JOYSTICK: Donkey Kong returns, this time for the Wii

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, December 4, 2010

Photo courtesy of Nintendo

The king of monkey platforming games has declared it’s on.

Donkey Kong Country Returns, released for the Wii on Nov. 23, is just that: a return to pristine platformers that’ll make you feel like it’s 1994 again. Simply put, it’s a return to a fun, simplified, old-school kind of game.

DKC Returns starts out with a simple premise: Bad guys have stolen Donkey’s banana horde. Donkey and his nephew Diddy Kong must jump, roll, swing, pound and blast their way through more than 70 levels to get them back.

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This is much, much harder than it sounds. Even though DKC Returns is rated E, it’s not for everyone, as the game will make even the most seasoned player frustrated at times with its difficult puzzles, misleading platforms, and particularly vicious enemies. It can take several lost lives just to figure out how to get across a simple gap, or figure out how to proceed past a certain enemy. Boss fights are innovative and sometimes pretty tough to figure out. DKC Returns has a two-player cooperative mode as well, although it won’t make the game any easier. Good luck playing with another person towards the end of the game, as levels that were tough for one player become practically impossible for two.

That doesn’t make the game any less fun, though. Players have a surprising amount of interaction with the levels and background, and must even switch between different level paths in the foreground and background in some levels. If a player dies eight or more times, the game offers an option to have a computer-controlled player go through the level, showing players how to beat it without giving away item locations. The graphics and visuals are surprisingly good for a Wii game, which makes the cinematic moments in levels, be it Donkey and Diddy shooting out of barrels up a mountain or crashing through caves, all the more breathtaking.

More than anything else, beating a level in DKC Returns makes you feel like you’re champion of the world. The game gives you just enough of a reward to make you want to keep playing, and more than enough interesting, eye-grabbing and breath-catching gameplay, which is what every great game should do.