Donkey Kong Country Returns Review
There has always been a charm to Donkey Kong and his little pal Diddy Kong. Both have showed their mugs in many Mario related titles such as Super Smash Bros Brawl, Mario Power Tennis, Mario Kart; Double Dash!! and many others. They have even starred in several of their own titles including Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Konga, and Donkey Kong Barrel Blast. But, even with their likenesses in showing up in countless games, their popularity as a team rose in Donkey Kong Country and Retro Studios is ready to revisit those days with Donkey Kong Country Returns.
Upon booting up Donkey Kong Country Returns, it’s increasingly evident that Retro put a lot of effort into making DKCR a light affair. It’s comparable to a Saturday morning cartoon with presentation, cinematics and music. There were times that it was on par with the humor of old-school Scooby-Doo when examining the physical pratfalls. On the flip side, the written dialogue was lackluster so don’t come into DKCR expecting comedy beyond wit’s end.
Never bogged down on being too serious or overwhelming with dark overtones, DKCR is a colorful platformer that kept on giving when it came to level design. They are among the best of 2010 and continued to deliver impressive set pieces one after another. One look at Sunset Shore and it’s clear that Retro put a lot of effort in mixing up the visuals to change the pace. Sunset Shore is on par with what was created in Playdead Studios’ Limbo for the Xbox Live Arcade. The level and characters are darkened with the sun going down in the background. To keep track of the swinging gorillas, DKCR gives red highlights to both of their trademark clothing (DK’s tie, Diddy’s hat and shirt). It’s a clever level that shows how intelligent Retro is when crafting set pieces.
Even with several themed levels, countless bonus rooms, interactive backgrounds, and gorgeous aesthetics, DKCR is plagued with a shallow plot that doesn’t keep players highly involved. Tikis are invading the jungle, stealing the Kong’s bananas and hypnotizing animals. Thus, the motivation for DK and Diddy to save the day is set; of course, they’ll have the help of Cranky Kong and his items such as Squawks the parrot who will find hidden puzzle pieces and/or items, banana juice for invincibility and a few others. That said, there’s very little reason to play DKCR for the story – the enemies are forgettable even in comparison to the Kremlins from past iterations.
The number one reason to return to DKCR happens to be the high level difficulty that will slap the player in the face numerous times before they even recognize how to achieve a challenging jump, barrel roll, and then jump combination to reach a new platform. Much of this is attributed to the forced waggle controls that could’ve been excluded to provide a more rounded control scheme that revolved around button presses rather than motion controls that were finicky from time to time. While it isn’t the best way to increase longevity, it is the main reason that players will stick around for hours on end playing DKCR.
Thankfully, much to DK’s delight, Diddy Kong is a godsend to assist with platforming. Diddy Kong comes equipped with his trademark jetpack and allows DK to hover in the air to reach platforms and glide over avoidable encounters with enemies. Players looking to play cooperatively should come to the realization that Diddy is much better used on DK’s back to provide the hovering maneuvers rather than having two players individually run amok. Still, the fact remains; the cooperative experience is a competent one that is among the better co-op titles to release on the Nintendo Wii.
While the soundtrack is serviceable at best, it never approaches the greatness that was found in Donkey Kong Country 2 or even Retro’s previous efforts in Metroid Prime. Too often the tracks are repetitive and the cues are never original enough for it to stand out when compared to the quality that was found 16 years ago.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a solid side-scrolling platformer from start to finish. Retro Studios may have instilled a higher difficulty that many gamers may not be used to, but that shouldn’t scare them away from the joys of nostalgia and charm that DKCR brings to the table. Besides, it has always been an entertaining delight to ride Rambi the Rhino and wreck havoc on the environment and enemies that lie before Donkey Kong.