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Mindless Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

The Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES was one of my favorite franchises back in the day, so when the announcement came that a new Donkey Kong Country was coming out for the Wii I was over joyed.  Now that Donkey Kong Country Returns is here, is the return a welcome one?

Taking the helm of DKCR is Retro Studios, the folks behind the Metroid Prime series, but instead of reinventing the formula like they did in Prime, Retro instead chose to take DK back to his platforming roots and build upon the formula that made the series such a success in the past.

The story if you want to call it that centers around Donkey Kong having his famous banana hoard stolen by a bunch of tiki creatures (in place of the series mainstay villains the Kremlins) and Donkey Kong must go through hell and high water to get his precious bananas back.  The story doesn’t really matter here because it’s the gameplay where it counts, but at least the story explains why a bunch of tiki creatures are stealing DK’s bananas.

So DK will journey through 8 different worlds, with about 8-10 levels in each.  Gameplay is very typical for a platformer, you move from left to right, using the buttons to run and jump.  Other actions, such as rolling and stomping the ground come into play by a shaking of the wiimote.

There are two options for control, playing with the wiimote on it’s own for a more classic feel, or by playing with the nunchuck.  The wiimote on it’s own is the best way to play since it’s like playing with an NES control which is best suited for this kind of game.

Many of the series mechanics returns such as barrel blasting, mine cart riding and vine swinging, and there’s enough new added to the mix to keep the experience fresh.

One notable absence in the formula are the underwater levels, which where a game staple in the past.  It’s disappointing that not one underwater level shows up in DKCR, cause in most cases I hate underwater levels, but the ones in Donkey Kong Country where actually really good.

Two new additions are the ability to grab on to grassy areas to climb them, and rocket barrel levels where you navigate DK through a a bunch of obstacles by raising and lowering his flight path.  The rocket barel levels are a great new addition to the series and prove to be some of the game’s most challenging levels.

Speaking of challenge, DKCR is hard. I mean really hard.  If there’s one thing I can guarantee about DKCR it is that you will die… a lot.  One level I started out with 40 lives and by the time I was done I was down to 5.

Don’t let the challenge discourage you from playing this however because it’s the challenge that makes the game so damn good to begin with.  It harkens back to the Golden Age of gaming where it actually took skill to beat a game.  It’s rare to get such a high sense of accomplishment for beating a level these days, but it’s something that DKCR offers a lot.

Visually the game looks really good, there is a lot of variety in the stages in not just how they play but how they look.  The silhouette levels in particular are some of the more visually stunning levels in the game.  DKCR also does a lot with perspective to make the action seem more intense and it’s something that just couldn’t be done back on the SNES.

There is also an option for 2 player co-op where the 2nd player takes control for DK’s long time pal Diddy Kong.  While playing solo Diddy hangs onto DK’s back to give him some more hit points, and extend his jump due to his jet pack.

There is also some incentive to go back and replay levels, each level has for letters that spell Kong, and puzzle pieces.  Collecting them all unlocks bonus content like galleries and extra levels. There are also Time Trials for those who want a real challenge.

Donkey Kong Country Returns, stands out as one of the best games of 2010, and it’s a definite buy if you’re a fan of the older Donkey Kong Country games, or if your looking for a game with an extra bit of challenge.  Simply put, if you have a Wii buy this game, because for my money Mario isn’t the king of platformers it’s Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong Country Returns: 9.5/10

Categories: Awesome, Review, Video Games
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