The game itself is a quest to reach a high score on a four-screen-tall playfield populated with various alligators. Shoot the targets and alligators to move from one screen to another, activate the ball savers to extend your game time, and go for the bonus rooms to score more points. One or two players can play on a single Game Boy, or two units can be connected for head-to-head play.
Revenge of the Gator is fondly remembered by many for its charming whimsy and fast action, making it a hallmark of the original Game Boy library. Many of the gameplay elements would be later reused in Kirby's Pinball Land.
Revenge of the Gator demonstrates the following tropes:
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: In Japan, the 'gators in the cover are happy and smiling, and look a bit cartoony. The ones in the Western releases are gruffy, serious and drawn more realistically. Coincidentally, it's made by HAL Laboratory, like Kirby.
- Flip-Screen Scrolling: This is how the game advances from one part of the main playfield to another.
- Mirror Match: The "Match Play" game modes, where two players compete on a small two-player table. Both players knock a single ball back and forth until a drain occurs. Hitting your opponent's targets will reduce his score, and the first player to zero his opponent's score and hit the "Gator and Crossbones" wins.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: The game is filled with alligators who want to eat the pinball, though most of them will simply send the ball to a different screen when they do so.
- No Plot? No Problem!: Who is the 'gator, and why does he want revenge? Who cares?
- Random Drop: One screen has a three-reel slot machine that rewards various prizes when activated.
- Whammy: Getting three eggplants on the slot machine disables the ball savers and resets the bonus and bonus multiplier.
- Top-Down View