I’ve never really been into the Donkey Kong franchise which is strange considering how much I love the abundance of Mario games available. I guess I’ve never really the big guy a chance, something which I’ve certainly found to regret after a good few days playing Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.
From the very start DK feels very familiar. The game itself is a 3D reboot for the Nintendo 3DS of the original 2010 Wii game which was developed by Retro Studios. The difference is that it’s been re-imagined by developers Monster Games. Having never played the Wii title I can look at the game with fresh eyes which I think helps as I’m familiar with certain Wii and Wii U titles not quite having the same level of detail than their Nintendo DS/3DS counterparts.
The story itself is your typical ‘hero is summoned to rescue X’ something that Nintendo seems to be quite keen on replicating throughout it’s titles. In Donkey Kong however it’s a little less life or death because the ‘X’ in this equation is well, bananas. It seems that a volcano has erupted and awoken an evil group of creatures called Tikis and the Tiki Tak Tribe have taken it upon themselves to hypnotise the islands creatures using music in order to steal all of Donkey Kong’s bananas. Now I mentioned that it felt familiar, well the Tikis look a lot like the Aku Aku masks in Crash Bandicoot..
Story aside the game plays pretty well for a handheld title. Unlike the original Wii title Monster Games has done away with the shake controls in favour of using a physical button in order to perform the same action, a welcome change some seem to think. As you’d expect with trying to navigate a huge gorilla around the controls do take into account Donkey Kongs size, he’s not exactly the most agile fella and you can really tell whilst playing this game.
Diddy Kong also makes an appearance in this game and thank god he does. Initially Donkey Kong only has 3 hearts, but smash open the DK barrel and out pops Diddy Kong with his own unique ability and three extra hearts to help fend of the hypnotised jungle critters. Diddy Kong’s unique ability is his jetpack which gives Donkey Kong the ability to extend his jumps by hovering in the air for a few seconds, this helps a ton to get to the more harder to reach places where you’ll find puzzle pieces and what not. Whilst on the subject of Donkey Kong’s pals you can also find located in hidden areas a mean looking rhino who helps Donkey Kong smash through certain level parts. His jump is something to be desired, but I couldn’t imagine trying to jump with a gorilla and a chimp on my back..
That brings me swiftly on to the level designs something which impressed me a lot. Like with some Mario titles there’s various hidden areas which are full of banana’s for you to grab. Not only that if you’ve got a keen eye you can spot hints of ledges hidden behind branches. If you manage to climb up the branch moves out the way to reveal a hidden puzzle piece. Puzzle pieces are one of three collectable things throughout each level in order to complete it 100% the other two collectable items are the letters K O N and G and various banana coins.
Banana coins are the games form of currency if you hadn’t have already guessed. These can be used in Cranky Kong’s shops which can be found in various parts of each island. Cranky’s shop is where you can find various items to help along your way such as an extra Diddy Kong crate, a parrot which hints at when a puzzle piece is nearby and life balloons – Cranky has taken a bulk buying initiative in his shop too with more balloons costing a little bit less than single purchases.
As with classic Nintendo platformers you’ll find a boss located at the end of each level. The first of which puts you in a gladiator-esque stadium against a strange spiky frog monster which changes colour after a certain amount of hits – this also hints at how much life remains. The Bosses had some level of difficulty and I did burn through several balloons trying to defeat them, but once you’ve worked out their obvious weakness it becomes a little more simpler.
With the game being specifically a Nintendo 3DS game I’ve got to give some credit to the 3D aspect of the game something which I’m not a huge fan of generally but Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D does a good job with it. It’s especially good when the level splits off into two and you play on the one in the distance. It isn’t something you can have on all of the time though, like with most games of this genre you’ll often find that you exaggerate your movements, especially when you’re trying to do a well timed hop over the flower that’d about to bite you on the ass.
The game also offers the chance to play co-operatively depending on if your friend also has a copy of the game but it’s not something I managed to get experience with.
Overall Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D has an exhausting title, but the game play is as fresh as it was all those years ago. You can never get enough of the classic platform game especially when they feature old Nintendo favourites like Mario and Donkey Kong. Monster Games have done a brilliant job of making this game feel more like a first hand title rather than a Wii port, and with the added levels it adds extra playability to those familiar with the Wii title. The 3D is impressive but it isn’t something you can comfortably have on all of the time which for the price is a shame.