With the recent amount of days I've had to work retail (and my neighbor getting caught in a fatal car accident, R.I.P. Ryan), I haven't really been up to typing the second part of this retrospective. Now that I have had a couple of days to cope and relax, however, I think I can back on track to typing the rest of this tidal wave of text. I apologize in advance if those parentheses up above dissipate from this retrospective's overall tone, and here's a palette cleanser to get you back on track:
If you didn't keep track of the haps so far, I finished up the first level and have just begun to advance to Angry Aztec, a level set in a shriveling desert filled with ancient ruins (and... palm trees?) Again, I plan on summarizing the bigger and more important parts of this level.
To start, this level houses not one, but two Kongs. Both Tiny and Lanky Kong have been taken captive and held inside two different temples. Seems pretty substandard... but there's one thing that irks me to no end for some ungodly stupid reason: Tiny Kong, who is supposed to be the fourth Kong you unlock, is placed in a temple that is almost directly outside the level's entrance, and Lanky Kong, the third Kong you're expected to unlock, is held in a temple that's much, much further into the level. Unless you aren't a completionist who doesn't check every single nook and cranny whenever he gets the chance, you're likely to run into Tiny Kong first, which I guess is just an OCD complaint for me to make, but I thought that was kinda weird.
Anyways, let's talk about the new Kongs, starting off with Lanky. To describe him in one brief summary, he's basically a hillbilly-looking orangutan version of Mr. Fantastic. That is to say, he can stretch out his arms further than any other character and can use them for other purposes such as walking up steep slopes. Lanky is easily the biggest oddity of the five unlockable Kongs, and is personally my second favorite because his power-ups are so damn funny (he's only second because of the annoying sound he makes whenever he takes a hit).
Then we get to Tiny Kong, and anybody who avidly followed the original Donkey Kong Country series will most likely tell you that Tiny is their least favorite character because she replaced Dixie Kong. While it is rather puzzling that Rareware decided to replace the female protagonist from the Country series, I never really had any huge beef with Tiny (mainly because this was the first actual Donkey Kong game I ever played, haters gonna hate). Tiny's probably my least favorite character of the bunch, however, since there's not really a whole lot that adds to her character other than the "Hi, I'm the required female lead" facade. She's another small character like Diddy (with a name like Tiny, that shouldn't be surprising in the least), and thus she is more nimble than the rest of the cast. She also gains a move that makes her, well, Tiny, allowing her to travel through small openings to reach hidden Golden Bananas and other stuff.
Visiting Cranky earns you Lanky's handstand move, Tiny's shrinking move, a move for Donkey Kong that makes him invincible (to be fair, he has to find a barrel with his face on it first, but damn) and Diddy Kong gets a barrel jetpack. This sounds way cooler than it actually is. When you activate them (by finding a barrel with Diddy's face on it), you fly up into the air and can simultaneously use your popguns to blast foes in the air. So what's the problem? It could be that fact that the jetpack is slower than a tortoise, consumes Crystal Coconuts (another stupid mechanic that I'll get to later) like a Hummer consumes gasoline, and its turning maneuverability is about as sharp as that of a semi truck's. In short, it would be pretty damn worthless if it wasn't for the fact that a tremendous amount of Diddy's bananas require you to utilize the barrel jetpack. Whoopie.
Anyways, what was I saying? Oh yeah, I was going to complain about Crystal Coconuts. This item was, oddly enough, brought over from the Donkey Kong TV show, and it basically acts as a fuel for most of your barrel-related power-ups, including Diddy's jetpack and Tiny's shrink move. The problem with this is that the game pretty much never gives you enough Coconuts to stop and plan what you want to do in certain areas. I imagine the Crystal Coconut mechanic was also implemented to keep players from going wherever they wanted with it, but they already included a mechanic that takes your special power away if you try and exit the area, so Crystal Coconuts are pretty much pointless and drag the game out for far longer than they need it to. Worse still, Crystal Coconuts don't respawn until you exit and reenter the level, so if you're consistently failing a minigame and have run out of Crystal Coconuts to collect, you have to quit out of the level, go back in, and collect them all again. That's just bullshit, especially with minigames like the second rabbit race in Fungi Forest (which is another thing I'll get to later).
Here's another thing that drives me up a wall about Donkey Kong 64: In the first area you come across in Angry Aztec, you find a caged-up llama and a walled-up passageway leading to the rest of the level. The switch to this passageway is on top of the llama's cage, which can only be reached by climbing up a tree and swinging between vines, but you wouldn't know that the vines are up on top of the tree unless you bothered to look up. This is probably the worst consistency issue Donkey Kong 64 deals with, there's too many out-of-the-way objectives that are just above your line of sight. I once spent at least a couple of hours looking around DK Isles as Diddy one time searching for his last goddamn banana only to find out that it was above the island itself. That was more of an issue with draw distance, because the barrel didn't show up until I flew near it, but again, it was above the play area, where I couldn't see it. Game's shouldn't have to do that to provide a challenge.
Now I'm just droning on about how dumb aspects of Donkey Kong 64 are in general, so let's talk about some dumb things in Angry Aztec, and I have the perfect topic to rant on: that goddamned beetle race. For those of you who don't know... You know what? No, I'm pretty sure almost all of you know how goddamned wretched this beetle race is, but if you don't, I guess I'll elaborate. The race takes place on a slide, and you have to cross the finish line before the beetle does... but no, it's not as simple as that. Why isn't it simple?
- You not only have to cross the finish line before the beetle does, you also have to collect at least fifty coins. Predictably, these coins are littered everywhere onto the slide, and most of them require slowing down if you want to obtain them. Worse yet, if you accidentally brush up against the beetle, you lose three coins.
- The beetle is, for all intents and purposes, much faster than you on foot. This means that he gets a humongous head start at the beginning of the race, unless you hit him around, which causes him to fumble onto the ground. Of course, the game doesn't tell you this.
- The race is centered above a bottomless pit, and some of the turns don't have guardrails. You had better hope that you have enough time to slow down, and you also had better hope that the beetle doesn't catch up to you when you do, and if he does, you'd better hope to god that he doesn't plow into you and push you into the abyss.
- If you lose (and you will, a lot) the beetle gloats at you and beckons an infuriatingly annoying victory screech.
If there is one thing that you should know about Donkey Kong 64, it's that the races will scar you for life. There's at least four or five more of them, by the way, so brace yourselves.
Before I talk about the level's boss, there's one more thing I'm interested in talking to you about. What I'm going to have you do is click the video below really quickly just to demonstrate this mechanic. Go on, it's completely fine. It's just Diddy Kong getting a banana in one of the temples. In fact, I'll wait for you. Go watch the video and come back.
Did you do it yet? Come on, you're not lying to me, are you? Are you a chicken? Just go ahead and watch it, you'll be fi-
Okay, that was a little exaggerated, but come on, Rare! What's with the sudden blood-curdling Amityville Horror line? In a Donkey Kong game? Am I really playing a DK game? First the game says a swear word and now it's trying to make me shit myself.
Anyways, yeah, now that you've witnessed Krack-Shot Kroc's uncanny horror, it's time for me to discuss the Angry Aztec boss, Dogadon.
I don't think anyone here would believe me, but that creature picture above that's supposed to be the level's boss? It's even easier than the first boss. I didn't think that was possible, because Army-Dillo was a giant pushover, but the only thing Dogadon does to attack you is spit easy-to-dodge fireballs at you. After that, all he does is land and taunt you, which is when you proceed to throw a TNT barrel at him. That's it. He has no other attack strategy except drag the fireball-spitting animation out as long as possible. He doesn't even have a second attack like the first boss! If you absolutely can't beat Dogadon's first phase, I weep for you as a gamer.
I'd talk about DK64 some more, but I've had this tab open forever and I really am tired of typing this stuff, so come on back next time and I'll discuss the game's third level, Frantic Factory. (well, it's technically the third level, but Gloomy Galleon is opened at the same time, and I'm not sure if that counts as - oh, never mind)