Retro Coin Op Synopsis
In 1982, Sega took the basic gameplay of Scramble, gave it a new perspective, and scored a huge hit with Zaxxon. One year later, the company gave Donkey Kong the same almost-3-D isometric view, added a few new levels, and released the results as Congo Bongo.
There were no kidnapped girlfriends to be rescued here. Congo Bongo was a game of revenge, pure and simple. Bongo the torch-bearing gorilla snuck up to the sleeping Hunter at the game’s opening and gave the poor pith-helmeted sap a burned rump. In retaliation, the Hunter chased Bongo through four treacherous levels, risking life and limb for a little prankster payback.
The first stage, “Primate Peak,” was the most Donkey Kong-esque. In it, the Hunter scaled short cliffs level by level on his way up to the top, where Bongo stood throwing coconuts at the Hunter’s noggin. Blocking the path to the top were several small monkeys, who tried to team up and throw the Hunter to his doom.
If the Hunter managed to reach the top, the game moved on to “Snake Lake,” where scorpions and snakes prowled. It took at least three big hops to reach Bongo—one onto an island chain in the center of the screen, then one jump on and one off the back of a swimming hippo—but the snakes roaming the island usually forced a few more leaps as well.
“Rhino Ridge” was the next challenge, a race across a flat landscape, with only a handful of “mole holes” to duck into for temporary refuge. Charging rhinos were the biggest threat here, darting toward our helpless Hunter with horns lowered.
The final stage, “Lazy Lagoon,” found an unsuspecting Bongo napping peacefully at the far end of the lagoon. Unfortunately, the only way across was a series of dangerous rides on the backs of floating hippos and large fish.
Congo Bongo’s unique take on the platform genre made it an arcade favorite when it arrived in 1983. Unfortunately, and through no fault of its own, the game’s success was short-lived, as the early 80’s arcade golden age was already beginning to dwindle. The Hunter and Bongo may never have achieved the same kind of superstardom as Mario and Donkey Kong, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. At least they’ll always have the Congo…