Legend of Kay Anniversary - Wii U Review

An Unlegendary Legend Returns

Legend of Kay
Kay takes on some rats. Nordic Games

Pros: Generally good platforming, decent combat, nice score.
Cons: Really terrible game camera, painful story.

There’s a lot of combat in Legend of Kay Anniversary, a Wii U port of the revival of 2005’s PS2 action-adventure game Legend of Kay. You fight bomb-throwing rats, armor-clad apes, giant pirahnas, and savage insects. I can best those foes, but Kay contains one adversary that, in spite of my valliant struggles, beat me every time: The game camera.

Developed by: Kaiko
Published by: Nordic Games
Genre: Action-adventure
For ages: 10 and up
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: July 28, 2015


The Basics: You Damned Dirty Apes!

Legend of Kay takes place in a world of animals – cats, frogs, rabbits, etc., whose lands are invaded by apes and rats bent of conquest. Kay is a young, unlikable cat who decides to restore order.

Restoring order involves wandering around finding objects that will open other objects. Getting to these objects generally involves either battling hordes of enemies or jumping from one precarious ledge to another.  Kay must also occasionally ride a beast – a boar or tiger or dragon - steering it past obstacles.

The Story: Make It Stop, Make It Stop

I love a game with a good story. Kay is not that game. Kay does storytelling about as bad as can be done. Dialogue is flat and lifeless.

Acting is painfully bland. The story is miserably generic. Picture a particularly terrible kids cartoon, and then picture something so bad it makes that cartoon seem good by comparison, and you’ve got The Legend of Kay.

On the bright side, you can skip it all. After a couple of hours I noticed that settings include the ability to turn off cut scenes.

You can also bypass dialogue with a button press.

I cannot recommend enough that you do this. Every once in a while I would listen to some of the dialogue or turn back on cut scenes and feel instantly annoyed. Every second watching Kay’s story is a second of your life shot to hell. Games have done storytelling as badly as Kay, but I’m not sure any have done worse.

Gameplay: Familiar

Kay has that mix of combat, puzzle-solving, and platforming typical of the genre. You have a few items, like bombs (in combat I usually blew myself up with them) and hornet swarms (handy and inexpensive). You acquire a few different weapons that are useful in different situations, although since I kept hitting the weapon-switching trigger accidentally and winding up with the generally useless claw weapon I would have been happier with just one good weapon. There’s also a magic attack that I kept forgetting to use. When I tried it, I thought it was often more bother than it was worth.

The most unusual skill is the combo attack. When you’re in a combo, you can hit the X button and then push the analog stick towards an enemy or a destructible object and jump to it, even if it’s high above you. It’s one of the more powerful attacks in the game, so once you start a combo you can mop up enemies relatively quickly.

It’s also sometimes used to let you jump through the air to reach high ground.

Kay also sometimes has to ride a creature through a series of obstacles and gates. I can’t say these sections were bad, but they always annoyed me, involving little more than memorizing the turns.

Kay contains a few boss battles. These are often less difficult than the regular battles, once you figure out the trick to them, and add little to the game.

The Big Flaw: A Recalcitrant Camera

There are a number of problems with Kay, but none compares with the issue of the camera, which not only won’t adjust to a useful angle as you travel but often won’t allow you to aim it where you need it. During a series of quick jumps where the developers would have known exactly where the camera should point, the player is made to adjust it before each jump. If there’s a place above you to travel to, the camera cannot be pointed up to see where it is. The game has odd little cut scenes for things like going through doors that will make you think you’re facing one way and then, just as you start moving, shift in a way that will have you walking back through the door you just entered.

I found myself figuring out workarounds, like jumping from a hill to try and see something up high or setting a camera at an odd angle before a jump so it would be semi-well placed for the following jump.

This is one of the worst game cameras I can recall. To be fair, setting the camera in a 3D platformer is inherently problematic and a common point of criticism. Still, what’s the point of releasing a remastered version of an old game if you don’t fix its biggest defect?

The Verdict: Not Necessary, But Not Awful

Still, once you turn off the cut scenes and come to terms with the camera, the game does work as a sort of low-rent Zelda-style adventure. It’s visually okay, and the score’s rather nice; my girlfriend described one theme as “haunting.” The 17 hours I spent beating the game weren’t the best of my life, but the platforming is decent, the combat is acceptable, and the game basically scratches the 3D platformer itch.

The real puzzle of Legend of Kay is why it was resuscitated at all. It’s a fairly obscure game that hardly belongs in the same company as remastered classics like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Ico, or Silent Hill 2, and while some critics at the time described it as a worthy game that got lost in the holiday shuffle, to me, it’s obscurity is understandable. Fighting apes and rats can be fun, but no one ever buys a game because they want to fight a camera.