Donkey Kong first appeared in arcades in 1981, and starred not only the titular angry ape, but also a bouncing, climbing character called Jumpman – who later went on to star in Nintendo’s little-known series of Super Mario games. Donkey Kong featured four screens per level, and the goal in each was to avoid obstacles and guide Mario (sorry, Jumpman) to the top of the screen to rescue the hapless Pauline. Partly because the game was so ferociously difficult from the beginning, Donkey Kong’s first screen is arguably the most recognisable today: Kong lobs an endless stream of barrels, which roll down a network of crooked girders and threaten to knock Jumpman flat.
Donkey Kong may have been a relentlessly tough game, but we can recreate one of its most recognisable elements with relative ease. We can get a bit of code running with Pygame Zero – and a couple of functions borrowed from Pygame – to make barrels react to the platforms they’re on, roll down in the direction of a slope, and fall off the end onto the next platform. It’s a very simple physics simulation using an invisible bitmap to test where the platforms are and which way they’re sloping. We also have some ladders which the barrels randomly either roll past or sometimes use to descend to the next platform below.
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