Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

When I played the original Donkey Kong Country, I made it a habit to roll into my enemies.  I’d press the roll button, and defeat them that way.  In this game, in order to roll, you need to shake the Wiimote up and down.  It’s cumbersome and unresponsive.  And it completely changes how I play Donkey Kong Country.

What’s funny is that this is otherwise a spot on Donkey Kong Country game.  It looks like Donkey Kong Country.  Rolling aside, it controls like Donkey Kong Country.  It sounds like Donkey Kong Country, and it plays like Donkey Kong Country.  It just doesn’t have that same roll.

Level design toward the beginning of the game is very good.  Unlike the last 2D platformer I played (Klonoa), levels are less about puzzle solving and more about making it to the next platform safely.  Unfortunately however, later levels are extremely difficult.  Don’t be deceived by the fact that the game can be seen as a kids game… Donkey Kong Country Returns gets hard.

There’s a feature called Super Guide which basically has the game play itself if you’re struggling in a level or boss fight.  I’m embarrassed about the extent to which I needed to use this feature.  I think having the feature in the game gave the developers an excuse to make the game as difficult as they wanted it to be, but relying on it makes you feel like you suck at video games in the end.

There’s a lot of content here.  I kept thinking I was going to come to the last area of the game only to have another area appear.  They manage to get a lot of ideas in.  Each level has a theme, as does each area of the game.  The area dictates the entire theme (e.g. Jurassic world) whereas the level has a twist on the area’s theme.  All in all, there’s a lot of variety level to level (if only they weren’t so difficult).

Aesthetically, they nailed it.  Thematically as well.  Even the music is great.  There are just two major flaws in Donkey Kong Country Returns: it doesn’t have the same roll as Donkey Kong Country, and the game gets crazy hard in the second half.  Even 2D platformer fans beware, this is a tough game to endorse.

2/5

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