Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Video Game Review: Kangaroo for Atari 2600

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun game play on two stages
Cons: One very hard stage, Donkey Kong rip off
The Bottom Line:
This game can be fun
Once you figure out jumping
As you save baby

Help the Mother Kangaroo Rescue Her Baby in this Donkey Kong Clone

There are some arcade games I remember from the 80's that never really seemed to catch on.  While some of those puzzle me because I thought they were fun, others make perfect sense.  One of those is Kangaroo.  The premise is just too similar to Donkey Kong.

Having said that, this was one of the first games I got for my Atari 2600.  I bought the game system Christmas Eve, and my grandparents gave me this game on Christmas day.  And I remember hours of fun playing it.  Well, once I got the second stage figured out.

The premise of the game is that some evil monkeys have kidnapped a baby kangaroo.  You are controlling the mother as you try to make your way up to the top of the screen to rescue him.  The monkey's try to stop you by dropping apples on you from above or throwing them at your level.  You can either jump over the apples, duck under them, or punch them, depending on how high they are thrown.  There is also bonus fruit to pick up along the way.  I didn't pick up on it as a kid, but as an adult, it seemed like a rip off of Donkey Kong.  You are trying to get to the top of a level to rescue someone you love.

The controls are fairly straight forward.  You use the joystick, and up makes you jump or climb while down makes you duck or climb down a ladder.  The red button throws punches for you, and you can punch monkeys and apples.  There is also a bonus timer at the bottom.  You get whatever is left added to your score at the end of each level, but if it runs out, you die.

There are a total of three stages.  The first is pretty basic.  You have to climb ladders to three different levels.  It's the second stage where things get hard.  There are almost no ladders, and instead you need to leap from ledge to ledge, usually at a diagonal.  The Atari 2600 joystick wasn't designed to do this easily, and it is very frustrating because you have to time each jump just right or you fall off and die.  But I seem to remember getting this figured out as a kid, so you can learn to do it if you invest the time.  Plus you've still got apples coming at you from above and the side.  The final stage uses a combination for ledges and ladders, but I find these ledges much easier to navigate.  Seems like they should have switched stages if you ask me.  I think I may have played the arcade version once, but I don't know for sure, so I can't comment on how these stages compare to the original.

What I can comment on are the graphics here.  The apples are just squares.  When you see the kangaroo and the monkey from the sides, they look okay for an Atari 2600 character.  However, whenever they are climbing, they look laughable.  It's hard to recognize them at all.

Every time you move, there's a bit of an annoying bumbump noise, and you get another noise for jumping and climbing.  There are a few musical cues when you clear a level or die.  It's basic, but it works.

And there are game variations.  In novice, you start out with monkeys that throw apples at you on two levels and they throw apples once per trip onto the screen.  Once you have beaten all three stages, the monkey's throw two apples per trip and at three different levels.  This is how they behave if you chose the advanced game variation to start.  You can play by yourself or with two people alternating turns as the other dies.

I can remember being frustrated with this game until I got the controls figured out, but then I had lots of fun racking up points and fruit going round and round the stages.  Kangaroo isn't a classic, but once you get the movement down, it's fun.

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