Review by Retro
"You probably won't go bananas over it, but it's still a cool game"
I've read a few messages about some people blabbering on about how Donkey Kong Junior for the Atari 2600 wasn't a faithful port from the arcade. I can't really say what I think about this issue because I haven't ever played the arcade game of Donkey Kong Junior. But I know one thing...it's a pretty fun game for the Atari 2600.
In the game of Donkey Kong, the then amateur Donkey Kong was holding Mario's girlfriend captive, and Mario was the one that was having to dodge the obstacles and make the rescue. I guess Mario got more than mad after he finally rescued his damsel in distress from the hairy Donkey Kong, because in Donkey Kong Junior, it's right the opposite.
This time, Mario is the enemy and he is holding Donkey Kong as a prisoner inside a sturdy blue cage. It's up to Donkey Kong's son, humbly named Donkey Kong Junior, to rescue the legendary ape that can't seem to pick the lock to the cage.
I've always liked playing both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior. I like Donkey Kong Junior just a little bit better because it's more fun, it has a better challenge, and it possesses one more level than Donkey Kong. There are only two levels in Donkey Kong (the Atari 2600 version), and there are three in Donkey Kong Junior. While Mario climbed ladders to get closer to his girlfriend, Donkey Kong Junior climbs vines and metal bars to rescue his hero.
In the first level, there are a bunch of vines and a few platforms that Donkey Kong Junior has to use in order to make it across the screen. Then, he must proceed to the top platform and attempt to touch a hanging rope that will instantly send him to the next level.
The second level has three keys that are jammed between two metal bars each. To get past this stage, you must get under the keys and push them all the way to the top of the screen.
In the third and final level, Donkey Kong Junior begins at the bottom of the screen and he must use metal bars on each side of the four platforms in order to climb his way to the top once again to ultimately free Donkey Kong.
Like you probably guessed already, there is a lot more that Donkey Kong Junior must worry about in the three stages other than just using platforms, vines, and bars. Roaming throughout all three of the short stages are what's supposed to be metal dog-like creatures with real sharp teeth (I think they're called Klaptraps).
These metal monsters that look more like staples start their short-lived journey in the place where Mario and Donkey Kong reside, at the top of the screen. They then move across the screen and, in the first two levels, choose a vine or metal bar to slide down. The third level features these staples pairing up and closing in quickly on Donkey Kong Junior at a much more suspenseful rate.
In the second level with all the keys, not only will Donkey Kong Junior have to worry about these staples, but there is also a strange looking bird at the bottom of the screen that constantly flies to the right. Anytime a bird bites your ass or a staple pinches your nose, you will lose a life.
The last kind of danger that you must watch out for (in the first two stages) is falling from a high place. You can't fall very far at all without losing an invaluable life the second you make contact with the unforgiving ground.
After you successfully pass all three of the stages, you will start from the first one and go through the same three stages all over again. Only this time, the enemies will be faster, and the bonus (you get the number of points left on it when you finish a stage) decreases at a quicker rate. Once you get to wave 5, the enemies' speeds become mindblowing.
Before you even start playing, you can choose from eight different difficulties (how fast the enemies are), and whether to play the game by yourself in a one-player game or with somebody else in a two-player game (taking turns).
If you've ever liked playing Donkey Kong Jr. in the arcades or on any other system, or if you're simply an Atari 2600 fan, I recommend adding Donkey Kong Junior to your library of Atari 2600 cartridges.
The only bad things about it are a few of its graphics, and the control could've been a little better. From time to time, while Donkey Kong Junior is climbing a vine or a metal bar, Donkey Kong will move frantically back and forth in his cage, just like he's trying to cheer you on. While you might not cheer and jump up and down about how great this game is, you probably will find yourself playing it more than you expected to.
GRAPHICS - Overall, the graphics in Donkey Kong Junior are great (for the time of course) in areas, and in other parts, they are not so great. For instance: Mario, the flashing keys, and the levels themselves look very convincing, especially for a 1983 cartridge.
On the other hand, the metal enemies with sharp teeth that I mentioned before, look just like ordinary staples that clamp their teeth. Donkey Kong Junior looks very strange the way he runs, and Donkey Kong looks more like a bear than he does a monkey.
SOUND - The sounds are pretty good. Most of the sound effects are well done. From the sound it makes while you're falling from a high place, to the sound of losing a life, Donkey Kong Junior has satisfying sound effects, even though there's not all that many that are included. Better than the sound effects is the game's music. Some classic, memorable music plays when you start a game, when you get a Game Over, and especially when you complete a level.
CONTROL - The control in this game is fairly good, but not all that great; it could've been a lot better. In the first two levels, it's pretty easy to control Donkey Kong Junior. Fortunately, it's not ever a hassle to control DK Jr. while he's climbing or sliding down a vine or metal bar. No matter how you climb a vine or metal bar, whether it's on the outside or the middle, or in which direction you're climbing, it's easy to manage climbing. Running is also easy enough, even though Donkey Kong Jr. himself has one of the strangest and funniest runs I have ever seen in a video game.
The only downfall to the control in this game is the way Donkey Kong Jr. jumps. Every time you jump, even if you're holding the joystick in a direction, you will just jump straight up. Even if he's running full blast, when he jumps, he just jumps in the same upward fashion. Donkey Kong Jr. also can't jump all that high, so jumping in general, especially in the third level, can become sort of frustrating. But after you play the game enough, you will get used to the way he jumps, and you should have it down in no time.
REPLAY VALUE - Well, if you're an Atari 2600 addict or if you like playing Donkey Kong, then Donkey Kong Junior for the Atari 2600 should be a welcome addition to you. While its jumping technique and graphics could've been a little better, it's still a fun game to play. I've always liked playing it over and over to see how far I could get, so in my book, it has pretty good replay value.
OVERALL - I've always liked Donkey Kong Junior, so it gets a rave review from me. Even though it could've been vastly improved in a couple of areas, it's still a classic in my book.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/19/01, Updated 05/20/02
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