Giant Bomb Review

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Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

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Retro recaptures most of Donkey Kong's venerated platforming roots in this fine Wii sequel.


 Turns out Retro can make good Donkey Kong games too!
Donkey Kong Country returns in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Retro Studios already has experience resurrecting hallowed Nintendo franchises with the trilogy of Metroid Prime games, and it brings that skill to bear here to bring Donkey Kong's platforming roots onto the Wii and into the modern era. I wish the game offered more control options--namely, options that don't involve shaking the controller around--but overall this is a really well put-together and fantastic-looking platformer that will really challenge your ability to play hard games the way you used to way back when.

I've played all the way through this game, and even I'm not sure exactly what's going on in the thin wisp of a storyline. There are some comically sinister events involving some evil jungle spirits that come out of a volcano, and then (what else) Donkey Kong's stash of bananas goes missing. That's just your excuse to run and jump Donkey and Diddy Kong across eight worlds full of pretty intense platforming levels. There's an incredible amount of visual variety from world to world, with levels set in jungle, beach, cave, prehistoric, industrial, and volcano environments, and Retro's artists have outdone themselves in bringing these areas to exaggerated life. Everything moves in a big, cartoonish way, with a ton of little animations going on in the background that make the world feel especially lively. This is up there as one of the absolute best-looking games on the Wii.

The platforming action is really no slouch here, either, and if you remember anything about the old DKC games, this one is also high on the difficulty scale. It's no Super Meat Boy, but by the end of the first world you'll know the game demands pretty tight, specific timing of you. Like in the originals, Donkey Kong can pair up with Diddy when you find him hiding out in a level, and having Diddy onboard doubles your life and also gives you a jetpack-assisted hover move that makes the jumps a lot easier to pull off. 
 
 The game's art design is absolutely top-notch.
The unfortunate consequence of this is that when you take a couple of hits and lose Diddy, you also lose the hover. I found myself enjoying the game a little less when Diddy wasn't around and I had no way to get him back until the next level, since the way Donkey Kong moves on his own is a little sluggish compared to the sorts of jumps and landings you sometimes have to make. If you ever get really frustrated, you can use Nintendo's patented Super Guide technology to make the game literally finish a level for you so you can just move on to the next one. You don't actually get credit for any of the collectibles in the levels you skip through, anyway, so you can still go back and accomplish them for yourself if you feel the need.

Donkey Kong Country Returns lets you play with the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo, or just the Remote on its side like an NES controller (which I preferred), and mostly these controls work fine. In addition to jumping on top of enemies, you can roll forward to pick up speed quickly, pound the ground to stun enemies and interact with a lot of background elements, and make Donkey Kong blow a big puff of air to do weird things like put out the flames of enemies that are on fire. Unfortunately, you activate all three of these moves by shaking the controller, which is never as fast as just pressing a button. But the game sometimes wants you to roll or pound with really specific timing, more quickly than a controller shake really allows. I would have really appreciated Classic Controller support here, with all those abilities mapped to different buttons, but the game is playable enough with the existing controls.

There's a lot of ingenious stuff going on in the level design that makes the game well worth playing through, anyway. Massive parts of levels will explode or collapse into each other on a regular basis, and you'll find yourself getting launched into the fore- and background from time to time. Between all the platforming, there are some occasional forced-scrolling levels where you're careening along in a mine cart or hurtling through the level in a barrel with a rocket jammed into it. These stages rely a little more on memorizing and anticipating the obstacles by dying repeatedly than I would have liked, but there's still a ton of fast-paced, satisfying action here.

 The game has bosses.
There's also a ton of collectibles here. Bananas give you extra lives every time you find 100 of them, and banana coins let you buy a few trinkets at Cranky Kong's shop in between levels. You can collect balloons for extra lives, and an enormous number of puzzle pieces and K-O-N-G pieces if you really want to do and see everything the game has to offer. Despite all this, the game felt a little on the short side to me, partially because you don't have to finish every level in a world to move on to its colorful boss and then on to the next world. You certainly can go back and play every level, but you could also finish each world in less than an hour if you really wanted to.

Nintendo's got an uncanny knack for knowing when it might be a good time to bring one of its hallowed franchises back to the fore, and sure enough, now seems like as good a time as any for more Donkey Kong Country. And Retro has done a fine job with this new installment, which has Nintendo's trademark fit and finish all over it. If you're yearning for solid, demanding 2D platforming and can look past some slightly misplaced motion controls, you could do far worse than Donkey Kong Country Returns. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
64 Comments
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Posted by EveryNobody

I'm going to buy this.

Posted by Kjellm87

I'm so glad this is scoring good, I haven't been this hyped in a long time

Posted by TheMasterDS

Was hoping for a 5/5. Shame, guess it won't have a shot at Giant Bomb's Wii GOTY.

Posted by GlenTennis

Awesome. Can't wait.

Edited by MagusMaleficus

Tits. Between this and Game Informer's review, I feel pretty damn justified in my pre-order. I never doubted you Retro. 

Posted by BlackSymbiote

Wish I had a Wii.

Posted by smcn

This game will have sold a Wii once I get a job. Based on the QL alone I'm positive it would be my second GOTY pick after Mass Effect 2. Though it is kind of disappointing there aren't any underwater levels. They always had the best music.

Posted by Junior_AIN

This is 5/5 without a doubt.
 
Finally the waiting is reaching an end! Just can't wait anymore!

Posted by Slayne

Snazzy.

Posted by InfamousBIG

So...it's on like Donkey Kong?

Posted by CaptainFish

'The game has bosses'

Best caption ever.

Posted by HaterGamer

I still kinda find it weird now that rare isn't making it. But oh well. now hopefully we can get Goldeneye on XBLA

Posted by pfasshauer

Can't wait to get this.  Might have to wait until Christmas I think.

Posted by picklecannon

Damn with DKCR out on sunday and golden sun on the following monday im going to be broke!

Posted by JJOR64

Can't wait till this game comes out.  TWO MORE DAYS!!!!!!!

Posted by ch3burashka

I'm so happy Nintendo decided to bring DKC back. It's also great that the game is terrific (as far as I can tell) with a few minor issues. I only hope that Nintendo has a trilogy planned this time around as well, so as to continue perfecting the formula... 
...and maybe bring some characters back.

Posted by Kodo_Beast
@TheMasterDS: 
 
Just remember that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a 4 star reviewed game, won the Wii GOTY last time.
Posted by Eribuster

It's really a shame that there is no Classic Controller or Gamecube Controller support for a game that demands precision platforming and critical timing on a 2D plane. I wonder if I will be less forgiving of the game's unnecessary waggle when i pick this game up.

Posted by big_jon

I want this so bad.
Posted by Horry43

No snow levels no buy. Inexcusable for a winter release. Not even trolling.

Posted by Claude

Curious, in the Quick Look, you mentioned not even trying the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo because you didn't care. You say you preferred the Remote on its side in the written review. Did you finally give the combo a try? Or did you still not care? Just a thought, game looks pretty cool.

Posted by Kodo_Beast
@Horry43: 
 
Yeah, where are our Holiday Hare's nowadays? The world's gone to shit.
Posted by gamb1t

looks like ill play my wii for once.

Posted by Tireyo

OH YES, I CAN'T WAIT!! SUNDAY NEEDS TO BE TODAY!! >:( 

Posted by TheMasterDS
@Kodo_Beast: That's true, I had forgotten about that. Another Brad game if I remember right.
Posted by MisfitToy
@InfamousBIG said:
"So...it's on like Donkey Kong?
            "

TM
Posted by Laughlin_12

I love me some Retro Studios. Therefore I might have to play this.

Posted by SleepyDoughnut

I'm gonna get this. Also great first sentence Brad.

Posted by AuthenticM

They need to get David Wise for the sequel.

Posted by Dominoes

This looks absolutely fantastic. Retro appears to have done it again. Those bastards are undeniably one of the industries top developers. I cannot wait for their next game; after this of course. Maybe we'll get another trilogy! 

Posted by Sawboss

I have always been a huge fan of Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kongquest, so I am a little bummed that this game takes most of its beats from the original. That being said, the original was still a hell of a platformer and I trust this will be a great time.

Edited by JJWeatherman

I've never been the biggest Donkey Kong fan, but after reading this and watching the QL.... me want! 
 
AC: Brotherhood and Donkey Kong are definitely going on my christmas shopping list.

Posted by issun187

Can't wait to play this! I loved the DKC games back in the days.

Posted by Kartana

I'm sorry but is this the new standard for reviews on GB these days? What about multiplayer? Thanks for nothing!

Posted by BBQBram

Ah yes, this sounds pretty good. I was gonna get it anyway, but now I know it's not just out of hype. Thanks as always for the great review!

Online
Posted by AnAmericanPatriot
@Horry43 said:
" No snow levels no buy. Inexcusable for a winter release. Not even trolling. "
THIS. So many TIMES. HOW CAN there be no SNOW LEVELS? That's just GONNA MAKE me mega :(
Edited by Digifiend

What took them so long to do a proper DKC sequel? The last one was DK64, over a decade ago! This should've been on the Gamecube five or six years ago. Better late than never though.

Posted by CookieMonster

Decent review, Brad. Might pick this up some time.

Posted by Brackynews
@Eribuster said:
" It's really a shame that there is no Classic Controller or Gamecube Controller support ... "
I was trying to remember how many games have GC support, and Smash Bros is all that came to mind until damn that's a lot.  So yes, poor decision on their part.
Posted by demontium

Oh this comes out tomorrow. God Nintendo doesn't advertise for shit.

Posted by desku

Shame that the waggle controls hold the game back. I'm still going to buy it and love it though.

Posted by Gambit1024

Can't wait to play. Now if only they'd make a sequel to Donkey Kong 64 ;)

Posted by Sunspots

It's rare Wii games like this one that leaves me with a feeling of regret after selling my  Wii. Where is that Wii HD Nintendo?

Posted by agentboolen

I forgot this was out so soon!!!  Just got a $50 visa card, I think I might use it on this.    

Posted by TripMasterMunky

That sucks about the shake controls. Especially with how essential the roll was in previous DKC games. Obviously they changed the gameplay here to not focus on it so much, but still. It'll be weird NOT rolling all the time in a DKC title. 
 
Also, yeah, it sucks theres no snow/water levels. But you can't have everything I guess. I really wish they would've stuck to the DKC art style. The graphics seem better on the SNES titles. Yes, they were pre-rendered sprites, but those 3d renders graphics-wise still hold up today and were damn good when released. Just wish they would've leaned more towards a style like that, but oh well. Still can't wait to play this.  
 
Also I hope co-op is fun and not annoying. I loved played old DKC titles co-op.

Posted by robbob88

Good review. Sad to here that the game does not support the Classic Controller considering that the design is a beefed up SNES controller. 

Posted by MachidaX89

I dont know really. I loved the game back when i was a kid. But it doesn't look like something that i would 
spend my money on right now.

Edited by Lingxor

No mention of the music?  I've heard it's mostly remixes of old themes, but I guess it probably wouldn't stand out either way since they didn't get David Wise back.

Posted by pplus0440

i hate motino controls. but i will buy anyway
Posted by rpoland123

thanks brad

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