Review by tekworm
"A wonderful reincarnation of an old classic"
As a longtime player of the original Donkey Kong Country series, I was super psyched to get my hands on Retro Studios' Donkey Kong Country Returns. I am happy to say they didn't let me down. This game is great in many ways, with a few very minor drawbacks that hardly hold it back from greatness.
First off, this game looks great and sounds great. Overall the graphics are great, especially when you get a bit deeper into the game. 3D effects are really nice, great fluid animation, and environments that are dripping with style. An example of Retro's style is the silouhette sunset levels....just so fun to look at! On the sound side, the music is very good, with a lot of rehashes of the original Donkey Kong's Country's celebrated jazz tunes. They are also very stylized. For example, on the Beach section you will find some DKC originals with a steel-drum infused "beach feel" to them -- well done. Another cool thing that I will add in here is the generous use of sound via the Wiimote's built-in speaker. We all know how low-fi that speaker is, but Retro has really got creative. Your Wiimote will emit sounds when you ground pound, collect bananas, click your way through menus, etc., and all the sound effects are spot-on, and really add to the immersive feel of this game. In addition to this, Retro used the rumble feature very creatively also, using it so subtly at times that it feels like a little click. Check out the world map and you'll see what I mean.
Regarding gameplay, this game has done great things here as well. The controls, in general, are buttery smooth...very responsive. You have a host of moves that are similar to the original Donkey Kong Country's layout, with some key changes. You can ground pound, run, and roll as always, and now you can also blow (hehe), hover for a short period of time (think SMB2's princess, only shorter). To do most of these moves WITH THE HORIZONTAL WIIMOTE configuration, as I haven't tried the nunchuck/wiimote configuration, you have to shake the wiimote. Shake it to begin rolling, shake it while ducking to blow, shake it while standing still to ground pound. You may think this is a bit much, but it works, and it works because it is VERY sensitive while not being TOO sensitive. It's very refreshing to see that once you get the hang of the control scheme, a perfectly timed little twitch of the wiimote will become second-nature, rather than tiring out your arms like some developers clumsily do. Also, regarding controller configurations...it would be nice to see Nintendo add a sensor to the classic controller one day so we could have a full size controller to play...but I digress.
Yes, Diddy Kong is found scattered throughout levels in his DK barrels. Yes, he will jump on your back and allow you to hover and do an improved roll attack. No, you cannot play as him. Yes, Retro are a bunch of stupidheads.
As far as fun factor and challenge goes....Donkey Kong Country Returns does NOT disappoint. This game is just plain FUN, but trust me, later on it gets TOUGH! You will get frustrated when your first attempt at a level finds you slack-jawed at the difficulty. It will take multiple for to hammer down a level and commit every little jump and barrel blast to memory in order to get through it without losing your bananas. (sorry). The old-school gamer will appreciate this as a throwback to the tough Donkey Kong Country iterations of old. If you are a glutton for gaming punishment, you will not be disappointed.
Fun Factor/Challenge: 9.5
I have a few minor gripes with this game that don't really detract from the overall experience, but these thoughts are mine and now you can stew over them: When jumping on an enemy, in order to POP up and do a higher jump, instead of being able to HOLD the jump button, (2) on wiimote, you have to press it down at the moment you hit the enemy. Its specific, but it adds another degree of difficulty that I could have done without. While doing the levels, there are TONS of stuff to collect. Along with bananas, you have coins that act as currency, puzzle pieces that unlock pictures, and the K-O-N-G letters that we grew so fond of back in the SNES days of DKC. It's a bit much is all. And finally, the menus are a little blah. Nothing here that comes near breaking the experience, however.
All in all, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a fine return to form for Donkey Kong, and I'm sure the Nintendo die-hards will be glad to have him. This game serves up everything that shined from the old DKC games on Super Nintendo -- tight control, wonderful level design, dazzling graphics and catchy tunes topped off with a level of difficulty that hardcore gamers will love, but might scare some of the kiddies away.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/30/10
Game Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)
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