The Game: An adorable kitten (and his twin, in the case of two-player games) runs and jumps around a maze of obstacles, trying to stay out of the clutches of such enemies as an insect in a lab coat, a large and angry-looking tomato, and a crocodile that walks upright. (Further levels add new and even stranger enemies to avoid.) The kitten(s) can push the blocks making up the maze, hopefully smashing an enemy against another block or one of the playfield’s outer walls in the process, temporarily removing that enemy from play. A defeated enemy drops numerous items, including coins, diamonds, and one of several keys needed to open a door allowing access to the next level of the game. (Konami, 1988)
Memories: Even in the late ’80s, game companies weren’t above “borrowing” each other’s concepts and play mechanics, and here we have a prime example of Konami “borrowing” the basic play mechanic of one of Sega‘s more low-key sleeper hits, because just six years before Kitten Kaboodle, enemies were being squished by blocks pushed by a penguin.
One thing really distinguishes Kitten Kaboodle from Pengo, though: the two-player co-op mode can be hysterical. In theory, it could make quick work of the game’s multitude of enemies and obstacles, but let’s face it, it’s hard to try to get into serious coordination when dealing with a game about kittens running from something inspired by The Fly. (The two-player mode of Pepenga Pengo for the Sega Mega Drive was still a few years off, so the kitties clearly won the race to add a co-op mode to the block-pushing action of Pengo.)
And one other thing: though there’s not a single pop tart or rainbow in sight, the original Japanese version of Kitten Kaboodle could be the progenitor of one of the most bizarre 8-bit-style creations of the 21st century. In Japan, the game was called Nyan Nyan Panic – perhaps the two kitties were the precursors (or, assuming they’re not siblings or cousins, ancestors?) of Nyan Cat.
Kitten Kaboodle is an interesting take on the Pengo play mechanic, brought up to the NES-era state of the art and every bit as cute.