At the moment there seems to be a plethora of platform games being released into the British market. For anyone out there who has never played a platformer (you never know there maybe someone out there who has wasted their time playing tedious sports related titles or mindless button bashing beat-em-ups!!), platformers are the thinking persons type of game, relying on brain power, patience, strategy and puzzle solving to complete levels. This, however this may sound boring and stuffy but not when you realise that you are playing games that are colourfully produced, very witty and generally full of sub games that keep you entertained from start to finish. I think that I can safely assume that any gamer that enjoys this genre will be very familiar with titles such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and the various incarnations of Crash Bandicoot. But in addition to these big names in platform games recently there have been a number of equally good but maybe lesser known titles released on to the market. Two such games I would recommend investing a few pounds in are Sly Racoon 2 and Scaler both released on the PS2, both games are beautifully produced and thoroughly enjoyable for players of all ages. Another recently released title that is worth investing in is Legend of Kay.
The story goes that the cat villagers on the island of Yenching have always lived in harmony with their neighbouring communities which are made up of various species of frogs, pandas and hares. All of these creatures follow "The Way", a spiritual, harmonious and peaceful way of life. As long as each town or village lives by "The Way" magic wells in each location will produce water that nourishes both the body and the soul. However over a period of time the inhabitants of Yenching start to neglect the teachings of "The Way", the wells dry up and the peace and tranquility is shattered when the island is invaded by the gorilla army of the evil emperor Shun. Pretty soon the gorillas have teamed up with the scheming rats and have taken over all of the villages. The villages are forced to hand over their weapons and the teachings of "The Way" are forbidden. The Mayor of the cat village stupidly believes that if the villagers co-operate with the gorillas then they may benefit from the collaboration and so complies with all of their demands.
The only one who isn't at all convinced about this new arrangement is a young cat named Kay and he decides he is going to do something about the situation. He turns to his old Master of "The Way" and tells him of his intentions to put the world to rights. The master however has now not only old and demoralised but he has now developed a liking for the alcoholic drink nettlemead. Kay finds his master in a drunken stupor and puts him to bed for the night to sober up, but the following day Kay returns. He tells his Master of his intentions and in return the Master gives Kay a wooden sword and teaches him some battle moves and magic powers that may help Kay in his quest. During one of these lessons the gorilla army turns up and the Master is forced to abandon his fighting school. This is all the incentive that Kay needs and he sets of on his quest to save the villagers from destruction.
As with most platform games the first level is used as a form of tutorial. By speaking to other characters in the village they will instruct you on how to accomplish most of the basic moves in the game such as the jump, long jump, forward rolls and spins etc. You also learn how to swing from one rope to another which comes in useful later when traversing wide gaps and most importantly of all you learn about the combo moves. This is probably the most important element of the game. I have to admit when I first played Legend of Kay I could not get the hang on the combo moves and I arrogantly believed that they must be incredible complicated if I could not get the hang of it first time around as I have been playing platformers for... lets just say quite a while. However on my second attempt at the game I very quickly realised that I had misread the screen directions and in fact combo moves are incredibly easy to accomplish, I hang my head in shame!!! Basically during a fight scene by striking opponents with your weapon of choice a combo rating will appear on the right of your screen. Also arrows will appear on screen these arrows are showing you the location and direction of other assailants that you might not be able to see at the time, by pressing the triangle button you will move from one assailant to another. As you defeat your foes your combo rating will increase which means that your striking ability will increase. However this is only for the duration of the fight and soon as you stop fighting your combo rating will slowly decrease back to one. Certain boxes that contain special items such as armour or extra life are dotted around your environment some of these boxes have a number written on them, this means that the box can only be opened when it is struck with a weapon that has a certain combo rating or above. Sometimes you will find that you need to gain access platforms which are a considerable way away. You will usually find that in this instance there will be a number of floating warrior helmets that are around. If you jump and strike the first helmet with the square button your combo rating will appear on screen as 1, by quickly pressing the triangle button and using the left analogue stick in the direction of the arrows on screen you will be taken to the next helmet, strike again with the square and press triangle and you will be taken to the next etc, etc, each time you strike a helmet your combo rating will again increase.
In the beginning you start off with a wooden sword, but as the game progresses you will also obtain claws and a hammer, each of these items can be upgraded three times usually by buying upgrades from the shopkeeper who appears somewhere in each location. At the shop you can buy various potions, bombs, armour that will help you on your way you can also obtain heart containers which will extend your life and magic containers which will increase your magic ability. During a battle by pressing and holding down the square button Kay will emit a kind of magic charge that will deplete the energy of any enemy that it comes into contact with.
Also at various times in the game you will need to ride either a boar or a wolf to move quickly from one area to another. I really enjoyed this variant in the game play as it broke the game up nicely so you don't get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Here you press the R1 button to jump on to the back of your trusty steed who takes off at a gallop. Arrows on the course will show you what direction you have to go but you will find that there will be obstructions to jump and barriers to demolish along the way. If you misjudge a jump or hit a wall then you will be unceremoniously thrown off and you will be taken back to the start. Along the way you will also see acorns and chili peppers floating around, if you pick up an acorn then your steeds energy will be replenished (if it runs out again you will be thrown off) however pick up a chili and your speed will increase for a short period of time. These courses have to be completed in a given amount of time, run out of time and guess what...?
Legend of Kay is a very good game that should appeal to platformer lovers of all ages, the story is interesting and easily understood and is not bogged down by an intricate plot. However I was a bit disappointed by the cut scenes which are demonstrated by way of comic strip animation, I am no a great lover of this type of storyboard but that is just a personal criticism and it does not take anything away from the game. Kay as a character is believable having the same feisty tenacity that you expect to find in any teenager who believes he can do what others can't. There isn't really much in the way of dialogue but the game doesn't need it, what dialogue there is however is witty and well presented although I don't understand why occasionally Kay will utter the odd swear word as the plot and storyline does not really warrant it. The game could have been made accessible to younger gamers but I believe that the makers of the game have possibly eliminated some of the younger buyers market as parents may not want their children hearing such language.
Graphically the game is also very good, however as with most platformer titles there is sometimes a problem with camera angles that can sometimes make jumps and targeting enemies a little difficult but again this does not detract from your enjoyment of the game too much. The environments are superb from the beautifully designed Japanese style buildings in the villages to the molten lava cavers of the volcano.
Legend of Kay is one of those games that due to the lack of marketing could quite possibly be easily overlooked. It may not be up there yet with the likes of Jak and Daxter and the other big boys of platformer gaming but I believe it is well worth looking out for and spending a few pounds on.