Peace has returned to Hopalloo Island thanks to Kao's exploits in the original adventure. Thankfully for us Kao lovers the peace doesn't last long and Kao sets off to find new portals and spin attack thousands more enemies into oblivion. This time his nemesis is the evil Crab King who has corrupted Kao's home with purply crystal stuff (that's its scientific name.) If you're anything like me you probably tail-whipped hundreds of harmless small crabs in the original, so that might explain why the Crab King is being so umm... crabby.
I'm not sure what Kao was up to but he missed the corruption of Hopalloo Island, the sky looks foreboding with a purply tinge and there are massive pink & purple crystals and scary giant tentacles all over the place, and everyone, including Kao's family is missing.
The gameplay will be familiar to veterans; collecting coins to spend on extra lives or extending Kao's life bar and finding semi-hidden or hard to reach runes in order to unlock portals to new areas. Smashing crates and barrels like a certain Bandicoot and bashing certain other objects reveals more hidden coins. For some reason the developers seem to have forgotten my massive row of 10 life hearts from the original game and it's only possible to earn one extra heart (to make a total of 4) in Bend The Roo'les, which obviously adds to the difficulty...
You jump and double-jump with 'A', slam attack with 'B' and punch with 'X' and tail whip with 'X' when in the air–it's a really instinctive control system. Kao controls superbly and goes exactly where you steer him. Kao's boxing gloves (his Dad gave them to him in the original adventure) can be imbued with special abilities, but these are rather underused in Bend the Roo'les and there are no new ones. There are some new costumes to change Kao into, plus any you unlocked earlier.
Most of the new areas contain a time trial, which are probably too hard for n00bs and even any Kao veterans who are rusty (like me.) One annoying tendency I found is for Kao to punch the Start button for a time trial and roll off the edge of a platform into deep water‐resulting in a death (which as we mentioned in our original review https://www.gamecell.co.uk/reviews/kao-the-kangaroo is kinda daft as Kao lives on an island and Kangaroos are excellent swimmers.)
The new maps are Waterfall Islands (watery), Volcano Peaks (lava-ey), Twisted Hideout (jungly) Forsaken Monastery (icy) and The Eternal Sea (giant crabby). A new feature is areas of darkness, but you can light them up by releasing fireflies! As previously, the visuals are charming and well-animated but not exactly impressive by today's standards.
While some Platform adventures have given us gamers err... unhelpful and even bad cameras while exploring their 3D worlds, Kao is possibly the first that's left me with absolutely NO view of the action while in the middle of a fight (because the camera clipped into a wall or behind foreground scenery!) There are actually action sections where you need to steer the camera with the right stick while running and jumping flat out to give yourself a view of what's coming up! For some reason the designers also decided on some side-on fixed camera sections, which I really wasn't a fan of, but at least the camera can't screw you over in those... Can it?
As pleased as I was to get to play as Kao again, the big, impassable problem here is the same as so many games of late, the difficulty curve. Kao's wide appeal has always existed because anyone could play it, exploring the Hopalloo island level to a large degree, collecting coins with little or no skill, while 100% completion of the unlockable areas was/is challenging to all standards of gamer. The Bend the Roo'les maps are devilishly hard in places, and there's just no way around that, no matter how many life hearts or extra lives you buy with your collected coins, and that's a shame, unless you think "He's a giant crab with a laser cannon, and I have my boxing gloves" is a fair match. So look; Bend the Roo'les is only £6.59 on the Xbox Game Store, and yep, we finished it, had some more Kao-type fun and beat the Crab King and saved the day... But to be honest, it was a bit of a chore toward the end and wishy-washy artists' drawings instead of an animated outro left us with a bad, possibly crabby, taste in our mouths.