Friday 30 November 2018

Kangaroo (Atari 5200 review)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1983

Kangaroo is a multi-screen platformer that was originally released in the Arcades in 1982.

You play as Mother Kangaroo and the objective is to rescue your baby from the top of all four screens. To do this, you climb ladders, jump over logs, punch monkeys and avoid falling apples. Fruit is scattered that will net you bonus points but a bell can be hit three times in each screen to release more fruit and increase your score further. This is one of the game's best features as there's multiple ways to play depending on how skilled you are; newcomers can simply head for the top to rescue the baby but veterans can take their time by maxing out the bell. The latter is dangerous as it requires backtracking through treacherous areas; the rewards are high though and I like how each loop adds further fruit into the mix to enhance the risk-reward element. Unlike the Atari 2600 port (1983), there's zero lag when attempting to jump and the usually flaky 5200 controller performs decently throughout. There's nothing special about the level design but all four screens from the Arcade original are present; I particularly enjoyed Screen 3 which cleverly gives you multiple ways to succeed depending on whether you want to knock down a row of stacked monkeys, or climb a series of platforms to reach baby kangaroo. The upbeat jingles (despite sounding distorted) perfectly compliment the gameplay arch, and the short tune that plays when climbing a ladder is a fantastic idea that allows you to precisely time when you can move horizontally at the peak of your ascent. The graphics are also a massive step up from the Atari 2600 version with more detailed sprites and graphical flourishes around each level.

Kangaroo is a faithful port of the Arcade title that looks and plays great, and has far superior controls when compared to its counterpart on the 2600. The level design might not be the most inspired aspect of its overall presentation, but it does have some unique ideas that will keep high score chasers interested in repeated attempts.

Random trivia: The game was also ported to Atari 8-bit computers in 1983.

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