Review by darkknight109

Reviewed: 11/30/10

Exactly what it says on the box

Donkey Kong Country Returns (DKCR) marks the... ehm... return of Donkey Kong Country. OK, so you can’t call Nintendo on false advertising for this one. DKC becomes the latest Nintendo franchise to get resurrected after a lengthy hiatus (DKC’s last entry was Donkey Kong Country 64, released over a decade ago) and Nintendo makes a strong calling back to the series’ roots with DKCR. The game is a 2D platformer strongly reminiscent of the SNES DKC games and, in the same vein as the New Super Mario Bros. games, Nintendo has changed little of the source material with DKCR. Fans of the series will, therefore, be right at home, as even in its heyday DKC was not known for introducing swathes of new features to subsequent games.

The story to this game, such as it is, is that a volcano on Donkey Kong’s island has erupted and a bunch of living tiki statues have emerged to wreak havoc on our hero’s homeland. These statues hypnotise Donkey Kong’s animal buddies and put them to work stealing every banana they can find, because apparently these statues have nothing better to do than figure out how best to tick off the strongest ape on the island. Donkey Kong draws the line when his secret banana horde is pilfered and sets out to teach the invaders a lesson.

From the word go, the game immediately does a great job of creating the Donkey Kong atmosphere. Snappy jungle beats and familiar remixes of old tunes are abound and elements of certain stages serve as call-backs to earlier entries in the series. For example, you start the first level by bursting out of Donkey Kong’s treehouse; just like in the original DKC, you can go underneath the house to check out DK’s missing banana horde, or re-enter the house to find a 1-UP balloon. Other familiar elements, like bonus barrels, banana coins, and Diddy’s DKC64 paraphernalia (the peanut popguns and barrel jetpack) also put in appearances. On the character front, things are no less recognizable, as Cranky Kong, Rambi, and Squawks all show up early and often. If there’s one thing that Nintendo does incredibly well, it’s nostalgia and, true to form, DKCR harps on that particular chord frequently. owever, there are some elements of the classic games that are conspicuously absent in DKCR. Old series standbys like Funky Kong and the Kremlings are completely MIA, not even garnering so much as a mention.

On the gameplay front, DKCR is still the same Donkey Kong platforming we all know and love, but it does have a few new tricks to keep things fresh. In addition to his old repertoire of running, jumping, and ground-slapping, DK has a few new moves to throw into the mix. He can blow on objects on the ground, uncovering secrets, and make use of Diddy’s jetpack when the miniature Kong is with him. On that note, Diddy’s received a bit of an overhaul as well. DK’s sidekick can now be controlled by the second player for simultaneous cooperative play (a mode heavily reminiscent of New Super Mario Bros. Wii) and, when not being controlled, rides on Donkey Kong’s back instead of following along behind him (unlike previous games, you can’t control Diddy separately from Donkey Kong in single player mode). Having Diddy present unlocks a few new moves, such as the Kong Roll (basically a continuous roll attack) and the glide-jump.

DK can now interact with various objects in the background. Blowing on a plant may produce a hidden token, while pounding the ground may cause a plant to spit up a few bananas. The feature is interesting, but can also be a bit of a nuisance because there’s no easily visible distinction to discern which objects can be interacted with and which are just there for aesthetics, making the whole thing more of an exercise in trial-and-error than anything requiring skill. On the note of secrets, the game does have a series of collectables in the form of the K-O-N-G letters from the games of old (which now apparently have a purpose beyond granting an extra life) and a set of puzzle pieces. These collectables can be quite difficult to find; I consider myself a bit of an old hand at DKC, having played the original trilogy to death, and I used to be able to spot secrets in new games from a mile away. However, I have yet to finish a level in DKCR with all collectables attained, so it looks like there will be a fair amount of replay value in the game as a result.

The graphics are sharp and pretty, though nothing to really write home about. The Wii controls, playable with either the Wiimote on its own or with the nunchuck attached, feel a bit unfamiliar at first but can be picked up reasonably quickly. Overall, the game is highly enjoyable for any fans of 2D platforming. DKCR offers the same solid gameplay that made the original DKC trilogy one of the SNES’s best selling series. The nostalgia will please old fans of the series, while the quick-to-pick-up gameplay makes it easy for newcomers to the series to get right into things. Overall an excellent purchase and a highly recommended game for the holidays.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)

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