Review by ChaosInvoker
"So that's where my copy of a good classic Donkey Kong went"
Donkey Kong's best years seem to be on the SNES with the Donkey Kong Country series. Since then Donkey Kong games have lost their touch. Thankfully they took a crack at bringing his golden years back to a new generation for the Nintendo Wii. They changed it up a bit, but the basic formula was still kinda there. The result was a change for the better for the miss-named animal.
Nintendo has never been known to make a masterful story. Like in the classic games Donkey Kong's banana hoard has been stolen, this time by living tiki characters who want to possess all the animals in the jungle for an unexplained reason. After a tiki breaks into Donkey Kong's tree house, Donkey Kong smacks it around and starts his journey to retrieve his favorite food. o.O?
Unfortunately they did away with the entire enemy cast including the beavers, bees, kremlings and even King K. Rool himself. To top it off the only returning animal was Rambi the Rhino?! The game still works well with these changes, but it is a surprise to see so many faces in the Donkey Kong Country series not return.
The game has a nice cartoonish look to it. It works for the kid like quality cut scenes. It's a little bit of a letdown knowing how the original games were so amazing; by being the first 3D rendered games in history (I think). But all-in-all it screams Nintendo quality by using many simple shapes to create the characters, enemies and the atmosphere. It's not ground breaking, but it works!
Get ready for some great remixes of Donkey Kong Country music and for a few originals too. The tracks reflect the mood of each level perfectly where it's calm in the jungle, but more upbeat while in a mine cart. The sound effects are pretty good too. They brought back many of the old sounds from the original games, but unfortunately they added some new sounds that have a cartoon like twist to it. Luckily it doesn't get too annoying during gameplay.
I have to say, this is one of greatest 2D platformers I've ever played. The only problem I have with it is that the difficulty is turned up pretty high. Although to counter its tough gameplay you are given Cranky's Shop which lets you buy boundless extra lives and a golden juice that gives you 10 additional hearts (life meter) by spending banana coins (money) that are scattered abundantly through each level. Also a Super Guide can take over after dying several times which beats the level for you, in case you're getting frustrated and wish to move on. Although this Guide is optional, so if you still feel up to the challenge you can still ignore this handy feature.
What I like most about this game is all the dire situations you get caught up in. Epic is the best word that comes to mind as the ground bellow you crumbles, mine tracks blow-up all around you and you're being chased by a monster while dodging several obstacles in front of you.
In comparison to its ancestor, the game plays similar in some ways and very different in other ways. Diddy is now unplayable unless you use the game's co-op feature. He's more like a power-up in 1 player mode, where he rides on your back and provides you two extra hearts as well as a jet pack that lets you hover for about a second or two when you jump. Also there's a lot more going on in the levels, which adds to the extra challenge, but keeps the game exciting, like a hazardous octopus chasing you throughout a level (mostly in the background).
This game also focuses on collections. There are puzzle pieces, banana coins, bananas and KONG letters. Most of these help you unlock content or obtain helpful items, like extra life balloons. They are well scattered throughout the levels, some are challenging to obtain. It's a nice addition for a completionist, but it's kind of a meh detail for the rest of us.
Also a minor note, they did away with the underwater levels that seemed to be a continuing theme in the older games of the series. It's not a huge loss, but it could have been interesting to see how they would attempt that.
This game is very creative in its unique level design. Exhilarating is the best way to describe the style of gameplay. If it weren't for the game's high difficulty, I'd give this game a perfect ten, but it even so there are ways to counter this challenge or maybe I just need more practice. It's good to see a return for the missed Donkey Kong Country series. I can only hope to see a sequel as I cross my fingers that they bring another iteration to the 3DS. If you want a new platformer or a blast to the past, look no further, this is your next game!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/01/11
Game Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)
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