Road Journal: Donkey Kong Country Returns Part 1

Road Journal: Donkey Kong Country Returns Part 1
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Donkey Kong Returns to Home Consoles

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem isn’t the only title to star Nintendo’s resident ape. Aside from kidnapping helpless damsels, the tie-wearing simian also has a heroic side to him. Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Nintendo Wii is a sidescrolling platformer that puts the titular character back in action against pesky critters as he searches high and low for his precious banana hoard, which has been stolen yet again, this time by strange tiki mask-wearing creatures.

It’s time for another Road Journal, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences as I play Donkey Kong Country Returns. Let’s take a look at DK’s latest outing and the first two areas in the game.

Exploring the Jungle

Jungle World Map

The first world in Donkey Kong Country Returns is the Jungle. The first few levels in this area served to introduce me to the game mechanics and controls. I immediately remembered Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. As I guided DK through the various levels at the start of the game, I got this nostalgic feeling. The platforming felt classic, but the level design was interesting enough to make the game itself feel modern.

I encountered DK’s buddy, Rambi the Rhino fairly quickly, and it was fun riding around and goring enemies. Admittedly, the most fun I had was in the Jungle’s mine cart stage. There were various jumps and enemies that added to the level’s challenge, but what I enjoyed most about it was the camera. It never got too crazy, but the camera zoomed in an out at the right moments, making it as much a part of the experience as the actual level design. During one particularly enjoyable moment, the camera zoomed out considerably as my mine cart rolled down a steep incline. Hearing DK make comical noises just made it that much better.

Adventuring on the Beach

Beach World Map

Immediately after defeating the Jungle boss, I made my way to the Beach world. I knew going into this game that there wouldn’t be any underwater stages, but I still missed them regardless. The Beach area was a bit of an extension of the Jungle world. The platforming, though engaging, was pretty basic, and I continuously thought about how games these days just aren’t as challenging as they used to be. Platformers of the ‘80s and ‘90s used to amp up the difficulty after two or three levels; these days you can play through an entire game without facing too much difficulty. Luckily, Donkey Kong Country Returns managed to surprise me with a few well-placed pitfalls and dangerous obstacles.

The levels in the Beach area were especially enjoyable due to their surprises. One level had massive waves roaring toward the screen. I had to take cover behind rocks and pillars to avoid being hit by the regularly-appearing waves. There were a few times when those blasted waves managed to take me out, but I welcomed the challenge. Another level saw me dodging attacks from a giant octopus. I fell victim to its spiked tentacles more than a few times, and I realized that maybe Donkey Kong Country Returns wasn’t going to be so much of a walk in the park. I started playing it a little safer from there, and I performed carefully timed jumps and kept me eyes peeled for the dangerous attacks of the octopus.

Donkey Kong Country Returns Impressions Thus Far

Strange Tikis have stolen DK’s precious banana hoard.

I have to admit, I thought Donkey Kong Country Returns would suffer from a lack of difficulty when I started playing. The way the game slowly eased me into its world and taught me the gameplay mechanics and functions really threw me off. Luckily, I was greeted by death more than a handful of times, and this is when I knew that Retro Studios were out to make fans of Nintendo and Donkey Kong proud.

The game isn’t terribly difficult (yet), and it’s not frustrating like older sidescrolling platformers (ah, the good old days!), but it has challenged me quite a bit so far. I look forward to meeting many new and satisfying obstacles down the line. Now it’s on to my next stop: the Ruins.