Length: 20ish hours
Donkey Kong Country Returns is… well, a return to the Donkey Kong Country series. This time, DK Island has been taken over by evil tiki villains and its up to Donkey and Diddy to stop them!
In typical DK fashion, there are different “worlds” or sections, each of which has a number of levels and finishes with a boss fight. Each world gets progressively more challenging as it tests your skills from previous areas. The boss fights are usually recognizing the boss’ pattern and reacting accordingly as it cycles through three or so phases before finally being defeated. The Wii version (which I played) includes some controller shaking for ground pounding, blowing, and rolling. Each stage has a series of collectables including puzzle pieces and the KONG letters for additional challenge if you want it. There are some secret areas that have you collecting bananas and coins, and these reward exploration of the stages as well. While Diddy makes an appearance, and can be summoned from the mystical monkey holding barrels, he serves more as a power up, adding two hearts of health and allowing you to hover for a short period of time.
DKCR is a gorgeous game, with stages being vividly colourful and pleasant to look at. They all fit the theme of their world while also giving variety to the stages and challenges. Each world also tends to have a recurring gimmick, such as falling platforms or minecart stages. Additionally, each first level of the new world has a small transitional area to show the change from the previous area to the current one, which adds some nice flow.
I will say that DKCR is not a platformer for beginners. I am not a skilled platformer but have played some that I find to be much more beginner friendly. This one is for the more hardcore, skilled players. While the game starts off easily enough, sooner or later I found myself having to rely on Super Kong to beat the levels for me. By the 7th world (of 8) I would waste 15-20 lives per stage and was running out of coins to buy more. This isn’t to say Returns doesn’t try and give you some tools to make things easier; you can buy lives, an extra heart container, a key to skip cages, as well as a few other options (such as allowing Super Kong to clear the level), but even then you’ll need a certain amount of skill or you might find yourself in the same position I did: frustrated and running out of resources. This isn’t to say the game isn’t fun or even that it’s unfair, just be prepared for a challenge. And if you haven’t played any platformers before, maybe start with a different one.