Nintendo again has a hit with its newest game featuring everyone's favorite banana-eating ape, Donkey Kong, and his sidekick Diddy.
Donkey Kong Country Returns features eight worlds of ground-pounding, barrel-shooting and steam-rolling of baddies, all reminiscent of the 1994 original.
Not much has changed in the game, but it's refreshing that Nintendo, instead of trying to recast the gameplay, stayed true to its roots. My favorite is shooting from one barrel to another, and many levels are designed to test your timing and ability. On several occasions, a quick shot is the difference between gaining an extra life or losing both Donkey and Diddy.
While navigating the worlds, gamers can collect tiles that spell "Kong." Also, hidden puzzle pieces are scattered throughout each level, encouraging players to search for secrets everywhere.
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Underground mine carts continue to be a fun feature. Donkey and Diddy must navigate levels while riding inside a cart and dodging mole men. These are the most difficult levels if you're trying to find all the puzzle pieces. Like me, you might find that you spend hours losing lives just to complete the puzzle.
Although challenging, Donkey Kong Country Returns does offer help to players during their treks. Cranky Kong returns to set up shops in every world and sells extra lives and other items. Rambi the Rhino appears a few times to ram his way through a level. Not much can get in the way of Rambi, so when you find him, take advantage of his power.
For struggling gamers, Nintendo offers a chance to "play" as Super Kong. I use "play" loosely because you don't control him. When Super Kong is invoked, the computer plays for you and finishes the level. It is nice to have help, but I'm no fan of Super Kong, because the satisfaction of finishing a difficult level is lost.
My only gripe about the game is that it's multiplayer. Playing with a friend usually helps in difficult sections of the game, but many levels force Diddy to ride on Donkey Kong's back and have one player take control of characters. In these scenarios, your friend sits idle. As if that weren't bad enough, should you die, two lives are lost. I understand the reasoning, but it makes for poor cooperative play.
Overall, the newest iteration of the game offers the same fun that first grabbed my attention when I was 13 and Nintendo Power subscribers received a VHS promotional video of the then-new franchise.
Donkey Kong and his pal Diddy teased me with gameplay and graphics beyond my wildest expectations. Sixteen years and three consoles later, the pair remain atop my favorites list.