Written by Josh “JP” Perault
Whenever the next game of a series releases, I always get a little nervous. Will it live up to its predecessors? Will it have a good story when the one beforehand was so amazing? Will the better graphics be the only positive note about the game? Donkey Kong Country Returns was no exception. After how amazing most of the original games were, one could only hope that the Wii release wouldn’t epically fail. After seeing the game played at NY Comic Con this year and playing it personally after launch, I realized that DK and Diddy did it again with a very well made, fun adventure.
Normally, swinging into a Donkey Kong game, one expects a world of Kremlings working for King K. Rool, mine cart levels, cool animal friends, and DK never having his bananas. Well, all that remains true except for the enemies. Instead of Kremlings, the enemies are animals under the control of Tikis from the Tiki Tak Tribe. Yes, I was also sad knowing that claptraps and the like would not be found in the new Wii adventure, but I quickly got over it.
Traversing through the world, I quickly realized that the game cut out a lot of Kong family members and animal buddies and concentrated more on the actual game play, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The only family member besides the main duo was Cranky Kong, DK’s really old and well…cranky… grandfather. His only purpose is to have a shop open for you to purchase different items with banana coins collected throughout the levels and to make wisecracks. Oh grandpa…. In addition, the only animal buddies were Rambi the Rhino and Squaks the Parrot, leaving out the slew of other animals associated with DK in earlier titles.
The layout of the world map stayed relatively the same though. Just like many platform games, as well as past Donkey Kong adventures, it is a linear level progression in which there are several levels grouped together in a similar theme with an ending boss. Pretty standard layout, but as simple as it is, the game is still challenging and engaging. If you think the mine cart levels were hard in the original, just take that and make it faster and you got the Wii version. Another difference in the levels is being able to shoot into the background of a level and perform a small task from far away only to be shot back to the foreground. This implementation added a bit more depth to a 2D playing field causing it to seem more modern than just an old school game on a new system. The motion controls also aided Donkey Kong Country Returns in being a very modern continuation of DK’s adventures. Anyone expecting to just run through the game with classic controls is going to be out of luck. The only way to ground pound or roll is to shake the Wii Remote up and down. The closest to classic controls you can get is using the Wii Remote sideways, but you still have to shake it. It was a little tedious at first, but you get use to it. Aside from that, expect the same amazing Donkey Kong game play we all know and love from beginning to end.
Graphically, the world looks amazing. For a 2D game, it really pops. The shadowing of the characters and the world, plus the depth mentioned prior, really gave a new look to the already familiar world. It was nothing really ground breaking or spectacular, but it definitely was not a step back in technology. Same goes with the audio. It kept the same Donkey Kong theme music, added a cup of modern, a dash of bananas, and a pallet of awesome and, in turn, gave birth to an amazing soundtrack. Every time it went back to the world map, I have to admit I was whistling the theme, dancing to myself, and heard my girlfriend laugh at my horrible dancing skills. Actually, let me correct that. At work fixing computers, waiting around for a movie to start, or just sitting around, I still find myself whistling the theme music. Is that sad? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
So overall, Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii turned out to be a great title and will most likely be a hit for the holidays. If you are a fan of the original, platform-based game play in general, or a pair of awesome monkeys finding their lost banana horde, pick up this game and enjoy. If you do not like the original games, having fun, or playing good games, don’t pick it up; it doesn’t want you either.