Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

We haven’t heard from the Donkey Kong Country series since the rather disappointing Donkey Kong 64 which was for most people, just a means to acquire the very difficult to find N64 Expansion Pak.  Since Majora’s Mask was the first major game to require this accessory, most people tried to hunt one down after getting the game with little success.  The only reliable way to get them at the time was to buy Donkey Kong 64 which also required the Expansion Pak and came with a free one in the box.  Donkey Kong 64 itself was quite underwhelming so a lot of people just bought it for the Expansion Pak and never played the game.  Unfortunately, I did play the game and was very let down by it overall.  But now, Donkey Kong Country is back on the Wii and has allegedly returned to form.  But is it true?

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

The Kongs are back!

First of all, let me get one very large gripe out of the way.  I played this game co-op with my co-op buddy Phil Wilson and we had both heard the game was quite difficult, so we hoped having two of us would alleviate said difficulty giving us a backup should one person die and so on.  How wrong we were.  Like the older entries in the series, Donkey Kong Country Returns maintains a lives counter and if you run out of lives, game over.  However, one of your lives is removed every time either player dies and respawns.  But should both of you die, then a further two lives are taken off your total.  This is an extremely harsh and cheap method to artificially enhance the difficulty and on the more difficult levels, you will be chewing your way through lives at a staggering pace leading to many many game overs.  With that main gripe out of the way, let me get to some of the games good points.

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

Extra lives can be bought in shops, but you’ll still run out. Fast.

The art style in the game is excellently put together.  Levels are well varied having many different themes and are full of colour and life with things going on in both foreground and background.  The soundtrack is also very well suited to the levels remaining pleasant and ambient on the slower more careful levels and increasing the pace for faster more frantic levels.  Many of the old mechanics from previous Donkey Kong Country return here like the blasting barrels, mine cart levels.  Sadly, Rambi is the only animal friend to return and I would have liked to see more like Blinky the frog or Enguarde the swordfish. A number of new mechanics are also introduced like rocket barrels that have limited and difficult controls and grass surfaces that you can grab on to climb across ceilings.  The mixture of new and old help keep a good balance of nostalgia and freshness at the same time and none of them are ever over-used making them tiresome.

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

Jetting around on a barrel is fun but like most things in the game, quite difficult

The bosses are still the real star of the show though.  Each world’s boss is an extremely formidable character and they are all original, well-thought out and tough as nails.  Sometimes you will instinctively be able to tell what they are going to do, but for the most part, the first time you play each boss, you will probably die many times just because you don’t know what their patterns are.  But having said that, even after you know the patterns, knowing and doing something with them are two separate matters.  They are still very difficult no doubt about it and each boss will most certainly result in many many game overs.

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

The bosses are both awesome and bone-shatteringly difficult at the same time

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review Summary

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a definite return to form for the Donkey Kong Country series and provides all the fun and variety of the older SNES entries in the series.  If you enjoyed Donkey Kong Country 1-3 but disliked the N64 Entry, Donkey Kong 64, then you will definitely enjoy this Wii version.  But as mentioned before, the difficulty level is quite high especially on co-op where having a second player is actually more of a hindrance than a help.  This game was later ported to the 3DS which includes an easier difficulty level so if that is a major problem, the 3DS version could be the way to go.  It requires two systems and two game cards though.

Final Score: 3/5

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

Great game, but man is it difficult.

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