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Kangaroo The Video Game – Monkey Punching at the '80s Arcade

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Oh no! Those trouble-making monkeys have kidnapped all the baby Kangaroos and stuck them in tree branches! Luckily the Mama Kangaroos are to the rescue. The babies on the middle branches are saved, but at the top branch the monkeys set a trap for Mother Kangaroo. When she's halfway across the branch, she falls through a gap and plummets off the tree.

Now, this is one marsupial mama that ain't about to let her joey become monkey chow, so she takes all the skills she's learned from playing Donkey Kong and Popeye, unleashing a platforming, ladder climbing, gap hoping, Monkey punching can of whoop-roo on the menacing simians.

Basic Facts:

  • Title: Kangaroo
  • Publisher: Sun Electronics (Japan), Atari (US)
  • Developer: Sun Electronics
  • Release Date: 1982
  • Type: Coin-Op Arcade Game
  • Genre: Single-Screen Platformer

A year after Ms. Pac-Man gave a gender changing twist to arcade heroes, games with playable female characters started popping up more often. One of the most notable took took elements from Shigeru Miyamoto's hit games and mixed them with a marsupial hero on a mission to save her child from menacing monkeys.

Birth of a Boxing Kangaroo Arcade Mama:

Starting in the '70s, Sun Electronics, a division of the Japanese Sun Corporation, started releasing arcade games exclusively to Japan. In order to expand their reach to the united states, Sun licensed out their titles to the video game giant Atari, and the first game released though the deal was a single-screen platform game staring a boxing Kangaroo.

The game was a major success for both Sun and Atari, leading to more arcade games being released in the US though their partnership as well as titles for Atari's home console systems, the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200.

Eventually Sun Electronics would put stakes down in the US and start manufacturing and distributing their games themselves. Soon after which they changed their company name to Sunsoft and focused primarily on the home console market, making hit games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Neo Geo and Sony Playstation.

The Gameplay:

Although Shigeru Miyamoto had nothing to do with Kangaroo, it certainly has the look, style and feel of his games. This is partially because it contains many of his signature elements. Everything from the placement and style of the platforms, their flow, and the punching game mechanic, screams Miyamoto, but Kangaroo's true designer remains a mystery, at least on the arcade version. According to MobyGames.com, the home editions of Kangaroo were programed by Kevin Osborn. Outside of that there are no credits associated with the game.

The game is broken down into four unique stages, where Mama has to reach baby who has been blindfolded and locked up in a cage. Along the way, the "nasty" monkeys try to stop her by throwing apples.

Mama Kangaroo's only weapon are her boxing glove covered fists, which she uses to punch the monkeys as well as the apples they fling at her, just as Popeye did to the bottles that Bluto and the Sea Hag threw at him in his own arcade game.

Mama can also jump over and duck under the flying apples, or dodge apple cores that the monkeys overhead drop down on her. If she goes too long without throwing a punch, a giant ape appears on screen and tries to steal her gloves. While they reappear in a few seconds, without her gloves Mama Kangaroo is helpless.

While Mama can wrack up her score by punching Monkeys and saving her kid, she gains bonus points by grabbing strawberries that appear throughout the stage. She can also replenish the fruit supply by punching a bell that appears in each stage.

There are four different stages in Kangaroo...

  • The first screen is right out of Donkey Kong's first level where Mama has to go back and fourth between ladders, each of which will lead her to a higher platform that eventually ends at her kid, locked in a cage at the top.
  • The second stage has Mama hoping across gaps between smaller platforms, some hanging from vines while others that lead upwards like steps.
  • The third is the most original level in the game. Instead of having Mama hop her way to the top, she stays at the bottom and punches out a stack of Monkeys that are holding her baby up over their heads in a cage. As soon as she knocks enough Monkeys out of the stack she can reach her youngster.
  • Round four is a series of small platforms and ladders spaced throughout the screen that Mama needs to navigate. Jumping must be timed just right because if she misjudges her leap, she falls and loses a life.

Final Thoughts:

Kangaroo is often considered the best Miyamoto game that Miyamoto had nothing to do with, and to be honest, it really only has elements inspired by the famed designers games. The truth is that Kangaroo is a terrific arcade game in it's own right with a good feel that never gets repetitive. It's a shame the title has not seen a re-release since its heyday of popularity in the '80s.

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