Crazy Kangaroo Review
Posted by Mike Mason
Hop, Skippy and jump
No wonder poor old Barney has gone a bit loopy. Crazy Kangaroo's mad marsupial is on the run after escaping the grasp of evil poachers by daringly bundling himself out of a plane. Unwilling to give up their prize, his captors continue their relentless pursuit to tie this kangaroo down.
If you've been near a smartphone in the last few years, you'll probably have seen this sort of game before. From a top-down viewpoint, you control the direction and distance of Barney's leaps and bounds as he bounces across humongous bodies of water. He jumps continually in a set rhythm, so the challenge is to time your movements so that he lands on a platform and doesn't end up with a pouch full of the wet stuff; major shifts as he ascends, desperate adjustments as he descends.
The position of platforms is randomly generated each time, and games can get frenzied due to constant forward movement. The hunters are ever-approaching from the bottom of the screen, so there's no time to stop and consider any of your actions, and without prior knowledge of each level you're left to improvise, living your existence one platform at a time. As well as trying to survive, there are also dozens of enticing stars to collect at each hop. Grabbing these adds up into a game-wide score that tallies up at the end of each attempt.
The randomness, combined with the simplistic mechanics and score-building, is a recipe for "just-one-more-go" syndrome. Its appeal is furthered by a pleasant cartoon style, and it makes good use of stereoscopic 3D too, Barney launching towards your face every time he soars into the air. There's not a lot to it, so it's quick and easy to get into as a time killer; on the other hand, it's not suited to lengthy sessions. It doesn't really do anything different to a number of other games out there and some strange decisions limit its appeal.
There are a number of power-ups to help your quest, such as a magnet that vacuums up those stars, a rocket that propels you along invulnerably at high speed and a life ring that temporarily prevents you from drowning, essentially letting you skip across the water for a time without worrying about platforms. You can purchase upgrades to these helpers using in-game currency built up through good performance and by completing objectives that pop up on the bottom screen.
These mini-missions pop up three at a time, and the challenges range from besting your own high scores or travelling a certain distance to leaping on specific objects through the course of a level. It's a nice idea that encourages you to play differently each time, as the coin rewards are quite substantial, but the set-up is flawed in that you can only complete missions that are displayed. For example, if you survive for 90 seconds but that objective isn't on offer at the time, you get nothing. Sometimes the random natures of both missions and levels are at odds with each other, leaving you with an impossible task to fulfil; for example, you might be asked to jump on three crocodiles in a stage that hasn't generated any happy snappers.
It's quite confusing to see random level generation applied to both gameplay modes, too: it makes sense in the endless mode, which challenges you to get as far as possible on a single life, but the same can't be said for the 'story' mode. It's a set of 15 levels over three worlds; here you're allowed multiple mistakes before failing, but the content of those levels shifts about with each try. As such some players might end up with a difficult path where others are given an easy ride filled with power-ups. It keeps you on your toes, but it's somewhat unbalanced; it might have been better for the levels to remain constant.
Barney can be controlled with either the Circle Pad or 3DS' built-in motion sensors. Both work, but we preferred to use the Circle Pad. It's far easier to look exactly where you're leaping if you're not tilting the console all over the place, and in turn that makes you more willing to make the kind of risky moves necessary for success. The motion sensing is accurate but doesn't mesh entirely with the fast pace required; flicking around a double-screened handheld rapidly is less palatable than the slimmer, flatter form factor of a smartphone, where this sort of game might usually be found.
Crazy Kangaroo offers decent value for its cheap price. It's simple and easy to grasp, the story mode has potential to last a few hours depending on the level set-ups you're given and the endless mode can be played infinitely for high scores as long as you don't mind the omission of leaderboards. However, the way objectives are set is flawed and the randomly generating story mode levels can feel unbalanced and leave you hopping mad.