Donkey Kong Country Returns is back and although our hairy-aped hero previously had a similar experience of the Wii, this time he has been shaken into a 3D world which will literally blow your mind. Good? This is the type of game 3DS was made for.
If there is a plot in Donkey Kong Country Returns then I must have missed it, but who cares, I wouldn't want any story getting in the way of the sheer fun you'll have traversing the numerous levels and worlds on offer here. In fact it's probably just as well that there is no plot because this game is as hard as nails and any distraction whatsoever would probably have you heading back to the checkpoint once again anyway (as if that doesn't happen enough). I like to think of myself as a competent enough gamer, but Donkey Kong Country Returns certainly tested me and anyone else I passed the 3DS.
Things start off simply enough as Donkey Kong arrives in the Jungle. Here you'll make your way across platforms as you try to avoid both falling obstacles and all sorts of enemies which are trying to snap at your feet. Even in this first level you'll have to your use brain to search for hidden objects such as puzzle pieces and the golden letters which make up the words 'KONG' and gain you access to hidden secrets. Searching for the latter is the least of your worries though as you've got to achieve your main goal of actually getting through the levels, which is easier said than done. Even in the early stages, the placement of platforms and enemies makes this a tough task, so you really need to be careful with every jump and attack you make.
Thankfully, Nintendo have included a New Mode which allows the player to get through the levels with three hearts instead of two. This is a bit of a god send as you may at least make it to the checkpoint without using a continue - although don't count on it.
On the plus side, you do have a few other extras to get you through the levels. For instance, there's Diddy Kong, a smaller monkey who is found by smashing a special barrel. Grabbing Diddy not only gives you three extra hearts, but also allows you to fly for a limited time, making getting between one platform and another a whole lot easier. There are quite a few other 'special' companions throughout the levels too, such as the Rhino whom you can mount and destroy everything in your path, or the mine karts and flying barrels, which make getting through the levels a faster, if not tricky affair. Finally there is also a shop in each level, which allows you to buy more hearts, continues and even potions which help should you miss a jump.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is made up of nine worlds, each of which includes a huge handful of levels (72 in all by my count). Each world is mapped out much like Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS, therefore, as you complete one level the next will unlock, until you finally get to the end of level boss. Each level offers different challenges from the beginnings of the Jungle, all the way through to the Beach; Ruins; Cave; Forest; Cliff; Factory; Volcano and finally the Golden Temple. Obviously as you go on the levels get harder and harder, in fact I'd be surprised if you have any hair left by the time you get to the Forest level.
Despite the tough challenges of each world, you've still got to take on the bosses at the end of them, which in itself will no doubt take you quite a few continues to negotiate. Thankfully you'll always start just as you are about to take on the boss (once you reach that level) so you'll never have far to go should you wish to have numerous attempts at taking them down.
One other thing worth mentioning is that Donkey Kong Country Returns actually includes local multiplayer. Unfortunately I was unable to test this as I did not have a second copy of the game, nor another 3DS. However, if you are in this position, then you'll be able to use this feature to play as Donkey Kong, while another plays as Diddy. Given the quality of the single player experience, I'm sure this will work well.
Whether you decide to bump the 3D up or leave is up to you, but it has to be said that the 3D effect has never been better than in this title. As Donkey Kong runs along the levels, whacking enemies and collecting bananas, you'll be ducking your head from side to side as objects such as these fly towards you. There is also a wonderful sense of depth to the levels with the 3D effect whacked up to full, it's almost like you are standing right next to our ape friend.
To add to the quality of the presentation, all of the fantastic effects are brought to life with the wonderful soundtrack. Nintendo seems to have a habit of getting its music and sound effects right and they are perfect here too. Even though Donkey Kong doesn't have a personality as such, thanks to his ape calls and grunts, he's still one of the most likable characters around.
Having not played the Wii version, it's difficult for me to judge just how great it was, but Donkey Kong on 3DS feels like it belongs on Nintendo's handheld. The 3D effect is sublime, while the cute graphics and gameplay ideas feel like they were thought up with the 3DS in mind. Donkey Kong Country Returns is probably one of the best games I've played on the system and that's quite a compliment. Buy this game now, or miss out on something special.
(Version Tested: 3DS)
- Looks fantastic
- Highly addictive
- Wonderful music
- Amazing 3DS effects
- Super cute
- Difficulty still quite unforgiving