdown, rather than by the utilisation of meticulously crafted logic. Each Elemental power can also be upgraded by finding fruit and giving to the Wotnot book (yes, really). These upgrades are a nice touch, but honestly I never really felt they were that necessary. Still, since when has collecting things ever been a chore in a game, eh?
Combat in Kameo was a nicely weighted affair, and had a very interesting time dilation twist built into it. As Kameo landed successive hits (or rather, as one of her alter egos did, as her abilities in the fisticuffs realm seemed to be limited to breaking crates) an on-screen meter filled up and she was able to slow down time, making fighting a lot more manageable. And boy was that lucky, as while the combat wasn’t overly taxing, especially when each enemy’s elemental weakness was worked out, there was still a lot of fighting to do. Each level kind of followed a similar kind of plan, with a roomful of baddies to deliver a good kicking to, and a “Shadow Beast” – the boss of the level – to find and defeat, usually rewarding us with a new power to use.
One thing that stood out about Kameo was the visual look, and I can imagine that way back at the launch of a new generation of hardware, it would have blown the punters away. The world was bright and vibrant, and even when I played the game again – around about 2009 if I recall correctly – it still looked amazing, with draw distances seemingly to the moon and many, many bad guys to fight. The sound was, however, a little more middle of the road, and while the tunes were pleasant enough, none have really stuck in my head from way back when. Still, having come from Tomb Raider on the PS1 to this (I include this as a testament to how far the games industry had come in 9 short years!) it really does show how the games industry has come on leaps and bounds, and again comparing Kameo to today’s offerings makes me want to go and have a little lie down.
As Kameo went on in its life cycle, they obviously released some extra downloadable content. Luckily, Rare were fairly classy about it, and had promised before release that they would add a co-op mode in for free; they were as good as their word. Other DLC packs included the obligatory costume packs, and also the Kameo Power Pack which, in addition to leaderboards, gave players new achievements to try for. The biggest surprise was the addition of new game modes, however, as these ‘Expert’ offerings made the game more challenging. Time Attack allowed co-op players to attempt to finish levels as quickly as possible, and Rune Battle would give the option for two co-op players to go about collecting as many Rune items as possible.
As time went on, Kameo: Elements of Power was re-released as part of Rare Replay, including all the DLC, and this helped bring it to a new generation of players. You could even, if you had a cloud save from the Xbox 360 version, import it onto the new shiny Xbox One, and this was another very good piece of fan service, in my opinion. It may surprise you to learn (as it did me) that a sequel was planned and in production before being dropped in favour of Rare going about developing games for Microsoft’s Kinect. A video looking at this unreleased game was included in the Rare Replay package, narrated by the concept artist for the game, Peter Hentze.
So, these are my memories of playing Kameo. How about yours? Did you play it on launch, when it was one of only a couple of games available? Did you pick it up later, or play it in Rare Replay? Let us know in the comments.