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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360)


By Michael Palisano

Rare's Kameo: Elements of Power has been in development for many years, but has finally arrived along with the Xbox 360 console. The game offers a mix of traditional platforming and adventure elements, and its play mechanics and structure should be familiar. However, the ability to morph into different characters know as Spirit Warriors gives Kameo a unique feel. From a visual standpoint, Kameo's lush production values bring its brightly colored world to life vividly and take full advantage of the console's power. Kameo offers players plenty of variety with mini-games, sub-quests and an involving main adventure that is challenging. This highly polished title is quite engrossing so read our review, and find out why Kameo has been worth the wait.

Set in a distant mystical land, Kameo: Elements of Power is the story of a young elfin princess who's family has been kidnapped by her evil sister Kalus in an attempt to gain power over the Enchanted Elf Kingdom. Kalus has also released the evil Troll king from his long slumber, making the situation even more dangerous. Kameo begins the quest by trying to assault the enemy troll castle on her own, but doesn't succeed. Upon her return to her home village, she's given another chance and advice from a mystic seer. Most of the action takes place far from her home world in a series of lands that she can access through portals. It's here where she can reach portals and travel through a series of dangerous lands in order to free her family, fighting the troll armies. While Kameo isn't quite powerful enough to take on the armies of trolls and other monsters thrown her way by herself, she has a number of allies in her quest. These Elemental Warriors are spirit forms that she can morph into and use to attack the trolls. Unfortunately, after her unsuccessful assault on the Troll Castle, they've been captured by the Kalus and the evil Troll king, Thorn.

In order to release the captured Elemental Warriors, she has to fight the terrifying Dark Trolls in the Shadow Realm, along with the deadly lost souls as well. These battles can become quite intense, as she tries to capture enough light energy from the lost souls she defeats and aim it at the Dark Trolls. Every time she defeats one, she can unlock one of the Warriors. When released, they can be used to give her a number of new abilities and attacks. Some of them can climb, roll over gaps, or perform devastating attacks. They can also be enhanced and upgraded with new moves and abilities by collecting special fruits. Once activated, she can morph into these creatures at any time by pressing a button. However she can only assign three of them to her inventory and will have to learn when to use them and which ones are most effective against which foes. In addition to her spirit allies, she carries a book with her call the Wotsot, which contains the spirit of a wizard named Ortho, who talks to her and gives her advice. Kameo can also use the book to save her quests and manage her game saves and change which Warrior creatures she's enabled.

Kameo's presentation and structure is fairly straightforward, with players encountering a number of different areas, each of which presents a number of challenges. She'll spend plenty of time battling troll soldiers, who attack in various forms and numbers depending on the area. Trolls can hide and attack in unexpected ways and places, so you need to be careful at all points. Some of the trolls are very hard to defeat, and you'll have to use your Warrior modes to defeat them. At other points in the game, you'll encounter a sub-boss character where you have to switch between Elemental Warriors in order to beat them. For example, you can use the Weed character's attacks to stun a troll boss, and switch to the ice character to fire at them while they're confused. It sounds like an incredibly simple system and for the most part it is, but figuring out when to use these creatures is half the battle, though the book usually helps to point you in the right direction. Its this diversity of characters and attack style that really makes the gameplay shine, with a variety of different tasks. Kameo can't climb walls or jump over large gaps by herself, but these can be accomplished with many of the creatures, which adds to the challenge. This interplay between the characters gives Kameo a unqiue feel that definitely helps the game stand out from the pack.

You'll travel through many different lands during the quest, and each one presents a different look and feel with a unique series of puzzles. There are also mini-games and side-quests for you to use, and since these usually offer rewards and extra items, it's usually worth your time to go through them. Many of these quests also make good practice and help to introduce you to techniques and tactics you'll use later on, so you probably shouldn't rush through the game. In addition, players can choose to go back later on in the game and replay previous battles and earn extra items and increased experience points. You can also choose to go back and play the missions co-operatively with other players as well, with increases Kameo's replay value substantially, though not to the extent that you'd think it would. Rare has done an excellent job in creating the game's structure and overall feel, the various worlds are expansive with plenty of room for exploration. While the game emphasizes action and platforming, there are also some RPG elements, such as character building, shops and there are loads of NPC's to interact with throughout, who offer information and tips. This gives the game some strategy as well, since you need to decide which Warriors you want to build up and which ones don't need much extra juice. Overall, Rare has done an excellent job with the play balance, with a decent mix of action and strategy inside a story that unfolds at a good clip.

While you can go through the game quickly, its much more rewarding to slow down a bit since there are many hidden areas and secrets to explore. Another reason to keep a modest pace is to enjoy Kameo's beautifully designed game world, which is alive with lush objects, gorgeous animation and incredible environments. The game is a showcase of both the Xbox 360's amazing graphics power and Rare's creative spark, which is evident throughout the game. With environments ranging from idyllic villages to dark imposing castles, the visuals never fail to impress. Many areas feature hundreds of objects moving independently of one another, creating a game of epic scale and intense scope. You can see huge formations of dragons flying by during the castle levels or plow through scores of troll Warriors on horseback in other areas, all of which creates some absolutely breathtaking moments. With such an impressive sense of place achieved, the game never lets up with its unrelenting beauty. From a technical standpoint, the game shows off an incredible amount of detail. Each level is incredibly detailed down to the smallest objects, with reflections, elaborate light sourcing and beautiful environmental effects implemented with little slowdown. 

One of the most impressive aspects of the game is its design, with each character given a unique look and feel that's inspired by anime and fantasy novels. This epic scope extends throughout the game, showing the sheer magnitude of the quest. The design of the Trolls and Elemental Warriors are very cool and give off their own distinct personality, adding to the overall flavor. These incredible visuals are some of the most impressive on any platform title to date, and are enhanced by Kameo's epic orchestral score and extensive voice acting which brings the action to life. Sadly for all this detail and polish, Kameo's camera system can be problematic at certain points. When you are running around in the behind the character mode, the camera system works well, but things get a bit touchy when you switch to first person mode. This makes it difficult to aim at foes, and is particularly problematic when you're fighting one of the Dark Trolls. It makes for an occasionally frustrating title at points, when things that should be simple become exercises in futility. However, you can compensate for this awkward setup after awhile aren't enough to ruin the experience, and Kameo's good points outweigh the camera problems.

Don't be fooled by it's somewhat juvenile appearance, Kameo: Elements of Power is a surprisingly challenging and deep title. Things start off with a bang at the castle, and while the action slows down a little after that, the game deepens to offer a solidly entertaining quest that's quite engrossing, if a little predictable at points. The game plays smoothly throughout, with a good mix of combat, action and strategic elements that achieves a good balance between these styles. The key element to the game's appeal lies in the multiple Warriors you can use, which gives Kameo a unique feel all its own. Figuring out how to use these creatures effectively is a major portion of the game, with some appreciably clever and interesting puzzles and tasks that challenge you to think, instead of merely blowing through the game. It's a large and involved game and has some RPG elements, but also quite accessible so don't be intimidated by its initial scope. This is definitely something you can play in small doses and still make significant progress in. Rare's traditional pacing and structure are evident throughout Kameo's level design and structure, giving the game an accomplished and highly polished feel. While the game suffers from some camera problems, the beautiful presentation, smooth frame rate and breathtaking scale make it worth the occasional aggravation. Kameo hasn't really received the attention or kudos of some of the other Xbox 360 launch titles and that's a shame. It's full of inventiveness, creativity and offers plenty of surprises that make it worth the money and time to play. Kameo: Elements of Power isn't the most hyped title of the console's birth, but this sleeper brings a few new twists in the genre to make it one of the best launch titles on the system.

Grade: B

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