Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) (Wii) Preview

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 04.08.2010 7

Review for Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) on Wii

It has been more than ten years since Rare released Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! – the third and seemingly final instalment in the Donkey Kong Country series – for the Super Nintendo. Now Retro Studios (of Metroid Prime fame) has taken up the reins with its aptly named Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (DKCR) is a classic 2D platformer with 3D graphics and support for solo and cooperative play (Donkey and Diddy Kong). Donkey Kong retains his weighty feel and lofty jumps while Diddy Kong has access to a rocket jetpack which allows him to glide briefly after a jump. Diddy can share this ability – as well as fire his deadly peanut gun when controlled by a second player - after clambering onto Donkey’s back. Both characters can also roll and jump to cross large gaps, or collect precariously situated items.

While the original Donkey Kong Country wowed players with its unprecedented use of pre-rendered 3D graphics, DKCR is beautiful in its own way. The Jungle Beat-esque visuals are detailed, colourful and vibrant – and they look even lovelier in motion, bolstered by charming character animations. Backdrops are ripe with embellishments that add depth to what is still a 2D game in gameplay terms. During the "Poppin’ Planks" level a giant squid (which attacks later on) can be seen assaulting a ship in the distance while the player goes about their business.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) on Wii

The utilization of depth isn’t entirely cosmetic, though. During the "Jungle Hijinx" level, Donkey uses his trademark ground pound move – which can also be used to destroy obstacles and stun nearby enemies – on a giant switch that shuffles the entire geography of the level around, forcing a new path to emerge in the background. Certain barrel cannons also provide access to distant areas that house collectable goodies such as the traditional KONG letters, bananas, and other special items that are logged at the level’s end.

One of the four playable levels included in the game’s E3 demo was "Rickety Rails" – an underground area boasting classic on-rails cart gameplay. As well as demanding carefully-timed jumps, seesaw-esque tilting platforms and treacherous bananas (which resist collection by forcing Donkey to fall to his doom) keep things challenging. The demo’s final level, "Mugly’s Moud," pits Donkey Kong against the tetchy boss Mugly – a sort of rhino-like creature that attacks with deadly charge attacks and epic jump-slams. His back looks suspiciously vulnerable, though...
Karn Bianco, Previews, Retro Editor

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) on Wii

Nintendo's cheeky simian powerhouse Donkey Kong has been on the company's books since the very beginning; throwing barrels, riding mine carts and swinging around for almost 30 years. Since his family outings on the SNES and GameBoy, Donkey Kong's work has been a mixed barrel of fun. Marmite 3D platformers and rhythm games were his new forte, as was being relegated to background or supporting character. Whilst fans have tagged along, many have pleaded for a traditional 2D platformer to showcase what Donkey Kong is truly about.

Rest assured - Donkey Kong Country Returns is just that; a visual and gameplay dream.

Even with a passing glance, Donkey Kong Country Returns looks great, pixel perfect with a sprinkle of modern brilli. If you haven't yet seen footage, do so now and prepare for a tidy up afterward. Granted it does look different, there's a refreshing modern vibe, a glossier 3D feel that runs throughout, but at its heart there is the same much loved vibrant jungle and tribal palette from nearly two decades ago. Barrel blasts, K O N G letters, mine-carts are all here, look and feel very much authentic.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) on Wii

There are some neat 3D touches slipped in, letting the Kongs have fun in both the traditional foreground as well as venturing into the distance. Diddy also comes with his very own jetpack, helping his ever-so-slightly larger friend over tricky situations. It feels odd having the smaller Kong control differently and in a more passive role, but it offers new but fitting gameplay styles - Diddy gained better ground and felt easier, whilst Donkey proved trickier but more rewarding.

Together the two are an unstoppable simian force to be reckoned with. If you’re struggling alone or want the company of a second player, Donkey Kong Returns includes full co-operative play. Not wrist straining pointing and clicking on things, no no - your platforming accomplice gets complete control over Diddy Kong, giving you additional combined abilities. For the novice or less skilled players, like myself, co-operative play takes a page out of the big book of New Super Mario Bros, where if a player dies he'll float back into view.
Jorge Ba-Oh, Cubed3 Founder

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country Returns (Hands-On) on Wii

Final Thoughts

Together with Retro Studios, Nintendo are returning to the jungle with Donkey Kong Country Returns. But with the original team at RARE now bound to Microsoft, you might have your doubts as to whether the "new guys" can pull it off. Rest assured, folks, this is a gorgeous visual update that retains the original’s charm and style. It also plays almost identically to the original SNES and GameBoy platformers, implementing new mechanics without detracting from the core formula you’ve come to love. From what we've sampled Donkey Kong Country Returns is certainly a game to include on your wishlists.

Developer

Retro

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (19 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Great job Jorge and Karn, it sounds good.

I'm glad they've at least brought some older aspects back, like the K.O.N.G letters. I still think it's a shame that there won't be any water levels, no Kremlings and maybe no animal friends either. Those were some of the prominent features of the original DKC games.

Did you get to hear any of the music? and did it sound very good?



( Edited 04.08.2010 19:15 by Marzy )

Loved all 3 DKC games in the SNES, downloaded them again on VC since two were stolen and one I never got back from a neighbor. Looking forward to this release along with all the other great Nintendo games from now until December.

Can't wait to play this game. The loss of the things Marzy mentioned does disappoint me, but I'm a huge DKC fan and I just want to play it. Been crying out for DKC4 for almost an eternity.

Looking forward to this release along with all the other great Nintendo games from now until December.

What else have we got coming? I mean, I know there's Metroid and this game, but what other big hits are coming this year?

Nice.......Smilie

What else have we got coming? I mean, I know there's Metroid and this game, but what other big hits are coming this year?

Off the top of me head - Kirby's Epic Yarn, Span Smasher, Mario Sports Mix, Wii Party from Nintendo, alongside various other third party Wii games towards the end of the year.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
SummerSky (guest) 05.08.2010#6

Everything about this game looks to recapture that DKC magic.

Minecart rides look top notch!Smilie

It was definitely 'fun', but as with NSMB Wii, I'll wait until I can try it in peace on my own. I didn't like DKC, but 2 & 3 were fantastic.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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