Monday, December 6, 2010
Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Full disclosure, I have never played Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, or 3. But it didn't matter worth a damn because I still had more fun with Donkey Kong Country Returns than I've had in a long long time with any game.
At the core, the gameplay is the reason to own the title. Everything feels so natural as you play an ape jumping around collecting bananas and other goodies. Running, climbing, and rolling your way through the stages will be a challenge but ever time you see that finish screen, you'll feel nothing but satisfaction. I played the game with the nunchuk and wiimote combo and that felt very natural. You move with the joystick, jump with A, and hold on to things for climbing with B. It's all simple in a good way and then there's the motion controls which don't add a ton, but they certainly make for some fun. It feels satisfying to smack the wiimote and nunchuk in the same slapping-the-ground manner that Donkey hits for his move. You also can stop and blow air on things to either move platforms or dandelions to discover secrets, as well as more. I've heard a lot of complaints about how this stops the pacing of the game but lets be honest, it's all in how you want to play. I tended to seek out secrets during my first play-through but there's nothing stopping you from just running around however you like. You can always go back and find the secrets later.
I guess I'm already touching on the next section I wanna talk about, the content. This game contains eight worlds, each with their own boss, and a couple of extras thrown in there. Each standard level has the traditional KONG letters and each level also contains various puzzle pieces. Some of them are very very tricky to find but you can buy a Squawk item which will help you seek out your missing secrets. There is so much to find and do in each level and then you multiply that by how many levels... wow is the answer here. It's definitely on par with New Super Mario Bros. Wii as far as amount of levels but there's probably more to actually discover within Donkey Kong Country Returns. As you collect things and up your percentage, you unlock music and art in the galleries as well. Lots to do for completionists here. Besides the letters and puzzle pieces, there's time-trials to attempt medals for and even MORE to unlock and earn. Also, I wont go into much spoilery detail but hidden throughout the backgrounds of levels are allusions to other games as little easter eggs to spot. They should delight if you find them. While many of the levels are fantastic, some of the best are the 'Silhouette Levels'. I wish there had been more, at least one per world, but I guess their lack of quantity just allowed for me to love the ones that're there even more.
This game, like life, obeys a five second rule. The five second rule in this case though is that, if you don't hate the game after five seconds, you will in fact become addicted for weeks until it's completion. That. Is. Fact.
Like with Retro Studios' most recent outings with Metroid, Donkey Kong Country Returns looks fantastic in the graphics department. The levels are colorful and crisp. They do away with the old style from the SNES games, obviously though as that's obsolete. The game may be 2D but the 3D assets look great and their 2D textures help sell their look. The mossy areas you can grab on to for instance look absolutely wonderful. They look realistically lush. The character models for Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong look great also. The game features cutscenes before the boss battles and in the beginning of the game as well. You will be surprised at how good an elephant's ass looks.
I don't have that much to say about the music besides that it's rather enjoyable. Even without playing the original Rare series, I know that the music is classic in those titles. Donkey Kong Country Returns does a great job with the sound effects and music but for me anyway, nothing ever reached the heights of Bramble Blast for instance. In the levels that feature any kind of 'magma', you can definitely feel a hint of "Magmoor Caverns" from the Metroid Prime series. It's greatly appreciated and obvious why they did.
I'm not quite sure why I never played the original SNES titles, I certainly don't miss the Kremlings. I also don't know see an urge to go back and play those titles after this. From what I've heard, Retro Studios has made the DKC formula and made it even better. Maybe that's ignorant, and I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually, but Donkey Kong Country Returns has quenched my platforming thirst and made me hungry as hell for some banana bread.
This game is amazing. Retro Studios is amazing.
Buy it at all costs if you like fun.
What I liked:
Level Design is impeccable and the gameplay is top-notch. Lots of levels too, and reasons to go back to previously beaten levels. Lots of replayability. Rambi is a blast to play with and I don't feel the need for more animals.
What I didn't like:
Once in a while, the game gets almost TOO-hard. The motion-controls work MOST of the time, but when they don't, it's rather annoying.