"Do a barrel roll!"

Frankly, I was dissatisfied when I first played Donkey Kong. In five minutes, I had cleared three levels and had made the horrific discovery that the game had reached its limit. Yes, Donkey Kong may be Nintendo's true shiner when it comes to its long list of overrated NES “classics.” It was very disappointing but not as disappointing as this piece of information: They've repackaged this grossly overrated title and are charging it for four times its worth in their “NES Classics” range on the GBA. If you have shelled out for the port then I can do nothing but laugh at you. I'm sorry, but that's just taking advantage of stupid fans.

DK was originally an arcade game released in 1984 and was Nintendo's first big hit. However, the glitz, glamour and the awesome factory level have been mercilessly stripped from the NES conversion. What we here are the fundamental basics that make up Donkey Kong, with the more interesting and appealing stuff shoved to one side. There are only have three levels, which are put on a loop throughout the game, after finishing level three, you will be immediately transported to a harder version of level one and the cycle continues. We also have no between level animation of DK climbing the ladders with Pauline in his arms, nor do we have the “How high can you get?” intermission between levels.

Forgive me if I am making the original version of DK sound like an amazing classic. It had a few flaws as well but the removal of certain features in the NES version make these flaws stand out even more. The biggest problem would be the controls of Mario (or Jumpman, whatever!) who jumps as if his boots are packed with concrete. You will notice this flaw in the first level, the classic barrel throwing stage. Donkey Kong will stand at the top of the screen and throw limitless barrels at you and you will have to leap over these barrels and climb the ladders to reach the top. You'll realise that Mario's jumping is a little off; he won't go as far as you would want him to. He can be quite slow at responding sometimes which is the most necessary skill that you need. If two barrels roll down together and are quite close, you probably won't have time to leap over one and then the other. Most of the time, you'll leap over the first one and be killed by the second one.

Another major problem occurs in the second level; an area filled with elevators and raised platforms. We've already established how awkward it is for Mario to jump so we'll combine this problem with his ability to fall. If Mario falls of the edge of a platform, he will plummet to the ground. It must be those concrete shoes again because the poor guy drops like a stone. This isn't the only new problem; you'll also discover that Mario can't fall very far before dying. Even if you fall from a very small platform that is raised about two inches from the landing site. Mario will hit the ground and will then proceed to have an epileptic fit, which kills him. This wouldn't be that much of problem but you can barely fall anywhere without dying. You have to careful when leaping from place to place because one late jump can cost you a life.

Finally, all three of these problems are incorporated in the third level, the construction site of a huge skyscraper. Your goal here is a little different from the others because you have to knock out the key stones that are holding the skyscraper together. You have to jump over them (groan) and when you do this, it creates a gap in the structure. Destroying all of the key stones will cause part of the building to collapse and send DK falling to the ground. You'll also come across the hammer (a tool that also featured in level one) and you smash any moving thing that comes towards you. Mainly crawling fireballs that chase you up ladders will run away as soon as you get it. However, you cannot climb ladders when you use the hammer nor can you throw it away. So, you're basically stuck with the damn thing until your time runs out, giving your enemies a chance to cluster at the top and come down in groups as you climb up. Therefore, the one thing that is meant to aid you actually makes things a lot more difficult. Oh, yeah!

So that's it. Three levels of awkward arcade action will end in five minutes and unless you want to keep on replaying those levels, then you've no reason to play anymore. Within these three levels, the game gives us three crippling problems that drag the fun factor through the mud. Marios cranky jumping, the fact that you can't fall down an inch and that stupid hammer is more than enough to make me want to puke. Donkey Kong is not a classic game it was popular because it had little competition in 1984. If it was released a few years later then no one would've batted an eyelid but DK is still one of the most popular retro games out there.

Why?


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/05


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