Kangaroo Court Macintosh categoryOther category

Title screen from Kangaroo Court

In the criminal justice system, the people are harangued by a single figure: the kangaroo judge who tries and convicts for made-up crimes of his choosing.

This is his story.

For those unfamiliar with classic Mac culture, let’s take a trip back to the late 80s/early 90s. One of Apple’s most successful products was HyperCard, an early hyperlinked media program, almost like a self-contained version of the Internet. Using a scripting language and various graphical elements, users could rapidly create “stacks” of information ranging from contact lists to wikis and annotated books. A few people ran with the scripting aspect and started making games. The definitive greatest HyperCard game is Myst, which sold 14 million copies, completely redefined a genre, and legitimized the CD-ROM.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Most of the other HyperCard games were simple choose-your-own-adventure fare. One such game is Kangaroo Court, a barely-there courtroom simulator by Dave Dumanis (he and his brother made an earlier version for the TRS-80 in 1983). You have been accused of an unknown crime and stand to lose everything. With only $2000 of bribe/bail money, you have to suck up to the judge enough to get away with your life.

Screenshot from Kangaroo Court

The law? The law is a human institution

The catch is that the judge is an evil, sadistic kangaroo who will behave erratically and capriciously for the sake of seeing you suffer. And, as the game notes, “The Kangaroo is always smarter than you are.”

Supposing you make it past the initial plea alive (dare you plea “Very Guilty”?), the courtroom drama unfolds one witness at a time, each offering unusual or off-topic testimony. Regardless of what happens, the Kangaroo will likely find a way to punish you. Call your own witness? Overruled. Bribe the judge between testimonies? Federal offense. Send him a love letter and an apology? He thinks it’s insincere.

Of course, there’s no way to win Kangaroo Court. The goal is to survive as long as possible without running out of money. So much of the game is determined by random chance that there’s not really much point in trying to go the distance beyond pressing your luck. Thankfully, it’s awfully funny every time, if only for the abrupt absurdity and some of the weirder testimonies. (The obnoxious BZZzBZZzzzBZAAATT noise never gets old.)

Kangaroo Court‘s worth a laugh, but never expect anything even remotely productive out of it. That’s not a knock against it.

Trivia!

A second version of the game with color, full sound, and other bonuses was planned, but according to Dumanis, it never came to fruition.

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