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.

One of Apple’s most significant products from the 80s and 90s 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 television fan encyclopedias and annotated books. A few people ran with the scripting aspect and made games, most famously the genre- and format-defining CD-ROM adventure game¬†Myst.

Typically, HyperCard games and programs were simple interactive toys combined with pages of text and images, like choose-your-own-adventure stories. One such game is Kangaroo Court, a courtroom story 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 trial is a nightmarish experience of jumping through hoops, answering to crimes you didn’t commit, and failing anyway. It’s awfully funny every time, if only for the abrupt absurdity and some of the weirder testimonies against you. (The obnoxious BZZzBZZzzzBZAAATT noise when the judge convicts you never gets old.)

Kangaroo Court is a game to lose over and over. You can’t rebel against the maniacal Kangaroo’s mockery of the legal system, so you may as well laugh along with it.


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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