DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS
PEGI RATING: 3
"Oh shit, I died again."
"Yeah, that's annoying...but look at the gorgeous scenery!"
Ever since Donkey Kong Country Returns entered our humble household, this has been the outline of most conversations during gameplay, which has now spanned a fairly impressive 9 hours - and that's only just halfway through.
For those of you who haven't yet got funky with the monkey, DKCR is the long-awaited follow up to 1994's Donkey Kong Country for the SNES. Now that's a hell of a time to wait for a follow up, unless you count 2008's offering Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which included stages which were an obvious homage to the original game right down to the signature music.
But maybe you haven't played those games. And DKCR is a game that claps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey, friend. That's OK. Just come along for the ride."
You can play the game as a one- or two-player adventure: go it alone with DK himself, team up with nephew Diddy or sling the little guy on your back and borrow his nifty jetpack boosts for those hard-to-reach areas. And when I say hard-to-reach areas you can bet your monogrammed tie that there are a lot of those. This game is a nightmare for collect-o-philes like myself: I find myself shadowing my partner, yelling "Go back! You missed a coin! GO BACK DAMN YOU!!" There are barrels to bash, plants to pop and bags to burst and levels are chock-full of collectible items - maybe a little too many, as it's quite hard to grab them all, especially within some of the fast-paced forwards scrolling levels when you are running for your life away from giant bats/spiders/militant miner moles (yes, really) to worry about shiny trinkets.
Also, should you choose to play with Diddy in either modes, you may find that your life quantity (expressed by bright red balloons) is sapped pretty quick: if you both die, you lose two lives. Even if Diddy died in battle mere seconds before you did, you still lose two lives once you die. A little unfair? Maybe, but as my paramour just said, "I'm not going to pick on an otherwise brilliant game."
And just look at the scenery. Chimps alive, it's worth buying for that merit alone, it truly is. Think of all the games that visually have made you go "Ooh, this is just a little bit special" - Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Pikmin, Super Mario Galaxy - while DKCR may not be a 3D epic like the former, it is simply gorgeous. Notable levels include a sunset which is a canvas of blood-red, orange and black; a relentless tidal wave that you can see right from its initial form until it crashes right in your face, levels which take you from the foreground to the background and beyond. Everything looks like it took the design team forever and made them bloody proud in doing so, and they really aught to be.
For casual gamers and DK fans alike, this is a must-have, and I mean it. The controls are smooth and simple, varying from piloting the Wiimote to direct a character to your standard button-mash and the play itself is addictive, with always another puzzle or time-trial to offer. Cutscenes are short, sweet and silent - which is a welcome change for me after being used to the cinematic strato-RPGs I tend to favour, and it's nice to see this old faithful franchise newly renovated.
Climb up Donkey Kong, and take your place amongst the Champions.
NEETY'S VERDICT: *****/*****
Like a hug from Kong himself, this game and the act of reviewing it made me warm and fuzzy.Whether you buy it now or wait for the mid-year price crash, I highly recommend this charming, clever and highly addictive game.