I have never been a real fan of the Donkey Kong games. I missed out on the original SNES game, however am fully aware of how great it is supposed to be graphically and to play. I played Donkey Kong 64 and the Jungle Beat which were different takes on the series. DKCR goes back to the root with its high octane, hard as nails, 2d platforming. Will this game win me over or have me going ape?
DKCR reminds me a lot of New Super Mario Bros. It goes back to the classic 2D style roots with a 3D makeover. The characters and backgrounds are three dimensional on a 2D platforming plane. To bring the game up to date, the developers let you interact with sections in both the foreground and background, similar to that of Kirby’s Epic Yarn. This opens an array of secret areas, with die hard gamers needing to exploit these to find all of the games many collectables. There is a ‘plot’ in DKCR which involves Donkeys Kong’s nemesis stealing his banana stash… and you having to get it back. That’s it. This matters not as the game is all about the challenge and obtaining high scores, so plot building, thankfully, is really obsolete. Control wise, its best to opt for the classic side on Wiimote style. Controlling Donkey Kong is simple and easy to grasp; even the shaking Wiimote attacks do not feel gimmicky.
Donkey Kong is joined as always by Diddy Kong. Having Diddy around gives you extra health and also abilities. Diddy has a handy jetpack, allowing you to hover over large sections of the level to access hidden areas. If Donkey Kong gets hit by enemies then Diddy disappears, meaning your life is lowered and the danger of dying is heightened. Expect to die. A lot. Over and over. DKCR is probably the hardest game I have played on any console this year. I have completed Call of Duty Black Ops on Veteran difficulty recently, which seems like a walk in the park compared to this. I literally came close to pulling hair out at times, one mine cart level; I lost well over 30 lives trying to get through it. This may be seen as a bad point, but I see it as a good thing, as it will be seen as a hardcore game, juxtaposing the kiddie look of the visuals. Aside from the difficulty, there is always a brilliant level or boss encounter to overcome any downers. How can anyone not enjoy riding a rhino, or being blasted sky high by cannon?
The level design is fantastic. At first I was a little let down to see the usual jungle, mine cart, lava flow of the levels, but if the game didn’t have these traditions, it wouldn’t be Donkey Kong. The 3D aspect of switching between background and foreground is flawless and never feels like a gimmick, and the levels gradually get better and better design wise. The developers are creative geniuses or were drinking something very strong to come up with what DKCR offers. One of the best examples is a water level where you ride the back of a huge blue whale as it storms through the ocean at high speed. Later on there are some levels where your characters are simply black silhouettes which look very abstract but incredibly stylish. These levels help bring the game more up to date with the current generation and foil doubt that this is simply a SNES remake with flashier visuals. The only downside I found was the two player mode was rather plain. The player controlling Diddy Kong is only able to shoot peanuts at enemies, which is sadly rather pointless and dull.
Speaking of visuals, there is always so much to see and so much going on it is hard to appreciate them. Everything is brilliantly designed with an over the top cartoony vibe trees and plants move as you dash past them, with animations happening all over the shop. The designs of the levels, characters and animations are superb throughout. The game pushes the Wii to its limits as it all runs smoothly, with no slowdown ever. Coupled with a fantastic musical score, heavily borrowed from the SNES game, it plays like a Disney cartoon on acid. The best aspect is that the game looks better the more you play as the levels and abilities become more adventurous. For example Donkey Kong has a new ability to grab grassy areas, which leads to gravity defying moments of rotating platforms, which make you feel like superman when you complete them.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is an amazing comeback for one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters. Fans will lap this up and will find the new levels and abilities fresh enough to differ from the SNES games. It’s no lie the game is super hard, but for every groan there is a fantastic set piece or brilliant rocket riding section to raise a smile again. This is an essential purchase.
Hectic, challenging old school platforming.
Fantastic levels, animation and style.
Brilliant soundtrack and sound effects.
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