What do you get when you take a racing game and remove the speed, the ability to steer and the need to accelerate? Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.
No, we're not lying. Barrel Blast really is like that, and because of that we would understand if Mario Kart fans who expect challenge and depth in their Nintendo racers turn their noses up at this one. If you have a little brother who's usually rubbish at games, though, he may well love it.
The game's inherent simplicity is thanks to its basic control system that harks back to when it was originally developed for GameCube to utilise the bongo controllers. You don't need to accelerate, you just wave the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up and down intermittently to make DK bash his jet-powered barrels and reach top speed. At that point your speed will be maintained automatically. Until you crash, that is.
Aaagghhh! No Brakes!
You don't steer either. The game essentially guides you round corners automatically and you just wave the Remote to slide your racer to the right of the course, and shake the Nunchuk to slide left, grabbing bananas and items
as you go. You can jump by raising both controllers. There are no brakes.
Yes, it's all a bit strange and, for some truly unfathomable reason, there's no option to use the old bongo controller should you still have it. Yes, it could easily plug into the Wii's GC ports and, in theory, allow you to play the game as originally intended, but it's not compatible.
There may not be much to the controls but the courses themselves pack a little more depth. Set in various environments from DK's adventures, particularly the Donkey Kong Country games on SNES, each track is brimming with bananas, barrels, items and other obstacles. Boost barrels shoot you through the
air, often taking you on shortcuts down different routes. Giant animals, bees, windmills and other themed creatures pose as obstacles unique to every course. And there's a cool boost system, too.
Grabbing bananas charges a boost meter. Flick the analogue stick on the Nunchuk controller to activate it and DK will shoot forward. The clever part here is that you can extend your boost by bashing into barrels or opponents. Get it right and you can hit several barrels on a single boost, chaining boosts together for maximum benefit.
This is cool because, in a game that even your pet dog could play, it provides an extra layer of skill for more advanced players to master. The question is though, why would advanced players buy this game in the first place?
Well, they probably wouldn't. It's fun for some multiplayer action - up to four players can race, and that includes the main Mario Kart-style Jungle Grand Prix mode - but there's no online options at all. The only other mode available is Candy's Challenges, which gives you different objectives to complete on the course. But advanced players will have both modes beaten in mere days.
Where Did It All Go Kong?
Barrel Blast is a game of ups and downs. On the plus side it's a game that everyone can play, yet has a boost mechanic that allows the more skilled to dominate. The courses look brilliant and there's a great variety of environments, but for many of you, the controls will be far too simplistic and the almost on-rails steering mechanic will be an insult to your gaming ability. If you're a Mario Kart fan, then you should just hold out for Mario Kart Wii. Barrel Blast is a family game for non-gaming adults and young children.