Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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Kangaroo is a 1982 arcade game developed by Sun Electronics and distributed by Atari.  The game is similar in play to Donkey Kong (as I am sure was intended by Sun) with a Kangaroo as the main character and monkey’s as the antagonists.  The goal of Kangaroo is to score as many points as possible by collecting fruits and ‘punching’ the monkeys.  The monkeys are diabolical and will throw or drop apples and apple cores at the kangaroo.  If an apple hits your Kangaroo, you will lose a life and have to start over at the bottom of the screen.   You can advance to the next screen (and score some bonus points) by rescuing joey at the top of the screen.  You can also score additional points by ringing the bell, which will regenerate the fruits.

The arcade units of Kangaroo ran on a Zilog Z80 microprocessor with a General Instruments AY8910 sound generator.  Kangaroo was ported to the Atari 2600, the Atari 5200, and a version was developed for the Atari 8-bit computer line, but never officially released.

Although Kangaroo was only a modest hit in the arcades, Kangaroo was featured on the CBS Saturday Supercade cartoon lineup in 1984.

2600 version…

In 1983, Atari released Kangaroo for the 2600.  Given the limitations of the 2600 back in the eighties, Kangaroo is a pretty good port.  The graphics, although monochrome, are pretty well done and the flicker found in many 2600 games is minimal.  Kangaroo for the 2600 has solid control with a standard CX-40 joystick and the 2600 version features three of the arcade’s four levels.  Given the limitations of the 2600’s TIA chip, the sound for Kangaroo is also pretty well done.   Kangaroo for the 2600 is not an easy game to play and it is surprising addictive….you will find yourself hitting the reset switch over and over!

5200 version…

The 5200 version of Kangaroo was also released in 1983 and is a solid arcade port.  The graphics are well done, but still mostly monochrome.  The 5200 version does feature all four levels of the arcade version and the sound is also well done, but not substantially better than the 2600 version.  Control with the standard 5200 joystick takes a little practice, but Kangaroo does not suffer from the control problems that many 5200 games have.  One strange thing about Kangaroo for the 5200 is that there is not any ‘game over’ message.  When you have lost your last life, the game just stops.  The first couple of times that I played it, I thought that the game just froze.  Even the 2600 version at least takes you back to the start screen.

Kangaroo for the 5200

Kangaroo for the 5200

7800 & 8-bit versions…

Sadly, no 7800 version of Kangaroo was ever developed for the 7800.  For the Atari 8-bit computer line, the 5200 version has been ported over and is available to be played.

Overall thoughts…

If you like Donkey Kong, you will also like Kangaroo.  Both the 2600 and 5200 versions are inexpensive, easy to come by, and fun to play.  If you have a 2600 or 5200, you should pick up a copy of Kangaroo.  Hopefully, one of the 7800 programmers will develop a 7800 version.  With the latest advances in cart boards for the 7800, it should be possible to produce a near arcade perfect port.  Also, with the advances in cart technology for the 2600, I would not be surprised to see one of the 2600 programmers develop a more arcade perfect version for the trusty old VCS!



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The Portland Retro Gaming Expo…

In October, I had the opportunity to attend the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) in Portland Oregon.  This year the expo was held downtown at the Oregon Expo Center.  The expo center is a huge facility and can host multiple events at the same time.  In fact, I almost attended a used book show that was also being hosted by the Expo Center at the same time by mistake!

I wasn’t  sure what to expect as this was the first retro game show that I had attended.   This show was well organized and had an estimated attendance of 4000.  Part of the 60,000 square foot area was called the ‘Super Arcade’ and numerous vintage arcade machines that were available to be played.  About two thirds of the floor space was available for vendors.  It seemed to me that the vast majority of the of items for sale were for the NES and SNES with only a small amount of Atari items.

One booth where there was plenty of Atari games to be had was the AtariAge booth.  I had volunteered to help out with the booth which game me the opportunity to meet a number of folks from the AtariAge forum.  AtariAge released four new games at the PRGE, including Space Rocks, Frenzy, Ixion, and Seaweed Assault.  Darrell Spice, the designer of Space Rocks was on hand and signed carts for anyone who asked.

Games at the AtariAge booth

Games at the AtariAge booth

My favorite Atari system is the 7800 as it has great graphics (for an 8-bit system) and plays most 2600 games.  What surprised me at the show was the passion for the Atari 2600.  Perhaps this is because so many were sold (over 30 million) that virtually everyone had or had a friend that had one.  Despite the improved games and graphics on the 7800, the 2600 is still the king of Atari 8-bit game systems!

Prototype XM with Bentley Bear for the 7800

Prototype XM with Bentley Bear for the 7800

Another aspect of the PRGE are the workshops.  I was able to attend a couple of these and it was really cool to see and hear from Atari veterans (gods?) like David Crane (Pitfall), Bob Smith (Moonsweeper), and Gary Kitchen (Donkey Kong).   The stories that they are able to tell about the early days at Atari, Activision, and Imagic are really amazing!

If you are a retro game fan and are able to make it to Portland, a visit to the PRGE is a must see.  The PRGE is usually held in late September or early October.  For more information, click here.