Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review
We’ve never understood the saying ‘more fun than a barrel of monkeys’. Keep a bunch of primates locked away in such a cramped space and they’re gonna be pretty pissed when they’re eventually let out. That doesn’t sound all that fun. They’re just going to rip you to pieces. So in that respect, the confusing adage actually applies pretty well to Donkey Kong Country Returns – the franchise has been cooped up for ages and if you let it out now, it will mercilessly tear you apart and you won’t have nearly as much fun as you might expect.
Luckily, that’s not quite as true as it was with the Wii original, thanks to the inclusion of New mode. Original is also still there for those masochists that liked the Wii version’s unfair design but in this arranged version, myriad changes have been made to try and address the frustrating difficulty spikes that would arise oh-so-frequently. DK’s life bar has been extended by a heart, plus the shop sells a wider array of useful goodies, extra lives and a treasure radar now joined by several new perks, all available at lower prices than before. Oh, and you can take up to three with you on each outing now as opposed to just one.
But piling on the one-ups and adding a one-shot balloon that prevents from an instant death drop does nothing to change the fact that this simply isn’t a well-designed game. The majority of deaths are unfair and instant, extra balloons (read: lives) indiscriminately thrown at the player in an attempt to excuse the trial-and-error nature of the gameplay. It’s unapologetically old-school but in a world where game like Super Meat Boy and N+ exist – games that take on that retro feel yet firmly place all blame for failure on the player through tight control and design – questions need to be asked about whether we really need another platformer that sings the old songs without putting a little bit of a modern slant on them.
But those aren’t questions we can answer. Only you can do that. If you just want to pretend that the SNES is still hooked up to the TV and that this is Donkey Kong Country 4 (which it basically is) then cool, you got your wish. And to be fair, as an old-school platformer, Donkey Kong Country Returns is actually fairly good. The problem is that Nintendo isn’t too bad at making those games with that Mario guy in them, and even they are trying – at least a little – to push a 30 year-old envelope in order to give gamers a reason to keep on buying rather than just firing up a Virtual Console game or two and rerunning the classics.
There’s plenty to do and find here, with KONG letters and jigsaw pieces to round up in each stage as well as Time Attack leaderboards to beat if you care enough. Hell, there are loads of stages, and most of them are arguably longer than they should be for a game of this kind. But still, there are loads of things to jump on (and over), and find, and roll into. If traditional, no-punches-pulled platforming is your jam, then welcome home. Otherwise, this is just likely to frustrate and annoy and frankly there are far better platformers out there, plus few of them have the audacity to demand the same asking price as a triple-A blockbuster.
A solid platform game (albeit one that pretty much requires nostalgia to be a factor in order to operate at its best), Donkey Kong Country isn’t going to change the world. And it isn’t going to change you. And if this is anything to go by, it isn’t going to change at all. Ever.
Version Tested: 3DS