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Donkey Kong Country Returns review

Better than the original

This game is old-school difficult. The kind of difficult where you'll quite happily rack up 20 lives in the first couple of worlds only to lose them all in one cruel and stressful mine-cart level. Importantly, it's the good kind of stress, the sort that always ends with exhausted relief and unfettered joy before frustration can even get a look in.

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Donkey Kong's banana hoard has been swiped by a tribe of Tiki instruments, meaning he must platform his way across his island, collecting the yellow fruit, jumping on the heads of his enemies, swinging from vines, being fired out of barrels and pounding bits of the floor that look like they might have nice things hidden within them.

Much of the decade old series has been dressed up and booted back into the modern-day action, from collectible balloons representing the number of lives remaining to minecart rides and the letters K, O, N, and G scattered across each level. But even more has been left behind.

You can no longer control your sidekick Diddy Kong directly, Instead, he acts almost as a power-up in single-player - with Diddy on your back, you can jump farther using his jetpack. He'll also allow Donkey to roll constantly which is useful for ploughing through lines of enemies. Having the chimp on your back also allows you two extra hits before Donkey corks it.

Most of the rideable animals have gone too, leaving only Rambi the Rhino in their place. And even she only shows up on a few rare occasions, allowing Donkey to charge through enemies and certain otherwise unbreakable blocks. The Kremling Krew is nowhere to be seen and underwater levels are out, too (thank God), but crucially you won't miss a thing.

Smash And Crab

Every level offers something new. Backgrounds are vibrant, often interacting with the foreground in unpredictable ways - from distant crab-run pirate ships firing explosive cannonballs to screen-filling tidal waves smashing and eroding the level's walls. This new sense of depth also adds the chance for jaunts into and out of some levels' background areas.

The animation of both Donkey Kong and his foes deserves mention too, with some stunningly-acted bosses reaching Aardman levels of motion.

Cranky's shop offers items you can equip before each level to help you find jigsaw pieces or simply survive for a while longer. For a fee, Squawks the parrot will sit in the corner of the screen and start shrieking madly when you're near one of the level's seven or so hidden jigsaw pieces, useful for when you stupidly decide to attempt collecting everything. Cranky Kong will also sell you the keys required to unlock certain levels and discover alternative routes through worlds

DKCR feels more refined and focused than the original game ever did. Nostalgia-kisses come at just the right moments, partly through the game's incredible music or the distinctive sound of Diddy Kong knocking on the inside of his barrel as he waits to be let out.

Finishing the game is half the challenge too, as after doing it you're prompted to replay old levels in ways we won't spoil. Completists have a 100% marker to aim for and time trials challenge you to beat seemingly insurmountable records by discovering secret routes through the brilliantly designed levels.

This genuinely feels like the game Rare would've made if you'd sent a Wii back to 1995 - a better game than Donkey Kong Country, and that's not something we'd say lightly.

This is an edited version of a review from the Christmas issue of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis, screenshots and boxouts, buy the magazine here.

Comments

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  1. Ai64 Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 12:04

    Absolutely a smash hit for the big ape. This game rules! Great job retro studios. :D

  2. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 12:19

    Retro's done it again.:D
    Another brilliant retro revival :D
    Can't wait to play it
    :D


    The only thing what bugs me is that I would have like to play as Diddy in single player.

  3. HighPlainDrifter Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 13:19

    This game proves that Retro Studios are not a one trick pony. Nintendo should seriously think of giving them some more franchises to reboot, like F-Zero or Star Fox. Retro is on its way of becoming the new Rare of this era.

  4. kezz182 Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 13:52

    Got my copy this morning. Retro's made an amazing and challenging game there. Nintendo should definately hand over some other franchises for them to revive.

  5. LaytonMario3 Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 14:56

    Just getting the main reviews from the magazine out of the way, ey, ONM?

  6. MrChewtoy Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 15:58

    I can't wait to get this, probs at the weekend.

    Although, those bananas flying around the site are a real pain in the behind!

  7. wolfod Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 16:06

    I am actually pretty relieved that it got over 90%. I was debating whether or not it would be worth getting for Christmas and so I would base my decision on the score that ONM gave it. Top of the list now :D :D

  8. Empress Bulblax Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 18:18

    One for the Chrimbo list then.

  9. triforce-manc Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 18:26

    Been playing for about 2 weeks now (got an american wii) and i have to say that this is the best game ive played in a long time on any console. Lots of replay value and the time trials are so addicting, if sometimes infuriating if you make a slight mistake and have to start over because your time is ruined :) I only have 1 complaint, there is no underwater levels, used to love them on the old DCK games, but very minor complaint.

    Also for all those people who, when in school on computers, put the helicopter game on rather than doing work, it comes in handy for when you play the rocket barrel levels ;)

  10. dm_1782 Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 18:28

    Got this today as a sort of Christmas present to myself, so wont be playing it till then :(

  11. bluelight Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 19:01

    I knew Retro would not fail in making this game as great as it should! I'm glad and I will picking it up for sure.

  12. Broken_Angel Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 21:14

    Looks good, cant wait till xmas! Only things bugging me: 1) "up to four hits"?! Stuff that! I grew up on the original DKC and Mario SNES games where all it took was one hit to send you back to the world-map to try again. If you're gonna do a retro-revival, you may as well bring back the challenge of one-hit-one-kill.
    2) Lack of animal buddies. OK, the only decent ones were Rambi, Enguarde, Squitter, Sqwarks and Rattly (basically, ever aspect that made DKC2 the best in the series), and it's likely that most of them were copyrighted by Rare, but come on! A game like this needs them!
    3) No underwater sections? WTF?!

  13. Colgax Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 21:21

    I'll have to disagree with this review.

    Surely, the game is amazing! Awesome visuals and insane, but yet fun difficulty, but too much thing were removed from the original DKC games from SNES.

    The DKC underwater stages are one of the best ones I've ever seen! If these levels had the swordfish, than they got more fun than most of other levels!

    All these animals from the SNES DKC, they all disappeared! The only ones that survived were Rhino and the parrot, but you can't even control him...

    No Kremilings. It's like Mario without Koopas!

    In the previous games, you could control both kongs, but in this one, the only way you can control Diddy Kong is by playing on Co-op mode. This sucks because I prefer Diddy Kong over Donkey Kong, but I know just one person that plays this game and can come play with me.

    The bonus stages are all practically the same. In the old ones, there are some that appear repeatedly, but there were lots of unique ones too.

    And the most comic one. Donkey Kong COUNTRY Returns happens on an ISLAND! XD

    In my opinion, they just used the Donkey Kong Country's name to make this game an huge success, even if it don't really looks like a sequel to DKC3.

    But again, this game is awesomely awesome! Sure goes to my TOP 10, but on if I were to rate it,it would give it an 85%

  14. Mr.Mime Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 21:56

    *drool*
    I'm determined that I WILL 100% this game no matter how long it may take.

  15. FiveThirteen Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 22:19

    I think this game will correct things i didn't like about the original. Can anyone answer these questions?

    1. do you need to hold down a button to run? (i hope not)

    2. is it easier to control than the original? (stupid deaths, missed jumps etc.

    3. is it "slicker" than the original?

    I wouldn't have wanted the game to be too much like the original as i downloaded it off the VC to get an idea of what DKC returns might be like and while it is enjoyable, I find it kinda clunky, and I haven't got past Stop and Go station yet. I haven't played it that much though, before anyone says i'm crap at games.

  16. sivlock Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 22:28

    Yesssss I'll be getting this for xmas, DK back to best! I got the Snes DK xmas '94 and the adventure N64 for xmas '00 now DK back to being a good platformer. I don't understand why Nintendo didn't push the big ape into better games until now.

  17. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 22:45

    I can't wait to get this, probs at the weekend.

    Although, those bananas flying around the site are a real pain in the behind!

    Yeah glad I wan't the only one who thought they are annoying.

  18. Broken_Angel Thursday 2nd Dec 2010 at 22:47

    I think this game will correct things i didn't like about the original. Can anyone answer these questions?

    1. do you need to hold down a button to run? (i hope not)

    2. is it easier to control than the original? (stupid deaths, missed jumps etc.

    3. is it "slicker" than the original?

    I wouldn't have wanted the game to be too much like the original as i downloaded it off the VC to get an idea of what DKC returns might be like and while it is enjoyable, I find it kinda clunky, and I haven't got past Stop and Go station yet. I haven't played it that much though, before anyone says i'm crap at games.

    Play all three DKC games before judging, young Padawan :wink:
    Seriously though, the original is a little clunky, but things did get ironed out for DKC2 and DKC3. Personally, I prefer DKC2 cos it had the best level designs, best characters, best gameplay, best visuals, best hidden extras, best soundtrack. Hell, it was just the best.
    Also; the title at the top of the page says "better than the originals", yet DKC1, 2 and 3 scored 93%, 97% and 98% respectively (that I can remember), so surely a re-score or re-phrasing is in order?

  19. Highlight Friday 3rd Dec 2010 at 01:39

    I adore the original DKC series, and so am pleased this continues it's superb legacy. Although have to ask the author of the article, what was so bad about the underwater levels?

  20. Waldy565 Friday 3rd Dec 2010 at 22:02

    sorry guys have to disagree :( prefer the sound of the original. not that this is a bad game in any way shape or form. and before you say "o u h8 DK then" this guy was my second well known game character (1st being sonic and donald duck, 3rd being mario :P) may download the original this xmas. sorry to disagree guys, but just my opinion!

  21. KokiriThreepwood Friday 3rd Dec 2010 at 22:12

    Addmiting it, I haven't really been much of a fan of the Donkey Kong games, but...
    After looking at this and having played the originals briefly, I think thats all about to change.

  22. SuperMarioFan886 Monday 6th Dec 2010 at 15:46

    BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? This game has NOTHING on the original trilogy. :lol:

  23. The_Legend_not Friday 10th Dec 2010 at 20:16

    Really i dont think that onm can take 9 % off just because of the co-op
    i thought that the co-op was fine

  24. concernedcamel Monday 13th Dec 2010 at 15:37

    donkey kong is a G! and its good to see retro have done it again with this game. If im honest i totally forgot about DK as a mario rivaler since donkey kong 64 so its nice to see the ape round a 90s mark again.

  25. Turboman Sunday 26th Dec 2010 at 13:38

    am i the only person who thinks this game has the best graphics on wii????

  26. thundercat96 Wednesday 26th Jan 2011 at 16:20

    I disagree because I think that the co-op is fine and has nothing to do with the score. The visuals are the best ever and it's really challenging! I think the score should be 96%!

  27. jonnyjazz Monday 27th Aug 2012 at 23:11

    Went back to this game recently, one of my favourite Wii games it's just so damn hard, but it's a game that's very difficult to put down. Managed to get all the Kong letters and Puzzle pieces just gotta do the mirror mode and time trials now...

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