Ghouls and Tools: Donkey Kong Country Returns

(Dani: This is a guest post from Mikaius. He’s here to review Donkey Kong Country Returns, which we have been playing non-stop for just over a month now. I have nothing to do with any hijinks that may ensue. Enjoy the man I’m in love with, folks!)

I am the Beard of the North, Mikaius. I come with tidings from a tropical land – I have returned from a country of donkeys and kongs. Hereafter I shall lay my tales of this voyage:

Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010) for the Nintendo Wii is wonderful throwback to the classic Kong Country games, but it isn’t without its flaws. Being on the Wii, the system feels like the controllers are shoehorned in. The unnecessary use of the shaking for multiple moves (a rolling attack, slamming the ground and blowing on things) being wildly inaccurate and often occurring when not intended just because the player has shifted their arm, or failing to go through on a time-sensitive boss movement, because the player didn’t shake hard enough.

Staying with the Wii controller, the game makes use of the awful and tinny sounding speaker for player-sounds (collecting items, hitting enemies, etc.). This sounds dull and almost like it’s coming out of a turn of the millennium cell phone.

Often the player characters will snag the edge of an enemy they’re supposed to jump on, or worse, appear to be landing on the enemy by still get hit instead of KO’ing them.

Even though the bosses follow the Nintendo rule-of-three (each boss takes three hits per stage and has three stages), it would be beneficial to the player for them to have a health metre as well. At the very least, this will help the player keep track of which stage the boss is on and how much more to work ‘em over.

Checkpoints can often be a nightmare, as they’re usually once per level, sometimes twice. Having them three times in a level, at the quarter, half and ¾ point would be far more logical and respectful of a player’s time. This would cut down on having to hunt items over and over, and on having to repeatedly traverse the same areas in a lead up to a difficult spot.

Leading in to the problem of death, the game handles player respawns differently than other recent Nintendo platformers, and for the worse. Whereas in the modern Mario games, the player respawns floating towards other players, the respawning barrel in DKCR floats away from the surviving player, and can often float off-screen, resulting in the loss of a balloon/life . Not getting the barrel should not cost a life.

Edit: Eventually discovered that it was possible for the barrel-rider to drift towards the surviving player by waggling the remote. Nowhere is this instructed in the game. 

Being a modern Nintendo product it should learn from its fellows, which is a lesson sorely missing from many, but seen in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Levels are not lost and lives do not exist, the player can repeat over and over again, the goal being (as it really is in many Nintendo-style platformers) collecting items.

Still on lives, the way they are shared between player one and two are quite messy. When a level is restarted, it costs two balloons/lives. This can quickly result in the default three balloons completely disappearing, leaving the players to repeat the whole level over again.

Rating: 3.5/5 – recommended, as long as you don’t mind waggling remotes.

Though a troubled country, the asses are strong, the kongs are mighty. Where once a king reigned, now kongs are kings. Donkey Kong Country Returns gets three villagers beheaded, and the horse they rode in on.

(Header image taken from Gameranx.)

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