The Game: As a mama marsupial trying to save your baby from many malignant marauding monkeys, you go on a rescue mission that involves climbing through many, many levels of the monkeys’ treehouse village, punching primates, dodging airborne apples, grabbing various fruit items along the way (considering the abundance of apples, strawberries, cherries and bananas, one can only assume these are Pac-Man’s table leavings), and avoiding the big, purple boxing-glove-stealing ape. (Atari [under license from Sun], 1982)
Memories: While some American coin-op game companies jumped on the license-from-Japan bandwagon and scored big early on, such as Midway (who imported Space Invaders and Pac-Man from two different Japanese game makers), Atari was a long-time holdout. Atari’s internal coin-op division was its own internal hit machine, and that simplified things when the consumer division needed hot new arcade titles to translate to the company’s home game consoles.
But Atari didn’t hold out forever; with Namco touting its status as the company that brought the world Pac-Man, it was able to command top dollar for its upcoming coin-op titles, which Atari was in a position to pay (Xevious, Pole Position). Atari also locked down the U.S. rights to less prominent games that the company felt held some promise. Kangaroo was one such game, licensed from Sun Electronics (not the computer workstation giant), makers of the obscure Funky Fish. In addition to the rights to redistribute their licensors’ arcade games, Atari also locked down cartridge and computer rights at the same time, meaning that Kangaroo was also released for the 2600 and 5200 at home.
Kangaroo was a pretty interesting entry in the climbing game genre, though it embellished very little on the basic climbing concept seen early on in Donkey Kong. Kangaroo allowed the player to take some action against obstacles or enemies that earlier climbing games would only allow you to jump over, but this was hardly an innovation, as similar features appeared in Burgertime and other games around the same time.