Pingwinek Kelvin – Kao the Kangaroo’s rejected platforming rival

Tate Multimedia’s Kao the Kangaroo didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released on Dreamcast in 2000. The multiformat Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2 fared better in 2003 as a cheaper alternative to full-price platformers, but still fell short of becoming a commercial hit.

It’s a little-known fact that Kao wasn’t Tate’s only platforming mascot. 2003 also saw the release of Pingwinek Kelvin (Penguin Kelvin/Kelvin the Penguin) on PC. A very similar-looking 3D platformer to Kao, appearing to reuse a lot of assets, it saw the titular flightless bird traverse six snow-covered worlds to prevent a twisted scientist from melting the ice caps.

While it could be said that it’s a semi-sequel of sorts to Kao, or even a lost sister title, all signs point to it being a quick turnaround project that wasn’t intended to be part of the same universe. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that Tate isn’t too proud of this one. A project they took on begrudgingly, perhaps.

It was released as a budget title via Polish outfit Play Publishing and never made it outside of Eastern Europe. Specifically, Poland, Netherlands, Hungary, Russia, and Germany. An English language version wasn’t discovered until 2018 – some fifteen years on from its original release – discovered as an option in the incredibly rare Hungarian version.

Details are surprisingly scarce online. It’s the only game developed by Tate that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, and we couldn’t find coverage on long-running sites such as IGN and GameSpot either. A few YouTube gameplay clips, an entry on MobyGames, and links to dubious-looking “abandonware” sites were about as much as we could find.

That gameplay footage reveals a typical 3D platformer that’s seemingly average at best and bland at worst. Very much derivative of examples from that era. Despite this. comments suggest some people have fond memories of it – even though many had forgotten what it was actually called.

It seems fair to say that we won’t be seeing Kelvin in HD any time soon. Whereas older Kao games are available on Steam or GOG, Pingwinek Kelvin has been left to linger in obscurity, yet to gain a digital re-release. This appears to have pushed up the price of the physical version over the years, with copies selling for as much as £50 on auction sites.

Tate hasn’t entirely forgotten about Pingwinek Kelvin, though – on April Fool’s Day the official Kao the Kangaroo Twitter account joked that Penguin Kelvin EXTREME is coming soon to the Nokia N-Gage. Groan.

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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