Retro Coin Op Synopsis
Atari had always been at the top of the video game world, but the 1981 Nintendo hit Donkey Kong caught the arcade industry completely by surprise. Seemingly overnight, an entire new genre had been created—the “platform game”—and similar games began popping up everywhere. Though their position in the arcade industry was still secure (Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command and several other Atari titles were still swallowing quarters at an amazing rate), Atari decided to get into the platform act as well, purchasing a Sun Electronics game called Kangaroo.
In concept, Kangaroo played like a game of Donkey Kong Jr. (released the same year), but in reverse. Instead of a baby ape rescuing his kidnapped daddy, the boxing marsupial star of Kangaroo was out to rescue her baby from a gang of meddlesome monkeys. Armed only with a pair of boxing gloves and a mean jab, mother kangaroo climbed ladders, leapt over platforms and punched out monkeys to get her baby back.
On the first of four levels, mama wound her way up and across several platforms, knocking the daylights out of any monkey she could get her gloves on. The primates also fought back, flinging apples from the side and dropping cores from above.
The path back to baby was strewn with bonus fruits—strawberries, cherries, pineapples and more—and when mother rang the bell placed on each level, even more fruits would appear. But if mother got greedy and dawdled, a giant gorilla appeared from off-screen to snatch away her gloves, leaving her powerless against the monkey onslaught.
Once mother got to the top of the screen, she and her little joey would have a happy reunion, accompanied by an electronic rendition of “Oh, Susanna.” But no sooner did the wee one shout “MOM” than the monkeys snatched him away again, forcing mother to complete another level.
The second stage had mama jump and climb up a diagonal path to her baby, careful not to fall too far or she’d lose a life. Level three offered a completely different rescue mission. This time, baby was in a cage held up by a column of stationary monkeys. If mom wanted baby back (and she did), she had to punch the monkeys out of the column one by one (each took several hits), until the cage was lowered enough for her to reach. Making matters worse, more monkeys joined the column as the level wore on.
The fourth stage was a return to the climbing and hopping of the first two, but with a much trickier path. The monkeys also moved faster and more randomly, creating a near-constant barrage of projectile fruit.
Kangaroo shared Donkey Kong’s endearing premise and cute, cartoony graphics, but the game never caught on like its Nintendo rival. Once again, Atari seemed to be none the worse off, releasing future hits like Dig Dug, Pole Position, Star Wars and Gauntlet, but despite a brief cartoon run on Saturday Supercade, poor mama kangaroo and her monkey co-stars never saw their dreams of franchise glory come to fruition.