| paleface [sys=PS4; cat=Platformer; loc=NA] |
(Original arcade game 1982 Sun Electronics aka Sunsoft)
There aren't many games I would say I like, few I would say I REALLY like, and, if you had asked me before for any I loved, I would have stared at you blankly. And yet, after an hour of play, I LOVE Kangaroo--a hot, burning love.
The colors are weirdly streaked, the animation jerky and flickering, the sound odd, and your character sluggish. And I love it.
Ripping off the previous year's hit Donkey Kong, your mama kangaroo climbs ladders, crosses platforms, and jumps gaps to reach her stolen sweetie--in this case her blindfolded child who, like you, wears boxing gloves. Mama dies from the slightest fall, walks slowly, navigates ladders loosey-goosey, and allows her child to be stolen after each level.
But she is a champ at punching. Monkeys. One punch reduces a child-thieving(?), pink-striped monkey to a crumpled mass. She can fend off a large, DK-like but extendo-armed gorilla--who also wears boxing gloves, and steals yours. She can punch apples thrown by the monkeys, or apple cores they drop at you.
In four leafy single-screen stages, you start at the bottom, your child trapped above you. Giant strawberries hang down, worth points; ring the bell to add tomatoes (??), then other, more valuable fruits. Punch the monkeys and their missiles. Reach your child: their blindfold gone, they cry "Ma ma!" in katakana--no US "Mom!" version here. Then to the next stage; clear all four and they repeat, with larger monkey hordes.
There are random-ish elements. The ape appears if you go too long without punching--maybe just sometimes. Dropped apple cores may bounce differently, but I can't be sure they weren't dropped at different spots in response by my mama's movements. And monkeys fling their apples at a seemingly random height, to which you have to react with the corresponding jump or crouch--or, against their mid-height throws, a skill they gain in the 2nd loop, with a punch: a Pac-Man style intermission before the 2nd loop starts shows them throwing an apple core, and your kanga-mom punching it back to strike them, but I've only reached the 3rd stage of the 2nd loop, and they've only thrown (tomato-like) apples, which disappear when punched. Sometimes, even midway through a stage, monkeys start flinging TWO apples. Sometimes they seem to take different paths.
All seems staid in the first two stages, if you don't dawdle; it's the 3rd stage where things get crazy: punch out a whole stack of monkeys supporting your child's cage; take too long, and monkeys collapse a huge pile of apples above, raining sweet death.
The 4th stage looks plain: mere ladders and platforms. But 3 routes to the top: an agony of choice! And with platforms staggered at irregular heights, and numerous wide ladders easily intercepting the slightest upward tick on the stick, two monkeys offset beside me spelled almost certain doom.
Atari distributed Kangaroo in the States, and their video for arcade owners
and the flyer
describe the stick as "6-position": no down-diagonals; it's unclear from those whether it was an 8-way stick that simply didn't trigger when moved down-diagonally, or whether it was blocked from those directions; https://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8275 calls it "8-way."
Atari also distributed Dig-Dug in the US at the time, yet it was Kangaroo that got at least two animated Saturday Supercade cartoon episodes:
(Video links from https://arcadeblogger.com/2017/11/10/atari-kangaroo-the-elephant-in-the-arcade/ .)
According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_(video_game) , the musical riffs are classical or folk tunes, including a melody when you ring the bell, that doesn't sound much like a bell.
The game is immensely frustrating. Up is too sensitive, causing accidental deaths. Mama's jump takes longer to launch than it should. Monkeys drop apple cores just when you thought they weren't going to, or throw at the height you didn't expect. Failure means a stage restart, but not a fruit reset.
And yet, I always felt that on the NEXT try, I was gonna tear right up that tree, pulverize those monkeys, and rescue that kid. Playing was compulsion. I was gonna do it this time. I'm gonna have all its babies and punch all its monkeys.