Donkey Kong Country Returns
Maybe it’s my age, but whenever Nintendo relaunches a classic for their modern and virgin-white console, they can still touch me. Last year New Super Mario Bros got my two thumbs up and even a big fat toe along with it. This time it’s up to Donkey and Diddy in the remake of Donkey Kong Country. Can they take place in my long term memory or will I prefer to forget the game exists?
Donkey Kong doesn’t need a lot of reasons to get into action again. The Tiki Take tribe is planning to let the local vulcano erupt and flood the beautiful island with hot and all-destructive lava. To make things easier, the tribe has hypnotised all animals on the island and enslaved them. Of course Donkey Kong didn’t care about this but when they grabbed his stash of bananas his patience ran out. And everyone knows what happened with the previous generation that dared to do this, right?
Donkey Kong’s quest for the banana stash takes him along throughout the well-known island that’s divided into eight sections with different themes. Starting with his homeland you learn the tricks of the trade. Jump to platforms, clamp yourself on vegetation, or just kill some opponents. Once you discover new locations some more challenges await you like an armada of pirate ships that bombard you while you’re navigating between platforms, or rusty mining carts where timing is key and where blind (and crazy) moles blow up tracks or collapse the ground.
The game is no doubt hard for both young and hardened players that go for a 100% score. If you don’t manage to get past a certain level, you can unlock Super Kong, and the CPU will do it for you. Going through a level yourself does earn more confidence to get through following levels, even if it does cost you lots, and LOTS, of lives.
Throughout the years Donkey has learned a couple of new tricks next to hitting the ground with brute force. This time he can also blow for interaction with background elements or defeating enemies. All attacks are done by shaking the Wii-mote or Nunchuck depending on which control system you chose, and pushing into a direction. Pushing down is blowing, forward and shaking is rolling, and just shaking is hitting. Unfortunately the controls sometimes get lost making you suddenly do a wrong move. This certainly irritates with the more precise work this platformer is filled with. What I found lacking most, however, was the support for a Gamecube or Classic controller. For a game that thrives on nostalgia this is a real shortcoming.
Another change is the choice to no longer have Diddy Kong actively participating in the singleplayers. Yes, you do see him here and there, but he doesn’t do much more than sit on your back and use his jetpack now and then to make you jump a bit further. Previously each protagonist would have his pros and cons with Donkey Kong being the brute muscle and Didddy Kong the flying acrobat. In the two player co-op there’s luckily some more interaction between both, making the more difficult levels a bit easier if your accompanying friend knows what to do.
The presentation is great. The music perfectly fits with the atmosphere created by the levels and contains a wink towards the good old days. Graphically there’s… (dare I say this about the Wii?) an abundance of detail. Each environment is filled with beautiful little background details. Donkey and Diddy look at their best and even the simplest platforms seem to be created like they were the life work of the developers. As cherry on the pie there are also levels where the sun sets. Only some black and orange with a small bit of red for Donkey’s tie and Diddy’s hat. Brilliant.
Although I praise the game and the nostalgia truly drips over I honestly have to admit that there are a few too many lackings to see this one as a worthy replacement for the original and the controls are mostly to blame for this. Still, despite its weaknesses this is a fun game for those that are fed up with New Super Mario Bros.