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Donkey Kong Country Returns impressions

The developer Retro studios has once again cradled one of Nintendo's biggest franchises in its bosom and raised a fantastic game. The last year has been a banner year for platformers on the Wii and the 2D platformer genre in general. Games like New Super Mario Bros, Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong help prove that its still one the best game designs around and with the right team, can compete with anything 3D games have to offer. I wanted to give you guys a quick roundup of my thoughts so far about the game and what you can expect if this game is on your radar.

It's just a 2D platformer why should you care?
Retro Studios seems to be Nintendo's ace in the hole and boy they don't disappoint. Granted this game doesn't have the same 3D rendered graphics like the originals, but it does have beautifully animated colorful characters and environments. Donkey Kong Country Returns level design is fantastic and offers tons of secrets to find, challenging platforming, and creative uses of the levels environments to effect gameplay. Each level in the game seems to be always asking you to do something a little different and each level feels fresh. Your also going to be in for a challenge; in the first world alone I died at least 10 times and didn't even come close to finding all the KONG letters and puzzle pieces in each level. Oh yeah, did I mention that each level also has a time attack mode as well? In case you looking for more of a challenge. The game can be difficult at times, but the game does offer you lots of ways to make it easier on yourself by adding checkpoints and banana coins. With the banana coins you go to old Kranky Kongs shack and purchase extra balloons, a puzzle revealing parrot, and invincibility juice. Much like Mario Bros 3, you access them on the main map and use them before you enter levels.

How does it play?
For the most part Donkey Kongs gameplay is pretty straight forward. You can jump, ground pound, throw barrels and barrel roll like the original, but you have a few more additional moves this time around. You can duck and blow air to help to find hidden items, cling to grass, and with Diddy Kong at your side you can get a small rocket boost to your jumps that makes you float an extra second in the air. Grounds pounds also have gained the ability to stun enemies and is used often to interact with environments and destroy objects. All of these things feel natural in context to the game. But the one thing that bothers me is that the ground pound, barrel roll, and the blow move are all controlled by shaking the Nunchuck and Wiimote up and down with a directional press of the analog stick. Using the motions controls for the ground pound makes sense to me, but felt unnatural with the other two moves and a little inaccurate especially when trying to time barrel rolls accurately. I would have preferred a regular button press for those actions, but you do get used to it after a few levels.

The game offers single player and two player co-op. Single player is a little different than the original and it may turn off a few fans. In single player you only can play as Donkey Kong — you do get Diddy — but you cannot switch and use him exclusively. He really is only there to help give you a boost and add hearts to your life. It's an odd choice to remove the option to switch them on the fly, maybe its possible they wanted to encourage two player mode. Two player mode you can add Diddy to the mix and your free to go anywhere on the screen and hop on Donkey Kong if you want. Just don't go too far. If either of the characters are of the screen for too long you will lose a life. The two player mode is not like New Super Mario Bros where your characters can bounce off each other and you can be a dick and throw your buddy down a pit of despair for giggles. But don't think just because you have your best mate on your side that the game will be easier. Quite frankly I can see lots of people maybe throwing a few f-bombs or two while playing the game. But it never gets hard enough where it becomes overly frustrating.

Who should play this game?
Any fan of platformers in general should take a crack at Donkey Kong Country Returns. If your a Wii owner looking for a challenge this is a great game to add to your library, especially if you have a friend to take on the adventure with you. Even if they didn't get everything in the game that the fans would have wanted in there I think this is still good game for fans to pick up.

If this game was on your radar already, I highly doubt you will be disappointed.

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