Date: December 6, 2022
Kukoos: Lost Pets might be the worst game I’ve ever played. Being generous, I’ll just say that it is one of the worst games I’ve ever played, assuming that anything worse than this would’ve caused enough brain damage to make me forget the experience entirely. It’s that bad.
In preparing to write this review, I considered a few times whether I was being too harsh. After all, Petit Fabrik is a Brazilian developer with only one other project under their belts that I could find. Kukoos: Lost Pets is their first game intended for an international audience, and I played it on Switch, which seems to be the worst version of the game. “Maybe,” I asked myself, “Maybe I should be kinder? Maybe I should give some leeway to a fledgling indie developer’s first big project.”
And then I saw this screen for what must’ve been the three-hundredth time, and I decided it would be war:
That’s the loading screen that comes up whenever you die. And you will die. A lot. You will spend most of your time in-game looking at this screen, and it will never feel fair. I was still finding new ways the game would unfairly cause me to die even up to the credits. From terrible camera positioning to janky platforming controls to straight-up glitches, I died to random nonsense in this game more times than I died to Malenia in Elden Ring. And that loading screen, which popped up for about 5 seconds too long every time I died, was even more agonizing than the Waterfowl Dance.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There is a lot wrong with this game, and if I just rant about everything I had a problem with, I’d never publish this review in time. Instead, let’s just go section-by-section to perform a field autopsy on Lost Pets, and figure out what went wrong.
Kukoos: Lost Pets is, at its core, a 3D platformer, in the vein of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, or Banjo Kazooie. All of those games are nearly a quarter century old at this point. Kukoos: Lost Pets makes them look like the cutting edge of modern, playable game feel. There are several reasons for this, but the worst is the camera, which is so far back, at such a jilted angle, that judging a jump’s distance or where your character is on the Z-axis is impossible.
Other issues with the movement include a general feeling of unresponsiveness in the movement, and some dreadful movement mechanics introduced by the game’s several “Pets” (who will discuss in a moment), but I could look past all of that if the game would just let me control the camera in third-person, like a normal 3D platformer, rather than giving me a shockingly bad static camera that seems to work against me constantly.
This is a game reliant on surprisingly precise jumps and accurate movement — far more unforgiving than any other 3D platformer I’ve played — where all the systems relate to that movement. This is also a game where missing a jump means an instant death (alongside 15 seconds of loading), or where you might even just fall straight down to an earlier part of the level. If a game like that has bad movement, it is left with nothing, and this game doesn’t just have bad movement, it has unusably awful movement.
Complementing this dreadful movement system is the game’s central gameplay gimmick: Pets. In each world, you unlock a different Pet to assist you, and these Pets give you a variety of powers. I just want to go over each real fast, because I think helps understand why so much of the game doesn’t feel good.
- The first pet you get is also the only one that is useful: they let you fly by tapping the jump button. The only reason this is a good pet is that it lets you survive when you would otherwise fail by letting you glide right over the insufferable platforming sections.
- After the prologue, they are replaced (yes, replaced, as in, “you lose the only power making the game playable“) by a pet that serves as a flashlight. That’s it. A flashlight. It makes the muddy, gross-looking world it is used for playable and can stun a bunch of things that you don’t need to stun.
- That flashlight is then replaced by a summonable block that you can jump on and swing from. But, this block (whether summoned or not) makes your jumps either weak or unpredictable, and the swinging mechanic feels more like a bad physics simulation.
- After that, you get a helmet that can cover your entire body like a shield, and magnetically attract projectiles that it can launch at objects and enemies. This is only ever used to destroy obvious targets, which vanish when hit, with essentially no animation. Oh, and it also slows you down.
- Lastly, you get to become a ghost. This ghost can go through some walls, and avoid damage on some spikes. You have to switch mid-jump between it and your character often. It’s… fine, I guess.
So, I’ll say it: none of these powers are bad on the surface. In fact, some of them are pretty creative, and you could make some pretty interesting levels out of them if they were done correctly. This is where one of the two points I’m giving this game comes from. The “Pets” in Lost Pets suck, and they aren’t fun to play with, and they actively hamper you more than they help, but they do, at least, have potential. Whoopee.
At the end of each world, you fight a boss. These are all mind-numbingly easy bosses requiring you to simply use the power of whatever pet you have to beat. You’ll still die a lot, to impossible camerawork or seemingly unavoidable attacks, but the core of these fights is simple. They also glitched out more than any of the rest of the game, wonderfully. At least the bosses look good; they are about the only thing that does.
The last thing worth mentioning pertaining to gameplay is the collectibles. In each level, you are given zero to three stars, depending on if you gathered enough coins if you found all the level’s “Fwiendly Flowers” (which are like Mario 64‘s Stars or Banjo Kazooie‘s Jiggies), and how many “Pets you freed” (defeating enemies, in this game, means freeing pets). The coins and enemies are very easy to get all of in a level, and the Flowers are usually so obviously hidden that even a cursory run-through of a level can easily get you all of them.
And yet, despite being one of the most completionist gamers I know, I didn’t. The platforming sucked too much, and getting all those stars in each level would’ve meant playing it more. I refused. Do you know how hard it is to get a completionist to not collect everything in a game? It’s hard. And yet, the collectibles in this collect-a-thon are still not worth the hassle, despite how easy they are to get.
As mentioned before, I could mention a thousand more things wrong with the gameplay — and you know I wish I had the time to tell you if only so I could make someone share my suffering — but, as mentioned, I don’t want to be here all day. Just assume that any other issue you can imagine is present, and then assume that for every one of those issues you can imagine, there are three more that you didn’t even realize could exist
The story of Kukoos: Lost Pets is threadbare. On “Pet Day”, everyone puts mind control devices on their pets, which immediately short-circuit, causing them to go crazy and be led by a giant frog belonging to the king (Kooktopus). You have to go through a bunch of magical worlds that are accessed via doors attached to a tree (no, this is not well explained) in order to defeat the Frog and his minions and free all the lost pets.
That’s all fine for this kind of game: it is simple and fun, easy for a kid to understand without much prodding. I don’t have any issue with the plot. What doesn’t work at all, though, is the voice acting and script. Here is where I’ll exercise some kindness: the developers are Brazilian, and working with a limited budget. It is very obvious they couldn’t afford top-tier voice acting or localization. I can hardly blame them, and there is still a charm to how much effort the voice actors put in for the weird and janky script.
Because of this, the cutscenes in this game are charming in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way: they feature hilarious lines spoken by over-enthused voice actors with bizarre, sometimes hilarious animations, all trying to make sense of a nonsense plot. While nothing about this can be said to be unironically good, I had a lot of fun laughing at the cutscenes.
That’s where the 2nd point of this review comes from: a cheesy, “so bad it’s good” story. And yes, that does mean that we’ve gone over everything good about this game.
I’ll be brief here: the art in this game feels lazy and boring. The character designs are uninspired, looking like Fall Guys characters mixed with monkeys. The levels look awful and muddy, with pieces from disparate styles thrown haphazardly around randomly to create a Frankenstein’s monster of level design. And the sound design… Don’t even get me started on the sound design. Suffice to say: the noises everything makes are almost as grating as the music that plays throughout.
Put another way, the whole thing is just ugly, and most of it is uncreative. What little visual originality is on display here, too, is brought down by its connection to some other subpar system or mechanic. The bosses and pets are the only two things I’d say have decent visual designs, but all I can think of when I look at them is how they interact with the game itself to immediately feel negatively towards them.
When I saw the trailer for this game, I had hoped that it was going to be a bright, shiny adventure with plenty of fun designs and creativity. Even if I didn’t like the character design, there seemed to be so much potential there. All squandered. What a shame.
Though there are countless more things I could say about this game, I think my overall impressions are clear: Kukoos: Lost Pets is a dreadful game. Its core mechanics feel awful to play and result in so many needless, unfair deaths that I can’t even recommend this as a game to keep a toddler occupied, lest they develop a sense of nihilistic hopelessness from its gameplay. Its story has a kind of “so bad it’s good” charm, but the limited resources the developers were working with means that’s the best thing I can say about it. And its art direction is woefully uninspired and downright ugly.
There is nothing to redeem this game, and no reason to play it unless you are planning on doing so as a study into what makes a game fail. In the end, the greatest kindness I can give is this brutal honesty.
Hey, Graves. Just saw this review right before i’m about to complete the game, and honestly in my opinion, there’s a LOT i have to unfortunately disagree with here, and i do think you were a bit too harsh in some places. For one, it is an indie game, with this being PetitFabrik’s first console game. And while this doesn’t FULLY excuse the issues with the game, the game still has tons of issues that absolutely NEED to be fixed in order to keep gamer’s attention grabbed. You played the Nintendo Switch version of the game, which is of course the worst one with 3x more technical issues from any other version. The graphics may not look too good to you because it looks honestly fantastic on every other version. And i own both the Switch and PS4 versions of the game and i say they both look good in their own separate ways. The Switch clearly isn’t very powerful, so i’d cut it some slack. I’d also like to say that i almost fully disagree with your statement on the level design being bad. I personally think it’s very great (especially in the first world), and one of the best things about the game. And about the art, the game (in my opinion) looks awesome on ALL consoles. The designs may not be too varied when it comes to the Kukoos’s designs, and they do indeed look a lot like the Fall Guys characters, be aware that both of those games are COMPLETELY different, and aim for 2 different gameplay goals. While i disagree with a lot here, i completely understand this is your opinion. 🙂
I appreciate your comment and the time you took to write it; cordial disagreement can be far too rare sometimes. I do agree that I likely had a significantly worse experience because of the platform I played it on, but I can only review my experiences (even as I saw people elsewhere getting more out of the game elsewhere). I do think that the poor Switch release indicates that it shouldn’t have released on Switch as it was, and so feel fair in judging it for doing so.
While I certainly disagree on the design aspects you mention, I do understand where you are coming from and can see how it could be right for a different audience, which also makes sense given some much more positive reviews I’ve read.
The only place where I markedly disagree is in cutting this game slack because it was an indie release. While I understand the reasoning, the fact is that most of the coverage I do is on indie games and many of the games I find to be the best are indie titles. Just a few months after this review, I reviewed Tchia and gave it a 9.5, and it has a very similar story in regards to its small, essentially-debut, indie team. I like to think I do judge indie’s on their own merit, and I avoid comparing them to triple-A games, but the fact is that, when compared to numerous other indie titles I’ve played, I still placed Kukoos about where I felt it should be placed.
Thank you again for the thoughtful comment on my review; I am always happy to hear constructive criticism. Have a wonderful day.
Brutal. But hysterical. I played Kukoos on PC in Early Access, which was a much better experience. Can’t argue with you here though. Glad I happened upon your site!