As someone who grew up with 80s and 90s video games aplenty, I’m no stranger to two and three dimensional mascot platformers. In fact, some of my all-time favourite games include Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario Galaxy, not to mention Super Mario 64. Thus, I’m almost always up for checking a new one out; especially since they’re somewhat rare these days.
The last truly great platformer I played was Sackboy’s Big Adventure, which was shockingly good. It’d been a while is what I’m saying. As such, I was intrigued and optimistic when I got asked to review a cute looking platformer called Kukoos: Lost Pets.
Taking the form of a cute, colourful and kid friendly (by looks at least) 3D platformer, Kukoos: Lost Pets is a two to maybe four hour-long adventure that is surprisingly frustrating. It spans several worlds, each with a map like you’d find in an older Super Mario Bros. game or, more recently, Super Lucky’s Tale. One world is made of candy, another is a city that has its own train system and moving girders, and another has you dealing with pirate ships and ghostly things.
The general idea here is that, during a celebration called Pet Day, the Kukoos’ pets went haywire and got lost. This occurred due to some sort of faulty collar and a related mishap. The game is unsurprisingly light on story, but does have some short cutscenes and spoken dialogue. Not much or many of either one, though.
When I was downloading this game, I was optimistic and a bit excited. I guess I was hoping for nostalgia, and a game that I could beat on PS4 and then replay when it comes to Xbox. Now that I’ve spent hours with it, I feel differently. One play through was enough.
Is Kukoos: Lost Pets a downright bad game? Absolutely not. It is, however, a frustrating experience that suffers from an obvious identity crisis.
From the start, I got the impression that the developers aimed to recapture the feeling of such games from their childhood. They seemingly went about creating a game for all ages, and gave it a cute, cuddly and mascot style visual design. However, the gameplay isn’t sure if it wants to be friendly or downright frustrating. This results in a game that will annoy kids, as opposed to entertaining them like the great platformers of yesterday. Hell, I’m not a kid and I was frustrated.
The level design is mostly solid, and the game looks nice, with some pretty solid texture work, including candy platforms that look great. It’s not the visuals that are the problem, though. Simply put, too much of this game requires precision that its controls and platforming mechanics struggle to deliver. Some parts require great timing or perfect jumps, and it can be difficult to do what it wants. I fell to my death a number of times, after sliding off a cloud I had jumped to or something like that.
If Kukoos: Lost Pets controlled better, and had better mechanics, this would be a much more positive review. Reason being is, outside of some occasionally confusing level layouts, it’s otherwise a solid game.
Your goal is to complete levels, collecting as many coins, flowers and lost pets as possible. Then you come up against bosses, which are placed at the end of each world and take the Mario 3-hit approach. They’re big and colourful, but not all that original, and can also be frustrating. It doesn’t help that the player’s chosen Kukoo can get hit when it’s avoiding danger, and that it isn’t always obvious how or why it happened.
The platforming — which supports up to four players through co-op — is mostly just handled through jumping and diving/dashing; both of which are basically the same thing except one is in the air and the other is on ground. You can either jump or dash towards enemies to kill them, and will sometimes need to combine a dash with a jump to proceed to a more distant platform.
One other thing I should mention is the pets. Each world gives you a different one, and the idea is that you must use their special abilities to get through each level.
The first pet is electric, meaning it can light your way and activate switches. The second, then, is able to create platforms that the player is actually leashed to. Said platforms can smash things below them too. Moving on, there are other pets who can block certain attacks and fire projectiles, or turn you into a ghost with ghastly abilities.
I didn’t like the first pet much, but the others were better.
As I mentioned above, Kukoos: Lost Pets is a very colourful game, akin to traditional mascot platformers. It has good visuals, including nice texture work, and runs quite well. Furthermore, the game’s voice acting is tolerable and its sound effects are fitting. The music is also surprisingly good, but at least one song sounded like it was practically copied out of Nintendo’s Mario music book.
To conclude, Kukoos: Lost Pets is a nice attempt but far from a slam dunk. There are a lot of quality building blocks here, but it’s all let down by frustrating platforming and cumbersome controls. Thus, it’s hard to truly recommend, and is just ok.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with. It was reviewed using a PS5.
- Looks nice, has good textures
- Not too long
- 4 player co-op and unlockable characters
- Frustrating gameplay, due to control issues and anger inducing mechanics
- Not very long
- It isn’t original