10 Donkey Kong Clones From The Early 1980s - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Donkey Kong Clones From The Early 1980s

How many of these clones of Donkey Kong did you play?

Arriving in arcades around the world in the Summer of 1981, Nintendo's initial 2,000 units of Donkey Kong sold out almost instantly. By October that year, Donkey Kong was selling 4,000 units a month and Nintendo were struggling to keep up with the demand (more on that later). Such demand, indeed, that Donkey Kong caught the eye of just about every other game developer and publisher out there, all wanting to get in on the barrel throwing, heroine saving, jumping, platform action.

Due to the video game industry still being in its infancy there wasn't a preventative measure in place to stop people copying, or cloning, Donkey Kong and releasing their own versions, many of which were almost identical, others were of varying degrees of quality. Perhaps you played some of these clones in the arcade? Maybe you had them on a home system? Either way, we've rounded-up 10 Donkey Kong clones that appeared in the years following the original arcade game's release.

How many of these do you remember?...

1. Donkey Kong
Straight out of the gate with this one! Aside from the game being just about identical, although within the limits of the Dragon 32 home computer, publishers Microdeal even went as far as ripping off the name and releasing it as Donkey Kong, despite no official licence deal in place.

Originally arriving in early 1983, and also available for the TRS-80, Donkey Kong was eventually rebranded as The King in June of that year after Microdeal faced accusations of infringing on copyright. The game-play, though, remained identical.

2. King Kong
By late June 1982 Nintendo had sold 60,000 Donkey Kong machines overall and earned $180 million! Not bad business at all. Universal City Studios, who had produced the King Kong films, caught wind of this success and wanted in on the action so on June 29th 1982 Universal began the process of suing Nintendo for infringement on their copyright, claiming Donkey Kong was a rip-off of King Kong.

After a long and protracted case the judge sided with Nintendo after their lawyers successfully argued that Universal had previously defended themselves in litigation by stating that the character of King Kong was in the public domain. Universal sort of rolled a barrel over their own foot there. And to add insult to injury, in 1981, Tiger Electronics had obtained a license to use the name King Kong from Universal City Studios and had created a handheld game with a scenario and gameplay based directly on Nintendo's creation. Not only that, Tiger were paying Universal profits on sales of the unit. The judge ruled that Tiger's King Kong was an infringement of Donkey Kong and awarded Nintendo all of Universal's licensing profits for the game, amounting to $56,689.41, plus damages and attorney's fees.

3. Jumpman
Released by Epyx on the Atari 8-bit computers, Commodore 64, and ColecoVision in 1983, Jumpman isn't a direct clone of Donkey Kong, but it is very heavily inspired by it. Programmed by Randy Glover after he saw the Donkey Kong arcade machine in a local Pizza Hut (having replaced Pac-Man), and noting the queue of people forming to play, he became interested in making a version for home computers.

Although Glover started out trying to emulate Donkey Kong and did indeed end up with something aesthetically very similar, plus a game which used the same protagonist's name - Jumpman (Nintendo hadn't called him Mario at this point) - the game-play and premise vary between the two. According to Jumpman's backstory: Earth's base on Jupiter has been sabotaged by terrorists who have placed bombs throughout the three buildings (levels). The object of the game is to defuse all the bombs by, simply, touching them whilst traversing a platform-filled screen. Jumpman can jump, climb up and down ladders, and there are two kinds of rope each allowing a single direction of climbing only.

4. Killer Gorilla 
Published by Micro Power for the BBC Micro in 1983 and ported to the Acorn Electron and Amstrad CPC computers in 1984, Killer Gorilla was written by 17 year old Adrian Stephens after buying a magazine with screenshots of Donkey Kong in it. He was paid £400 for the game and, it has to be said, was definitely money well spent as Killer Gorilla is one of the very best Donkey Kong clones for a home computer. So much so that Atarisoft, who owned the home computer rights, commissioned Stephens to officially port Donkey Kong Junior to the BBC Micro after seeing Killer Gorilla, but the game was never released as the publisher decided to abandon the BBC platform.

5. Hard Hat Mack
Hard Hat Mack was published by Electronic Arts in 1983 on the Apple II, with ports for the Atari 8-bit family and Commodore 64 released simultaneously. It is one of the first batch of five games from Electronic Arts, and EA themselves lists it as "truly EA's first game." Versions for the Amstrad CPC and IBM PC compatibles (as a self-booting disk) followed in 1984. Although not a total clone, Hard Hat Mack is a three-stage game without an ape, it does have similar game-play and uses the same construction site setting from Donkey Kong.

6. Crazy Kong
When is a video game clone not a video game clone?  When it's an officially licensed video game clone. Sort of.

As mentioned at the top of the page, come October 1981 Nintendo were struggling to keep up with the demand for Donkey Kong arcade cabinets, so they orchestrated a licensing deal with developers Falcon for the company to produce a Donkey Kong clone to help fulfill Japanese orders. Falcon based their Crazy Kong arcade cabinet on different hardware, redrew and re-colorised the graphics, but retained all the game-play elements of Donkey Kong.

Like the money grabbing fools they were, Falcon breached their contract by exporting the cabinets overseas, leading Nintendo to revoke the license just three months later in January 1982, and leading to many people assuming that Crazy Kong was a bootleg clone. Which it kinda then eventually became as Falcon continued selling the cabinets they'd already produced.

Interestingly, like the original game, Crazy Kong spawned a number of clones itself, in both arcades and on home systems, including such titles as Congorilla, Big Kong and Monkey Donkey.

7. Cannonball Blitz
A Donkey Kong clone that recast the characters, Cannonball Blitz was released by Sierra On-Line in 1982 for the Apple II, with ports to the VIC-20, and TI-99/4A computers. The game-play is the same but cannonballs and cannons replace barrels, a soldier replaces the ape, and the player character catches a flag instead of rescuing a girl.

8. Wally Kong 
Released for the ZX Spectrum in 1984, Wally Kong featured the same four stages as Donkey Kong with the added bonus of 200 levels of difficulty - all eerily similar to the last! Not exactly well received, Computer Choice magazine gave Wally Kong just 2 out of 5 but liked the fact that the character bent his knees when jumping. Cute, but not enough to make it a hit.

9. Logger
Released in 1982, Century Electronics made minimal changes to Donkey Kong with their arcade game Logger. All the levels are the same as Donkey Kong, with the ape swapped out for a large bird who rolls logs instead of barrels, hence the name Logger.

10. Congo Bongo
Arriving in arcades in 1983, Sega got in on the Donkey Kong action with Congo Bongo. The game-play and premise is the same but here we have the added aspect of 3-D isometric perspective.

Fear not, though, as when Congo Bongo arrived on home platforms, available for everything from the Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, ColecoVision, Intellivision, MSX, IBM PC, SG-1000, TI-99/4A, and VIC-20,...

...the standard 2-D perspective was utilised for most versions, obviously due to platform limitations, meaning that aside from being very colourful it was clearly a Donkey Kong clone.

There you go then, 10 classic Donkey Kong clones from the early 1980s. But this is really is just the tip of the iceberg for Donkey Kong clones. Titles like Donkey King, Konkey Kong, Canyon Climber, Ape Craze, Dunkey Munkey, Kongo Kong, Monkey Business and Honey Kong were all available on various home computers in the early 1980s, and there are very likely a whole load more besides.

But, did you play any of these Donkey Kong clones? Can you name any more? And which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below...

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