Release Date: Q4 2005
Easily the game longest in development for the Xbox 360, Kameo has undergone quite a few changes since its initial inception. Originally slated for release on the GameCube, that plan was quickly nixed when Microsoft snagged Rare from Nintendo.
Shown last year on the Xbox, Kameo has evolved to become one of the premiere launch titles for the Xbox 360 later this year. To really showcase the power of the X360, our demonstration began by showing Kameo running on one television powered by the Xbox and on an identical one powered by the 360. The difference was like between night and day, and every facet of the game was enhanced 100-fold. It looked nice on the Xbox, but on the X360, the world of Kameo was alive. You can see thousands of blades of grass, thousands of particle effects, miles and miles of draw distance, improved character models, lighting, and textures. Trees and grass sway while lights not only cast real-time shadows on the characters, but on each individual leaf and blade of grass. I practically had to ask for a bib, but little did I know that this was also the least impressive part of the demo.
The gameplay revolves around a young girl name Kameo who must take the form of 10 different creatures to help save the kingdom from invading forces. Not much more can be said about the story at this time, but I gathered that her sister is most likely the cause of these invading forces.
The gameplay is that of a third-person action game unlike any other I have seen before. In most action games, the main character does all of the fighting, but Kameo herself does not do any of the actual attacking. She morphs into a beast with varying abilities to dispatch her foes. The first form we were introduced to is Chilla, an ice gorilla that has spikes of ice that line his back and has the ability to summon ice shards in a variety of attacks. Personally, I found him to be the most enjoyable character. In one situation, Chilla picked up an enemy orc, stuck him on his back spikes, walked around the corner, picked the orc off his back again, and hurled him at another enemy, sending both flying over the castle wall.
Some of the other forms we saw included Major Ruin, an armored roly-poly that can barrel through enemies like a bowling ball, Pummel Weed, a boxing plant that can burrow underground, and Ash, a dragon with some devastating fire attacks. Whenever you transform into one of these creatures, you can still see Kameo inside of them, a feature not possible until the X360. This is not merely to prove their graphical prowess, but also to serve as a constant reminder that Kameo is at the center of the game and the story is all about her.
These various forms you can take on have huge gameplay implications. You can use the various abilities of each form to perform combo attacks that will increase your overall score. One combo we were shown was Chilla raining down ice to pin the enemies to the ground and then quickly switching to Major Ruin and bowling them over in a whirling sphere of death. Combat is not the only time when you will need to take advantage of the unique talents of each form. There are various puzzles and platforming elements that will require you to switch between forms. For instance, you may need to roll up a wall as Major Ruin and then switch to Chilla to grab onto a wall of ice and climb up a tower wall. This process may sound awkward and cumbersome, but this is Rare we are talking about here. Their primary focus is creating deep gameplay that is accessible to all, but still challenging for the hardcore. All of the controls are pickup-and-play, simple enough for even a novice gamer, which is one of the primary reasons Microsoft brought on Rare to join the Xbox team.
The final portion of the demo was also the most exciting. In a scene that can only be likened to Lord of the Rings, Kameo, accompanied by 1,000 Elven warriors, charges down a mountain into a sea of approximately 3,000 orc invaders. This scene was entirely in-game, without even a hint of slowdown, and each individual unit is governed by its own A.I. At this point, I asked how many units they could have on screen at once. He took Kameo to another area, where there were another 1,000 orc units and a huge creature that I assumed was a boss, but turned out to be just another standard battlefield unit. Surely this had to be all it could handle, I thought. Then she rode down another hill, and there were about 1,000 more units waiting for her. This was one of the most – if not the most – impressive things I have ever seen in a game, but then I was told that these were running on an alpha machine that is only about 35% the power of the final X360. I can't even imagine the scale of the final build.
The guys at Rare have really done something magical with this game, taking it from a rather standard action platformer and turning it into an epic game in both scale and gameplay. It is accessible to beginners, and the combo system and implications it provides for the Gamer Card will satisfy even hardcore gamers. Developers estimate around 30-40 hours of gameplay, which is respectable for any game, but almost unheard of for a platformer. There are also RPG elements to Kameo, such as the ability to upgrade the attacks of all of Kameo's forms, so for those who must get everything, the playtime should be even greater.
More articles about Kameo: Elements of Power