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.
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.