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’Kukoos: Lost Pets’ Review: Genuine Charm and Good Moves

Kukoos: Lost Pets screen 1

The charming 3D platformer Kukoos: Lost Pets promises to make players go cuckoo with a rather traditional take on the genre. Does it stick the landing?

 

It’s widely known that 3D platformers (sadly) aren’t a common occurrence nowadays, at least outside of Nintendo’s realm. Crash Bandicoot 4 and the latest Ratchet & Clank are the most recent platformers from big non-Nintendo publishers, and indie developers appear to be mostly focusing on reviving the 2D era of the genre, though there have been notable exceptions in recent times, such as Yooka-Laylee or A Hat in Time. As a direct result, there’s plenty of space for up-and-coming studios to swoop in and wow old-school gamers.

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets comes from Brazilian studio Petit Fabrik, who previously worked on the animated TV series for kids Lupita no Planeta de Gente Grande. Less than five minutes into Kukoos, it becomes abundantly clear that experience has shaped much of the game’s visual identity, especially during cutscenes with a clear and sharp sense of humor that is often conveyed through specific shots and camera movements. Finding cute indie games is plenty easy, but finding cute indie games that make good use of tools from TV and cinema to elevate what they’re going for is kinda hard. Before I move into matters such as plot, graphics, and gameplay, I’d like to remark how utterly pleased I was with this aspect of the game.

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets screen 2

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets transports players to a seemingly small island in a world completely covered by water. A species of cute (but chaotic) little beings called Kukoos live there in (apparent) harmony. During a “pet celebration day” of sorts, a giant robot frog crashes the party and brainwashes the Kukoos’ pets, which become rabid creatures scattered across different dimensions after taking over a magical tree that contains doors to other worlds. If you are now thinking the main Kukoo(s) — up to 4 players can join forces — simply walks through those doors to start fixing things, think again. While the plot (again, aimed at the little ones) doesn’t really do anything new, I cackled at some of the in-universe mechanics and its little comedic twists, which are a brilliant display of personality.

 

After players are thrown into the actual game (following a short prologue which teaches the basics), one can see Kukoos wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, with level selection screens that come straight from classic Crash Bandicoot and an overall design that resembles the most famous 3D Mario entries. It all delivers on the promise of capturing that specific type of magic, and Kukoos largely feels like a game from two decades ago in the best possible ways. The basic controls are as simple as possible for a 3D platformer, and the game’s playable gimmick, the pets themselves, doesn’t take more than two additional buttons to work in all instances. It’s a brisk experience that only throws curveballs at players through clever level design that never becomes infuriating.

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets screen 3

 

Something that has left me confused is whether some levels are slightly more open-ended than they seem at first or I was breaking them by taking advantage of a generous geometry. I’ll explain this a bit further: as lineal as the structure of every level is, they almost never become wide corridors a la Crash Bandicoot, thus allowing for some maneuverability at times. And in many instances, I simply hopped over obstacles that weren’t the most obvious, saving myself some trouble or cutting a handful of seconds from the overall run (speedrunners rejoice). Aside from one time when my character got stuck in a fall animation between two objects, I never felt like I was cheating, so maybe it was all “legal play.” No matter the final answer, I enjoyed doing some of the platforming “my way.”

 

Unfortunately, the final bosses are more uneven — something directly imported from the first two Crash Bandicoot installments. I won’t spoil them here, but their difficulty (which is never frustrating) is all over the place, with an encounter from the first half demanding more from inexperienced players than, for example, the penultimate boss. Three hearts seem like a lot of HP in a handful of the later levels vs. some of the earlier ones, and that was by far the weirdest thing I found in Kukoos design-wise. Another small disappointment is how awfully short the adventure is. You’d think the early access period, which has run for around one year (more than initially announced), would beef up the original offering of worlds and levels a bit more, but it’s a short romp even if you take your time collecting all the items and doing the bonus scenarios.

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets screen 4

 

The vibrant art style is sustained by up-to-date graphics. Mind you, the overall quality of models, animations, etc. won’t match the stuff we’ve recently seen in triple-A platformers, but Kukoos is a pretty game which makes good use of modern techniques without sacrificing visual readability (a common mistake among first-timers). Perhaps a couple of the later stages feel flatter, but I think it has more to do with the art direction than the technical work on display. Likewise, sound and music are top-notch for the task at hand, and the original soundtrack is pure charismatic, kooky chaos; many of the game’s tunes will be stuck in my head for a while.

 

I believe Petit Fabrik has something really special here despite some noticeable shortcomings, and it’s hard not to recommend Kukoos: Lost Pets to anyone looking for a family-friendly little platformer full of confidence and charm. Moreover, it feels like a perfect Christmas release to decompress from the huge fall video games we’re now starting to leave behind.

 

Kukoos: Lost Pets is now available on PC (Steam), PS4, and Nintendo Switch. PS5 and Xbox releases are coming in 2023.

 

Thanks to Modus Games (publisher) and Tinsley PR for the PC review code.

 

 

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