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Nov 29

Game Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

Ah, it’s finally here. The reason why so many Nintendo fans, the real DIE HARD fans, still count the Super Nintendo as their all-time favourite console (and rightly so). Sure, Mario Kart started a lot of addictions, some of us even started our Final Fantasy obsessions on the 16bit wonder machine but the game that showed us that 32bits was overrated back in 1993 was DONKEY KONG COUNTRY. Even today, epic still doesn’t describe it with justice.

So it’s 2010 and at E3, Nintendo start a presentation with a very well known Congo drum beat which erupts into a soft melody from the original games intro which has the audience on their feet clapping wildly. Sure, at the time, I got sucked into all the hype too but since then, the Wii has delivered unto me quite a mix bag of emotions. Metroid : Other M broke my heart in so many ways I didn’t know possible, while Goldeneye delivered everything I wanted but in a 4 hour package and the best game I have played on it since E3 is LEGO HARRY POTTER! So I had faith, but not a lot. I mean, Donkey Kong could be screwed up quite easily if the controls, movements, abillities, music and graphics aren’t just right.

DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS is brought to us by Retro Studios who are the adorned kings who made the legendary Metroid Prime series and dear sweet zombie Jesus have they outdone themselves and everyone else out there on this one! Donkey Kong Country Returns is nothing short of gaming excellence that even Mario has not reached since Mario64. First impressions are nothing short of “oh my god, why have I played anything up until now?! What a waste of time!” ….. ok, maybe that’s a bit much …

First things first, the controls. You can play with the remote held horizontal or with the nunchuk but controls are very similar for both yet i found the remote sideways worked best for me. The only niggly little set back is that DK & Diddy have more moves than the remote has buttons so there is a bit of the ol’ remote waggle for certain abillities. This is also coupled with different directional presses for different moves. Hold left or right and give it a flick and you will do your roll attack. Down and convulse is to blow the dandelions in the levels and just giving it a good old toss on its own will make DK punch the crap out of the ground. He’s such an angry monkey. Even with the nunchuk, you still have to waggle. All these moves could have been given their own button on the classic controller but they opted against that. With a bit of gamer savvy, this hurdle can be overcome very easily though.

Honestly, that is the only issue. Thats it. There is nothing else to complain about so strap yourself in, good reader, for a page of near masturbatory monkey glory.

Graphically, the guys have done everything justice. They have cleverly not made Donkey Kong Country Returns look like a kiddie Crash Bandicoot, nor have they gone for ultra realistic looks like Splatterhouse. It fits the Donkey Kong legacy just right. The typical above-ground levels are bright and vibrant with enough colour to give you diabetes. Then they have these sunset levels where the playing field foreground is a complete silhouette, albeit for DK’s glorious red neck-tie and Diddy’s red cap and only movement and brightly lit eyes tell you of coming dangers, basically the same as sections of Shank on 360 and PS3. These levels are unbelievably gorgeous in their simplicity. With the background so well lit, you don’t miss much unless you get lazy, which brings me to the difficulty.

The original Donkey Kong Country was released in ’93 when most of us were young little monkeys flingin’ our crap and making a mess. Now we’re in our mid to late twenties, still flinging our crap and making a mess and the majority of us can still play Donkey Kong Country competently so Retro Studios knew that and made the general levels and bosses a decent challenge but for those of us who play far more than we should, will find the insane task of finding everything a downright verticle climb and it is fan-damn-tastic. Obviously it’s not required to find all the puzzle pieces and K O N G letters but when you do…. ah gaming bliss. It’s common to find yourself spending a dozen lives on 1 particular level only to get them back the next by finding extras. Strangely though, the frustration that comes with most games like this is not present.

The level design is nothing short of awesome. You will use your trusty bazooka barrel to hurtle through mountains, to watch them crumble down in front of you to set the path for the rest of the stage. It’s beautiful how the craziness works so darn well that you find yourself saying “wow” out loud. And when they want to really ramp up your heart rate, they throw the mine cart stages at you. Holy cheese and crackers are they cool! But that’s not all, there are new stage types thrown in for good measure and to keep you forever on your toes. Now, for those wondering, yes, the underwater swimming levels have been removed to keep the overall pace of the game very high. Whilst I was hurt when I heard this news initially, after playing for a few hours, I do understand where they are coming from. Hopefully they’re back in a Donkey Kong Country Returns 2 down the track.

The music is brilliant and up-beat and largely comprised of remade tunes from the original DKC. The overall sound is not as ground-breaking as DKC was in it’s time but that feat would be only described as impossible since DKC really pushed the boundaries of what games could do. Still, this soundtrack will ignite that kid inside you and you will be humming the tunes in no time.

With what looks like 10 or so worlds and 7 or 8 stages in each, this is a game to last you a while. Maybe that’s why it’s the last to be released. Sneaky Nintendo! There’s unlockables rewarded by collecting all the puzzle pieces and finding all the secret stages and beating the bosses so there’s plenty here for casual and hardcore alike. Cranky Kong makes a reappearance as too does Rambi the Rhino and Squawks the parrot but no sign of the beloved Kremlins or their King K Rool. There’s totally new enemies now and they fit just as well as the old Klap Traps and Manky’s did in their game.

Now, sadly, I can not comment on the co-op play as currently I am so sick that no one will come near me but I had to get this message out to everyone that DKCR is pure gold. There are sections when you play on your own where you realise that your buddy would help you get a certain collectable. So this review is based purely on the single player story mode.

I can’t stress enough how good this game is. What we have here is the picture perfect nostalgia trip and one of the finest gaming experiences you can get your hands on. This game could come out on any platform and be the instant, number 1 hit it deserves to be and if anyone tells you it’s no good, they have not played it. Simple. This kind of game is why Nintendo was head honcho back in the day and now with a plethora of Wii only triple A grade games, you should be holding Santa to ransom for a Wii this christmas. Those of us that already have one, it’s time to celebrate dammit! This is the game of the year and we’ve had some doozies. 2 bananas up! You’d have to be a monkey to miss this!

– Stubby