The barrel of monkeys is rolling back.
With all the marvelous technological advances at E3 like the 3DS, the Kinect, and that thing that looks like a black Wiimote with a neon ball on top, it might be easy to forget that there was a lot of amazing software out there too. And of all of them, no game got me as giddy as Donkey Kong Country Returns.
[image1]Playing DKCR, even briefly, made me feel like I was 12-years old again. And not in the "I like girls now but I’m too scared to talk to them" pre-pubescent sort of way. I’m referring to that wondrous sense of excitement and bliss from tearing open the shrinkwrap and sliding a truly great game cartridge into my SNES — a sense of adventure that got lost somewhere along the way amidst analog controls, disc-based formats, and the mounting cynicism of adulthood.
This revival from Retro Studios is one of the best attempts I’ve seen at melding old and new elements into one package. The tried-and-true gameplay of the original DKC trilogy is back and untouched. You’ll be roll-jumping and cartwheeling, blasting from barrels, collecting K-O-N-G letters, and of course, uncovering those dastardly sneaky bonus areas.
Even the locales hearken back to the old days: There’s a jungle hijinx level which starts with DK and Diddy busting out of their house and tearing through the treetops. Also on display was a seaside docks level very reminiscent of those in DKC 2 and 3. And to the excitement (or chagrin, depending on your preferences) of fans, mine cart riding is back at full speed.
But even while the game feels instantly familiar to anyone who’s so much as watched the originals, DKCR adds some light new touches for the modern era. Instead of one-hit-and-you’re-out, each Kong now has a life meter with hearts representing how many hits they can take (the demo gave us two hearts; no word yet on whether you’ll have the opportunity to increase it).
[image2]Diddy comes prepared this time, armed with both his peanut popguns and jetpack from Donkey Kong 64, the latter of which allows him to hover for short distances. Diddy can now ride on top of Donkey’s back to combine their abilities — allowing for simultaneous ground-pounding and peanut-shooting or hovering both Kongs across gaps.
In another neat little twist, some barrels now shoot you to and from the background. For instance, one level requires you to slam a switch in the foreground to demolish a wall in the background, after which you could launch into the background via a nearby barrel and continue on your way.
And last but certainly not least, there’s finally two-player support! You and a friend can each grab a Wiimote and Nunchuk to control a different Kong. It plays out very similar to the co-op from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3, allowing both of you to run around independently but forcing a player to snap back to the other if they stray off screen for too long.
Old meets new in Donkey Kong Country Returns, and the result is a game that transports you happily back to a simpler time, but adds enough advancements to deserve its place in the futuristic wonderland of 2010.