Disclaimer: the code for this game was obtained for free, from a source that had obtained it for free from the developer.
Wii U version tested
Cards on the table: I had not heard of Legend Of Kay before it landed on my virtual desk. As it may have slipped under your radar too, here's the inside skinny. You are Kay, whose legend it is in the first place. He is a cat, but not like that irritating moggy who lives next door and spends 80% of its time asleep on your wheelie bin. Our guy is a human-like warrior whose once peaceful land has been taken over by a conglomerate of rats and gorillas. Kay decides he has had enough of the ratyranny and goes on a quest to free his people.
Thus begins a fairly generic action adventure with a smattering of redeeming features to lift it out of the ordinary. The original was released in 2005 and we wish more had been done with the gameplay for this remaster. The combat in particular feels a bit elderly - since Kay's heyday we've experienced the Arkham trilogy and the Bayonettas, so a three-hit combo, jump attack and roll no longer cut it. The ace up Kay's sleeve is the combo meter: once you've offed an enemy, it starts to build and you can then press a button to attack another enemy in range, and another, and another... when this works, it's a joyful ballet of violence. However, about 20% of the time it fails for no good reason.
Whilst the presentation is lovely - some of the story is told via pretty comic book cut scenes and the aesthetic is 95% bold and bright - it has a number of issues that can take the player out of the game. It is a bit rough around the edges: Kay's door-opening animation occasionally grants him the power to walk through walls and the lip synch comes from the Sock Puppet School of simply opening and closing the mouth. The Muppets have better lip-to-sound co-ordination, to be honest. My favourite was emerging from a building and having the camera angle change once control was given back to me. That saw Kay go in and out of the same door about five times in a row (have I told you about my condition?). You can sort of excuse it, most of the time, but that is not a recommendation.
Then there's the voice acting. The game loves to talk and most of the characters speak in a measured fashion which takes about 25% longer than it should. The merchant, in particular, will not shut up about his wares and his chats drag. It gets to the point where quality voice acting is the exception and not the rule, especially with the worrying accents some species are given - Jamaican frogs, anyone? It is also hard to like Kay: he's a cocky punk whose voice actor sounds like he's on his first rodeo most of the time. The only endearing thing the hero ever does is after he's been swimming, when he shakes himself dry like a real cat.
Then there's the game itself. It feels incomplete, like it's about 65-70% of the game the original developers wanted to make. The epicness of Kay's story goes from 0 to 60 at one point - before that you're almost like a film cowboy, going from town to town and fixing people's problems before moving on. The difficulty curve is badly judged: you are forced to git gud way too soon but the challenge never rises afterwards. Once the combat is mastered, there are no new enemy types - just guys with more armour. The bosses are too few and too easy: I beat the game's three-stage final boss in about ten minutes.
After ragging on the game for about 90% of the last three paragraphs, it's time to tell you what there is to like. The music never dips below average, with some pieces hitting real heights. Some of the dungeons approach Zelda-like quality levels and exploration is almost always rewarded. Your three main weapons can all be upgraded and do different jobs in the overworld. There is a thick layer of charm over everything, though the game can be too enthusiastic at times - more like an excited puppy than a confident cat. There are plenty of collectables and things to unlock. It also gets a point added to its score for being about half the price of a new retail title.
Ultimately, though, Legend Of Kay Anniversary feels old but not old enough to be retro. The update it has received for this remaster can only be called 70% successful at most. There are some moments that will make you smile and there are some moments that'll make you howl in frustration... but there are not enough truly good moments to give the game a firm recommendation.
Final Verdict: Someone found an ancient artifact and gave it a polish, hoping that a genie would pop out. That didn't quite happen but Legend Of Kay Anniversary is a harmless enough diversion for a Wii U owner who's had enough of twiddling their thumbs. Owners of every other platform the game has appeared on have many better things to play and should 100% consider carefully before committing.