If you asked me what my top ten favorite games of all time were, two of them would be Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2. I just can’t get enough of Donkey and Diddy’s charm: there’s something interesting about gameplay that features both a strong respectable powerhouse, and a small dexterous troublemaker – plus the level designs were pretty amazing.
So what do I think of Donkey Kong Returns? Well, it’s Donkey Kong!
The actual gameplay is a mixture between the Country series and Tomba 2/Little Big Planet/Virtual Boy WarioLand. The core mechanics remain the same, with the addition of an extra backdrop plane that players can go explore.
Luckily, Diddy and Donkey have some new moves to play around with. Diddy has his signature Jet Pack and Peanut Guns from Donkey Kong 64, that allow him to hover and shoot projectiles, and Donkey can carry Diddy around on his back as an optional move, and combine powers, which is a pretty awesome feature that immediately made me think of Voltron – although Donkey isn’t that much different than he used to be, he now feels much more unique by comparison.
Going along with these new moves is the biggest draw of the game – full blown same screen coop, a la New Super Mario Brothers Wii. But this time, since the duo are drastically different, expect a lot of unique cooperation in order to get all of the pickups in any given level. I was able to play with a fellow media member, and it was actually pretty fun – the screen zooms out pretty far, and if you go off of it, you have a few seconds to get back before you lose a life – and just like the old game, your buddy can save you by finding a DK barrel.
The level we played was the jungle from the E3 presentation video – it was fairly simple, and it seems like the first level of the game. There was a fair bit of waggle, though, particularly at the start of the stage when we had to blast out of our house by shaking the Wii-mote and nunchuk, and whenever we had to pound the ground (previously down and Y on the SNES controller, it is now waggle – as is your bread and butter roll attack – which I may or may not be too happy about).
I couldn’t help but think “I’ve seen it all before” while playing Returns. It was neat to see a true Donkey Kong Country game return after such a long hiatus, but I can’t help but think of how unexciting New Super Mario Brothers Wii was at release, and how much better previous iterations of the game did everything the new version did. Hopefully my concerns will be addressed when the game comes out later this year.