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Game Review: Donkey Kong Barrel Blast

An article by Jomingo

3 June '09

Donkey Kong Barrel Blast's Box Art
Ah, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast. Arriving in the wake of the most crushing loss of Rare's buyout, Donkey Kong Racing. It was originally planned to be a Gamecube game using the DK Bongos, and has gone through too many name changes to list, but it's finally here. So is it worth the amount of hours I've spent searching early screenshots for characters? You'll have to continue reading to find out.

. . .

So let's compare this to other Kart Racers, shall we? One difference between this and other "kart" racers is that, well, you don't race in a kart. In Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, you use special jet powered barrels. They are strapped below you, one on each side, and when you shake the Nunchuk controller, your character hit's the left barrel, which will then jet up and turn you left. When you shake the Wii mote, it does the same to the right barrel and turns you right. You shake them both in order to jump. This sounds sort of shaky, but once you get used to the concept it will come naturally. Another difference between this and other kart racers, is the concept of wild moves. See, in Donkey Kong Barrel Blast you don't just use plain old speed boosts. You collect bananas until you have fifty of them, and then you get a wild move. When you use a "wild move", you get a standard speed boost. But the unique part is that normally you would avoid barrels and other obstacles on the track, but when you are using a wild move you must keep hitting things to keep the boost going. As long as you are breaking into things you will continue to be boosted, and if you keep it going for a long time your combo will get you enough bananas to get another wild move. This adds a lot more strategy to the experience.

Here comes Chomps!
But of course, before you can play, you have to select your character. When you first start the game, you can choose from 6 characters. 3 of them are Kongs, and 3 of them are Kremlings. Throughout the game, you can unlock more characters by beating cup races and playing Candy's challenges. The cup races are collections of 3-5 races in a row, and you have to end it with the best overall score. Candy's Challenges are a series of challenges that test you're skill, and they are hosted by none other than Candy Kong of course. These challenges are the hardest part of the game, and they are the only way to unlock the greatest characters. There are a total of 16 racers. This roster includes the first appearance of Lanky Kong in almost ten years, and the first playable appearance of Cranky Kong. Unfortunately, of the 16 racers, only half of them are Kongs. The other half are all Kremlings chosen purely to match the playable Kongs. They even created four new ones just to be clones of the Kong racers. Kart racing games should represent the series properly, but by having this Kong VS Kremling dynamic they are cutting out a lot of deserving characters, like Kiddy, Chunky, or Brash Bear. Not only that, but it loses a lot of the variety when half of your available racers are copies of the others.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a racing game are the race tracks. In Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, you have 16 tracks to choose from, spanning from Jungle, to Snow, to Space, etc. Unfortunately, many of these levels seem out of place in a Donkey Kong game. Yeah, they all seem to be DK locations, but not anything like the ones in actual DK games. For instance, they have Jungle, Water, Desert, Temple, Snow, Volcano, and Space levels. All of these locations have existed in previous DK titles, but none of the levels actually feel like DK locations, besides the jungle levels to an extent. Another disappointment is, like the roster, this game's tracks lack a lot of variety. Tracks of the same archetype usually all have several repeated elements. For example, all four of the Jungle levels have a few of the same segments of track, with only the item placements differing.

The items, on the other hand, are pretty good. They are varied, and well balanced, unlike a certain other racing series(*cough* Mario Kart *cough*). One thing unique about them is the way you retrieve them. There are balloons placed upon the track, and they come in two colors, red and blue. If you are a Kong and you get a red balloon, or if you’re a Kremling and you get a blue one, you will have an added effect besides the basic function of the item. Another cool feature with the items is that when someone sends an item to attack you (such as Necky), you will see it hovering behind you before it attacks. This gives you a split second to jump and avoid getting hit. Oh, and Squawks is an item. That's pretty epic.

But even the great items can't stop this game from getting old. Once you've unlocked the characters there is absolutely nothing else to do, and with almost no race customization options you probably won't be playing this for too long.

. . .

There's not much else to add. If you are a DK fan, you will want to pick this up for the shear nostalgia of the characters.
It's really not worth more than a rent, seeing as you'll likely complete everything in a short amount of time and not touch it much after that.
It receives only a 2 out of 5 from me. For further detail, please see my Head to Head feature Mario Kart Wii VS Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.


- 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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