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Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

Donkey Kong Country “Returns” via this excellent platformer which pays tribute to classic gaming, yet manages to bring something fresh to our shooter, social-gaming, and MMO-based world of video games today.

Just as the title implies, Donkey Kong Country Returns really is a “return” to DKC. It contains mainly the same type of game mechanics seen in previous installments of DKC. You mostly walk, jump, and roll your way around a side-scrolling level, jump on enemies, collect bananas, find all the KONG letters, and occasionally use vehicles. Even the music is almost entirely from the original DKC 1, only lightly remixed.

There are a few new additional things, such as the ability to blowout fire or plants to reveal items, secret puzzle pieces, and the use of motion controls to command Donkey and Diddy to perform certain actions. Despite these new features, such additions don’t really add much depth to the game, and so DKC Returns is more or less the same package, except of course that it’s a hell of a lot shinier and prettier considering the Wii is a big step up from the SNES/Super Famicom’s capabilities.

As being mostly true to the series, DKC Returns is also very difficult – some of the later stages made me want to pull my hair out. That’s not, however, necessarily a bad thing. I always enjoy a challenge, as long as it’s a reasonable challenge; not like that of I Wanna Be the Guy: The Movie: The Game, which is just absolutely retarded (pardon my political incorrectness). Those new to DKC, especially gamers who weren’t bred on impossibly difficult 80s Famicom/NES games, may find the otherwise soft and cute art design of DKC Returns to be deceiving; this game ain’t no pushover.

In DKC Returns, a race of strange Tiki-mask creatures barge in on Donkey’s island and hypnotize the island’s many inhabitants. With the animals under mind control, the Tikis order them to steal Donkey’s stash of bananas. And of course, if you steal a monkey’s bananas, you know what you’re going to get – one determined and angry monkey out to get his bananas back, stomping anyone in his way.

In terms of a plot, that’s basically it. But really, who needs a more complicated story? Do you really need to have a reason to stomp around and grab bananas on an island?

Actually, there isn’t just one determined and angry monkey: There are TWO determined and angry monkeys. In DKC Returns, you can play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong (if you’re playing as the second player). Playing on single player, you have to play as Donkey, but finding and smashing open DK barrels allow you to work your way around the stages with Diddy.

Donkey and Diddy have practically the same skills, except Diddy has two main advantages over Donkey. He has a peanut gun that can stun certain enemies from a distance, and a jetpack that allows him to hover short distances. Donkey, however, can acquire the latter ability if he grabs Diddy and places him on his back. This can be done whether on one or two-player mode.

Playing the game with a friend is lots of fun even though it’s much easier to go at it by yourself. On several occasions, you’d be destroying your sanity if you continued trying some of the more difficult levels on two-player mode. Some of the levels have platforming sequences that need absolutely precise timing; if you and your friend don’t have some kind of super ESP connection that allows you to push buttons at exactly the same time, you’ll just be wasting lives. So while it’s good fun to share the experience with your buddies, anyone who wants to master this game will probably have to do it solo. At least sometimes.

The main game is divided into 8 worlds with generic names such as Jungle, Forest, and Volcano. Don’t let the uninspired names fool you, these levels are very intricately designed and fine-tuned for an excellent platforming experience. Each world has between eight to ten stages, including (semi-spolier?) two unlockable stages and a boss stage. Not all these stages have to be completed to reach the boss.

Like in most platformers, the focus of each stage is the platform elements themselves rather than the enemies. The enemies are essentially an extension of the obstacles of each stage. You’ll have more trouble with the level obstacles and platform jumping rather than the enemies. Also, dispatching the enemy AI is mostly unnecessary, though in certain instances they are essential to reaching hard to reach locations.

The standard platforming action is broken up by the occasional mine cart and flying rocket barrel sequences. There are also a few times when you can ride Rambi the rhino, a staple in the DKC series, to plow through obstacles and enemies, and find otherwise unreachable secret areas. Unfortunately, you don’t see Rambi very often. I could only remember two instances wherein I was able to ride on Rambi.

Control-wise, DKC Returns is very polished, as can be expected from a Nintendo-published game. Movement and actions via the Wii’s controls are extremely accurate – accurate enough to get through the really tight design of the stages. However, what was very disappointing were the actions mapped to the Wii’s motion controls. While these motion-control activated actions were rarely necessary for finishing any of the levels, you can sometimes accidentally trigger them at the wrong moment, leading Donkey and Diddy to an undeserved death. Had some of these actions been mapped to a button, annoying moments like these would have been avoided. But of course, a Wii game isn’t a Wii game without motion controls, especially one published by Nintendo (I’m being sarcastic).

Forgive DKC Returns of its only flaw (motion controls), and you will be treated to a fun gaming experience that is an excellent throwback to how gaming was like some 20 years ago. It is, in my opinion, 2D side-scrolling at its best in our time. And if you’re a fan of the old series, you most definitely won’t be disappointed.

Available at Datablitz for Php 2,395.00

U.S. version
Reached game cleared status
83% complete
Played on one and two-player modes
Currently replaying for (this might be a spoiler!) secret orbs collection

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