Donkey Kong Country Returns Hands-On Preview

donkey kong country returns

The platforming simians are back after a lengthy hiatus to remind us how the former princess-thieving villain became a regular Nintendo hero. If you’re old enough to remember Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, and 3, then you remember some pretty solid, albeit difficult and collectible-diluted titles featuring excellent, simple co-op play and a whole mess of pirate lizards. In Nintendo’s Wii revamp of the franchise, it seems like all the jungle-japery is back, but this time with a little more variety, a brand new set of multi-layered levels, and some balancing systems that accommodate for casual gamers.

First of all, this is a pretty faithful re-creation. Despite the addition of some new elements, the original gameplay is still the focus of the game. As DK and Diddy, you (or you and a friend) will jump across tropical jungle settings, pirate ships, and baddie-filled grottos collecting bananas, banana coins, and all other manner of banana memorabilia along the way. So collectibles are certainly still a part of the game, but only in the sense that they can add a bit of challenge and perhaps unlock a little something extra towards the end of the game. They are not essential frustrations to be plodded through, and the basic game experience isn’t hurt by ignoring them, as much as is apparent by the E3 demo.

Balancing and collectibles not enough? In Super Mario Galaxy fashion, DKCR has enabled both Donkey and Diddy Kong to perform particular abilities using general Wiimote waggles. For example, DK can ground-smack with a quick shake, which can open up new areas or advance a level, while Diddy can use his rocket barrel backpack to float for a bit. The controls don’t feel cumbersome or difficult to use, and the addition of motion waggles seems to be just a natural addition (if a gimmicky one), given the capabilities of the Wii. Aside from character-specific abilities, DK and Diddy can also work together, like when DK grabs onto Diddy as he floats through the air or Diddy rides a rolled-up DK to bound quickly across levels. With these kinds of additions, a fairly familiar game formula feels new enough to warrant replaying, even without the revamped stages.

In level design, DKCR seems to be taking cues from Super Paper Mario, allowing for active and interactive backgrounds, complete with shadow stages and cannons that shoot DK between the background and foreground. In addition, collections of levels are paced well with the return of boss battles. In the demo available at E3, players could also play a boss battle, which saw the monkey duo bouncing off the back of a large yellow lizard/dog boss. While this seems simple enough, the difficulty of the battle made one appreciate the revamped health system, which uses hearts to allow for a little forgiveness here and there, rather than subjecting players to one-hit KOs across the board. Also, in the event that your partner bites the dust in co-op, a New Super Mario Bros. Wii-style bubble-back system gets the fallen comrade back in the action.

With so many new features, it might seem like there’s nothing distinguishably "returning" in DKCR, but let me be clear: the majority of play time is spent in the standard platforming tradition that made DKC a hit to begin with, and the additions are just that. If you were a fan of the original games, expect a similar experience with better graphics and a few more gameplay options.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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