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Reviews, reflections, rants and other such writings...

Game Review: Donkey Kong Country

An article by Jomingo

25 November '10

Donkey Kong Country's Box Art
With the recent release of a new Donkey Kong Country game, I decided it was finally time for me to go back and catch up on a few of DK's past titles that I've yet to review. As it turns out, I've missed a few really important ones, like the Donkey Kong Country trilogy!

Donkey Kong Country was released on November 24th, 1994, and caught the world off guard. The game used ACM graphics, and that made it stand out as one of the best looking games out there even when compared to "32-bit" systems that had started to come out. It looked amazing, and it's visuals still hold up today. The use of foreground and background effects looked incredible, and it also had several weather effects that further immersed the player into the game.
Snow Barrel Blast has very
beautiful weather effects

Of course, if the game had been just a pretty face it never would have held up long enough for this site to exist. There was much more to it than just visuals. The game played like any other sidescrolling platformer: avoid enemies and pitfalls to reach the end of the level. What it did differently than other platformers of the day was to make the entire situation much more believable. DK didn't have some ambiguous health bar or hit points, he had one backup in the form of his little buddy, Diddy Kong. If DK got hurt, Diddy took over, and vice-versa. The two controlled uniquely, and had an arsenal of exclusive moves that set them completely apart in play styles. The use of a second controllable character made it obvious that tag-team multiplayer needed to be included, and this was one of my favorite features of the game.

The duo weren't alone on this journey either. Of course they had each other, but aside from that they also had a supporting cast of the extended Kong family that made navigating the game even more believable. Cranky Kong would feed you hints intermittently between insults and rants. Funky Kong served to transport you from one world to the next. DK's gal Candy Kong saved the game for you. None of these characters were really necessary; all of them could've simply been replaced by boring menu screens. What their inclusion does is further makes this journey and world believable and immersive.

Rambi the Rhino
Another example of this are DK's trusted steeds, the animal buddies. Whereas some platformers would have you gaining odd superpowers by picking up random powerups, this game again takes the concept and makes it more "real". And so, DK can ride on numerous animal friends that each have advantages and abilities that come in handy throughout the game. They serve to add variety to the game, as riding them completely changes the way the game is played.

Speaking of variety, that's something this game certainly doesn't lack. There are numerous levels that serve to mix up the gameplay; namely the water levels, the barrel blasting levels, and the minecart levels. The water levels are a little clunky and somewhat slow, but they are very relaxing and can be very fun while riding DK's swordfish Enguarde. Then there are the barrel blasting levels in which you have to launch yourself from cannon to cannon with precision timing. Finally, and perhaps the greatest levels of all, are the minecart levels. Inspired by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, these have you constantly moving to the right on a broken track and require expert timing to navigate.

I could go on and on about what's right with this game, but I don't want to give the impression that it's flawless. There are a number of things that make the game shy of perfection. For starters, it's short. A skilled player can beat the game in three hours or less with almost no problems. It's not particularly difficult either. All of the boss fights are almost too easy, sans the final confrontation with King K. Rool. Also, because there are no markers for which bonuses you've completed it's kinda difficult to gauge you're completion of the game. Aside from these complaints, there are other minor nitpicks here and there, like the annoying animal tokens, for instance.

These few negatives are all pretty minor, but certainly bring down the overall enjoyment of the game. This game is extremely simple too; it was the basis for the series, and so it laid down the groundwork for future improvements. All in all, I can't stress enough how much I love this game. It is the whole reason this site exists, and deserves all the praise it's gotten over the last 16 years. It's far from perfect though, and that is made more apparent once you've played it's sequels. I give it a hard earned 4 out of 5.

- by Jomingo -

This article was written by a DKC Atlas Forum staff member. All opinions expressed within this article are those of the writer, and are not necessarily shared by DKC Atlas, or the DKC gaming community.
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