How can I start a review of Kameo: Elements of Power without throwing in a well worn mention of how Microsoft paid over three hundred million dollars for the developers? Or mentioning that this title has been in production since before the Gamecube was released? There also seems to be a requirement that reviewers mention the slide in quality in Rareware titles since the Nintendo64 days, but to be honest I was never one of their biggest supporters.
However, even I can say with a straight face that that Kameo would have made a far better post-Nintendo debut title for Rare Studios than Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which while a nice throwback to simple arcade games of old wasn't anywhere near the AAA+ quality titles that Rare is known for from the Nintendo64 days. The big question though is whether Kameo is a step back towards the glory days of Rare or just another third-person platformer with a kid-friendly look?
Jumping on Mushroom Guys
From the first unveiling of the Xbox 360 Kameo was the one title I consistently had on my "must buy" list. I figured that it had to be good if everyone who got solid hands on time with it kept praising it. It probably didn't hurt that Microsoft VP Peter Moore kept praising it every chance he got as well. Besides you need a solid action game somewhere in your collection, but is Kameo really that game?
Possibly. What really jumps out at you are the four plus years of polish the basic gameplay mechanics received, but there are a lot of nagging issues you would think would have been fixed somewhere along the way. Yes, the story is surprisingly fresh (and the initial cut scene quick and informative), but for game positioned as a "mainstream friendly" title Kameo doesn't ease gamers into the experience. Instead she throws you headlong into Metroid Prime morphball-style jump puzzles.
It seems that Rare figured that they could get away with having the game start without a training sequence (though oddly one happens well after you've become accustomed to the gameplay) because the "whatnot" book is on hand from the beginning to provide hints and tips. When players fail to follow the whatnot's advice in a timely manner the advice changes tone to become flat out obvious answers. In a way the tip system feels a lot like the one in Metroid Prime only without the manual scanning of enemies and environments. You'll encounter a new foe and after a few moments of battling with it the "whatnot" book will chime in that it has new advice for defeating the foe.