Review by jimmybiceps
"Ignore the haters. This is the 2D platformer we've all been waiting for."
Being a hardcore fan of the platformer genre, I was instantly excited when I first heard about Donkey Kong Country Returns earlier in 2010. It had been a long time since the last Donkey Kong Country game, and I was worried that Nintendo may have abandoned the series. This would have been disastrous for platformer fans, since the DKC series is one of the best platforming series of all time. Thankfully, Retro Studios came along and took on the daunting task of bringing the DKC series back in late 2010, and they did not disappoint at all. Let's take a look at the details of the game.
The story in DKC Returns is very similar to that of the original Donkey Kong Country game. Donkey and Diddy's banana hoard has been stolen from them by a mysterious tribe of Tikis. On top of this, the Tikis have brainwashed all the animals and monsters on the island. It's up to Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong to reclaim their banana hoard and defeat the Tiki tribe. The story isn't anything too deep, but that is one of the beauties of platformers. They don't need to have an overly engaging storyline since gameplay is by far the most important factor to any platformer.
I played DKCR using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo only, so that is the control scheme I will be referring to in this review. While I've heard many complaints about the controls prior to giving the game a try, I quickly came to realize that none of the complaints are legitimate. The controls work very well. There may be a slight learning curve to the motion controls, but anyone who is above a novice should have them mastered halfway through the first world. To roll, you simply hold the control stick left or right in the direction you want to roll, then shake the Wii Remote vertically once and Donkey Kong rolls instantly. To blow air out of Donkey Kong's mouth, you simply hold the control stick in the down position, then shake the remote similarly. To pound the ground, you stand still and shake the remote and nunchuk up and down. It's really not that complicated. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive the motion controls were. Whenever I had to pound the ground, blow air, or roll quickly, it was not a problem at all due to the great responsiveness of the motion controls. Anyone who is complaining about the motion controls in this game is simply either nitpicking or isn't very good with motion controls in general.
The game also gives players the option of playing with the Wii Remote held sideways. Since I didn't play the game using this control scheme, I am unsure how responsive it is. However, if it is anywhere near as responsive as the other control scheme, it is perfectly fine. The only reason I took off one point for controls is because there were two times when I was playing where I accidentally rolled when I wanted to pound the ground because DK was still slightly moving forward. Since this has only happened to me twice and the controls have been great other than these two instances, I don't think it's too big of a deal. Also, the rocket barrel controls take a little bit of getting used to.
This is classic DKC platforming at its very best. The first thing I must mention about the gameplay is that the level design is pure genius. Every time you think you've seen all the tricks Retro Studios has worked into the game, they throw something new at you. While most of the gameplay is similar to the original DKC games, Retro has added some very neat new features which will keep even the best players on their toes. New to DKCR are rocket barrel levels. These fast-paced levels are loads of fun and add another dimension to the gameplay.
The environments of the levels are very detailed and look great. They chose very good settings for the levels, and one thing I liked in particular is that almost all the levels in a world stick to the world's theme. For example, all the levels in the Factory world stick to the Factory theme, but new elements are added in each level of the world. This is something the original DKC games didn't do well, as there was a lot of mixing and matching in each world of those games.
During gameplay, you control Donkey Kong. If you open up a DK barrel, Diddy Kong will jump out and onto Donkey Kong's back. Diddy is very helpful because he has a jetpack which will allow DK to hover in the air for a brief period of time after he jumps if you hold the A button. This is extremely important in certain difficult parts of later levels in the game. If you play co-op with a friend, the 2nd player will get to control Diddy Kong.
DKCR has much more replay value than most 2D platformers. Each normal level has the KONG letters from the previous DKC games hidden throughout them. Collecting all the letters in each level of a world will unlock a hidden level in that world. This gives players something to shoot for once they have made it to end of the game. On top of this, each level has at least 5 puzzle pieces hidden throughout it. Some of these are very tricky and challenging to collect, and will challenge even the best of players. After completing each level, players can try a Time Trial for that level. Upon completing the time trial, they are awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how fast their time was. While these don't count toward 100% completion of the game, they certainly add a lot of replay value to it. Finally, after finding all the KONG letters in every level of every world in the game, there is a huge secret to be unlocked. But I won't spoil that here.
The game provides more of a challenge than most modern platformers. I view this as a good thing. Platformer novices might find themselves having trouble with certain parts of the game, and even platformer veterans might get tripped up in quite a few levels.
A lot of the music in the game will be recognized by fans of the series who have played the original Donkey Kong Country game. This classic music is revamped in DKCR, and there is a lot of new music to be heard also. Everything sounds great.
If you are a fan of platformers, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a game you must absolutely own. With its brilliant level design, great challenge, and plenty of replay value, you will not be disappointed in this game. I had high expectations for the game, and Retro Studios not only satisfied those expectations, but they exceeded them in every possible way. DKCR gets my highest recommendation.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/11
Game Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)
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