Donkey Kong Country Returns Review by: kabenon007Donkey Kong Country Returns to the Top
Nintendo is at it again, bringing an old classic to the forefront with a modern-day upgrade, both in graphics and gameplay. But for a series that is so decidedly old-school (I mean come on, what can be more old school than Donkey Kong?) is a modern upgrade a welcome upgrade? In short: yes. In long: see below.
Donkey Kong has long been known for his platforming skills. He is a monkey after all. Natural born climbers, those monkeys. And he has never been more in his element than in Donkey Kong Country Returns. The ape swings, climbs, and jumps his way across many vibrant and colorful worlds populated with multiple enemies, and boy does he look good doing it. The graphics, controls, and platforming elements combine to form something that is greater than the sum of their parts. The graphics are good, the controls are spot on, and the platforming is so precise and razor sharp you could shave a monkey with it. Natural born shavers, those monkeys.
Watching the game in motion, you would not think you were controlling an ape; you would think you were controlling a ballerina mixed with a cannonball. It sounds like an odd combination, but with Donkey Kong, it works because you expect it from him; both powerful and precise. With practice, you will soon find yourself both alighting on tiny platforms that don't seem wide enough to support the large Kong and careening from cannon to cannon, blasting through the scenery like it is made of papier mache. My only qualm with the controls is the slight delay I felt when jumping with Donkey. It seemed to me that when I pressed the button to make the Kong jump, instead of instantly rocketing upwards, he decides to pick his nose first and then jump. This slight delay, very very slight delay, would normally not have been a big deal, but in a game where the jumping is such a central component and the jumping needs razor sharp precision, that slight delay can sometimes feel like a hindrance.
Speaking of scenery (did you see that transition there?) the levels are wonderfully varied, yet never overwhelming. Eight different worlds, plus one hidden world, are all individual experiences that never feel like rehashes of a previous world. Each one is instantly recognizable with twists on gameplay specific to the area. And these twists are not stage gimmicks, they actually make sense. It makes sense that Donkey Kong would have to deal with huge, environmentally destructive waves on a Beach level. This game also takes the cannon stages made famous by the first Donkey Kong and blows them way way up (snicker). The distance between barrels is sometimes enormous, but the time and distance is never wasted as the scenery that goes flying by during these sequences is always vibrant enough to grab your attention. Until Donkey Kong destroys that beautiful statue you were admiring by blasting through it from the latest barrel cannon. Natural born demolition experts, those monkeys.
Playing this game alone is fun. Playing this game with a friend (soon to be ex friend) is an absolute riot. Just make sure you have very thick walls, because shortly after you start playing, you both will be shouting at each other at the top of your lungs "Go go go!" "Jump there!" "Why did you jump on that platform you knew it was going to fall out as soon as you touched it? You knew it would fall? You wanted me to fall?" The game sets itself up for this kind of devious play. But ultimately, you need to work together to make it, and it really isn't too difficult to succeed. I played this with my wife, who is not much of a gamer, and we managed to beat the game together, though I'm surprised our marriage handled it. Our talk at night, which used to be "Oh I had a lovely day with you" became "I can't believe you blew right by that barrel. That was our last life!" Natural home wreckers, those monkeys.
This game is also huge. So many levels, and most levels will require multiple runs to complete as they are so difficult at times. In addition to all of the normal levels, there are reasons to play through each level multiple times (to collect the KONG letters, to get a better completion time, etc). And then finally, on top of that, there is a mode available to unlock that completely flips the game on its head, offering up on of the most unique challenges I have ever seen in a platforming game, a challenge I never would have seen coming, but one that completely blew me out of the water. Unlock it. You'll see. But you won't hear about it from me. Natural born secret keepers, those monkeys.
All in all, Donkey Kong Country Returns does just that; it brings Donkey Kong back as the king of the 2D side-scroller. Keeping the best of the old school and taking the modern day innovations and integrating them into that "old-school" feel, Donkey Kong is not so much reinvented but remodeled. It retains that old school feel that Kong fans crave, and makes it all feel fresh and new, yet old. A grandpa, but a young grandpa. A brand new car drenched in that old car smell. You know the one I'm talking about? Ground in french fries and stale pizza. These comparisons make it seem like Donkey Kong Country Returns is bad. But it's really good! I promise! Try it, and you'll feel young again! Natural born rejuvenators, those monkeys.