Review by MaxH
"I long for the ape with the long golden haaaaaaiiiiir"
With Donkey Kong Country (DKC now) being so well received a sequel was inevitable. But this one scraps Donkey Kong (The useless one) in favour of Dixie Kong, a young girl ape with a long blonde ponytail (Which she uses to hover). DKC2's 2d platforming remains much unchanged from the original, but this time it looks better, lasts longer and has a hell of a lot more imagination. Not something you'd expect to hear in a sequel review, eh? Well, maybe you would but..... Moving on, moving on.
The story this time is that Kaptain K. Rool (The same guy as King K Rool, but now with a camp pirate get-up) has kidnapped Donkey kong and taken him to his island. You, Diddy, and your new girlfriend, Dixie, must (guess what) rescue him. The other Kongs (aside from Candy Kong, the save-point monkey) return from the first game to help (But now they charge you, you can find coins to pay them throughout all of the levels) Wrinkly Kong will save your game and give you hints, Funky will let you revisit past areas and Cranky will generally moan about how crap the game is and give lame hints, much as he did before.
Your animal friends are also back for the ride. Rambi the Rhino being able to kill bees by touching them, and open locked doors. Others include Enguarde the swordfish, Rattly the jumping snake, Squawks the nut-spitting parrot and the excellent Squitter the spider, who can make his own floating platforms.
Like before you must reach the end of the level and collect as many bananas as you can for extra lives. But there are a couple of additions, for one if you can land on the end of level 'target' from a height you'll win a prize, like an extra life. Also bonus levels aren't there for the hell of it now, complete one and you'll be awarded a Kremcoin. These large shiny coins are to pay Klubba, who runs a flight to 'the lost world' in each level map (There are six, all accessed from the overworld map, like before). After people moaned that there weren't any actual secret levels in the first game, Rare have put a whole secret WORLD here, with a whole six levels (The last one housing the REAL end battle). Also to collect in the levels are huge and exceptionally well-hidden DK coins, you must collect them all to..... well, er, gain Crankey's respect. It might not sound like much but I don't want to spoil the screen you get when you become 'Number one videogame hero'. Needless to say it's worth it.
Enough instruction-manual talk, what does this game do right? Well I have to say, just about everything. The save points on each map are placed towards the beginning of each map rather than the very end (In DKC one you had to play through 6 or so levels at a time before you could save). There are more secrets than you could possibly imagine (I'd even say it matched Super Mario world in that area) and it's got even more of that ever recogniseable Rare humour. Swanky the game-show host (Who quizzes you for money, in exchange for lives if you win) has dialogue that resembles a cheesy washed-up B-celebrity. Cranky is as miserable and funny as ever (And, hilariously, keeps trying to sell you the original DKC for two dollars) and Funky has some disastrously cringe-inducing surfer-talk, but you can't help feel Rare did that on purpose (Then again, after seeing the rap in Donkey Kong 64, I don't know what to believe).
The levels retain the excellent layout of obstacles and overall design of the original. But now they are so imaginative, it really makes the original seem extremely bland. The themes, for one, are more interesting to look at, and throw up some really spectacular challenges (Like riding a hot air balloon over a lava lagoon, and using the steam jets to keep it in the air). There's pirate ships, insides of volcanoes, abandoned amusement parks (Complete with an exceedingly cool roller-coaster race) and haunted houses (With a rather cheesy take on classical music). It makes the game a lot more compelling to play, and the varieties in gameplay are endless, especially considering the original stuck to one format aside from one minecart level.
Other tense and joyous challenges include bouncing a snake up a pirate ship's mast while pirhana infested water slowly rises after you, using the wind (indicated by moving leaves) in one level to your advantage and floating across previous uncrossable gaps, and using a seal to temporarily turn lava into water so you can swim in it, by spitting in it. After performing it's task the seal claps and grunts proudly, I don't ever find games cute, but even my heart was melted by that. Nearly every level throws up an original challenge that is more imaginative than anything found in the original. I'm sorry to keep mentioning the original but it really is genuinely astounding how much improved this game is.
I could say that other than a couple of things it's just a normal platformer with collecting, but that's the last thing it is. With all the strange but wonderful happenings you'll be wondering why Mario didn't use these ideas first. The multiplayer is still intact, but it's generally easier to play in the first game, it's still worth a try here though, but it's more a pleasant addition than a main attraction (Unlike Bomberman or Mario Kart, which are always played with two people). It starts off a lot easier than the last one, but it gets even harder. Later challenges will have you screaming even more than DKC's, but they are so much better and more interesting than DKC's, infinitely so.
These excellent original level ideas combined with the outstanding level design make for arguably the best platformer on the SNES. Super Mario world may have had 96 exits, but it doesn't have levels stuck inside giant beehives or old rollercoaster tracks does it? And overall, it's a lot less difficult to play through. DKC2 has every improvement you could think of (Apart from the pathetic attack, but I can live with that. Still, you aren't going to kill anything by rolling a millimeter in front of you at the pace of a dead snail, are you?). The controls are a bit tighter I also noticed.
The graphics are, as ever, mind-meltingly ....... I can't think of a word, it's just that good. It's a lot more colourful and varied than before too, and the scaling 3-d backgrounds are simply stunning. Walk on a platform above water, and the background will show a large rippling surface, swim under the water and the background will show the surface from underneath, with light shimmering from above. It really is lovely, I'm running out of positive words. The characters are rendered with even more detail than before, and show more emotions in their little faces. The stag beetles and cats with nine tails (Great visual pun) and particularly well animated. And it all moves at a perfect speed.
The sound is easily the best on this system, full stop. For some levels it's eerily silent (to fit the mood, which it does well). And in the pirate levels there is a tune playing quietly, and seemingly far away, this REALLY makes it feel like your on a pirate ship, at sea. Elsewhere we have amazingly infectious level tunes, and even some loud, rousing over-dramatic themes. It fits the game so perfectly and it always sets the mood and creates an atmosphere, and is often uplifting. I don't think it gets an better than this on the SNES, you have to hear it to believe it.
DKC2 has more levels than the original, and they are more difficult. Plus with the endless number of secrets cleverly concealed within this grey cart, AND a multiplayer you'll be playing it for well over a month before you're done. Even after completing it five or six times, I'm still playing it now, and never have I been more confident in the score I've given.
On paper DKC2 might sound like just a polished platformer with a couple of nice touches, but it's obviously much more than that. And you'll be saying that too once you've played it. I'm split between this or the third one being the best of the series (And, ultimately, the best on the system). but I think in the end, I'm leaning towards this one. It's pacing is perfect. It's fast enough so that you don't lose interest after game over, but it's nowhere near as tiresomely reckless and fast-moving as Rayman Advance, it sits perfectly in the middle. And that last sentence can also be used to describe this game relative to the DKC series. Even friends of mine who were busy raving about all the blood in Mortal Kombat II couldn't resist the charm, ingenuity and sheer playability of this game, not to mention that they were instantly hypnotised by the graphics. They all got copies and were enchanted. If you can track down a copy of this wildly brilliant game, I suggest you hurry up and get enchanted too. The SNES may be dead but it's classics live on.
King K. Kool
+ Graphics even better than before
+ More excellently balanced level design from Rare
+ Two character system used to a better extent
+ Better controls
+ Loads of secrets to find, including a whole secret world!
+ Countless original features that make the game a joy to play
+ Fantastic, FANTASTIC music
+ It NEVER stops being fun
+ Utterly compelling
+ Even more rewarding than before
+ Tougher than the original, and more of it too.
+ Paced perfectly
+ More variety than any other SNES platform game.
King K. Krap
- Probably a bit too frantic for the multiplayer to work properly
- The main attack is still hopelessly feeble. But, there's always jumping on their heads.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 09/01/01, Updated 09/01/01
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