Donkey Kong Country Returns: Review

by Kevin on

There is a level in Donkey Kong Country Returns that I always boot up to show friends who know nothing about the game. I’ll go ahead and tell you right now that this article is going to assume you either have beaten this game, or don’t give a crap about having certain portions “spoiled” for you. I don’t know how someone can spoil a damn Donkey Kong game, but whatever, some gamers are wound pretty tight. (GUYS THERE ARE BANANAS) Anyway, if I want to show one of my dead-hearted friends that this newfangled future Nintendo technology can still reach out and inspire, I’ll amble my way through level 6-2: “Prehistoric Path.” At one point in this level, Donkey Kong rides a mine cart on the outside of an enormous, rolling egg, which slowly breaks, sending Donkey Kong inside the egg. It’s a really fantastic-looking platforming segment, and each time I’ve shown it to a friend, I can tell that somewhere in their broken, ruined, adult bodies, they remember that stupid joy we can take from a video game.

Growing up is terrible stuff. I don’t play video games nearly as much as I used to. I have very little patience for video game busy work, and I rarely see final bosses. This has been quite tough for me to grapple with in the last few years. I’m not the only person who’s observed that when you were a kid, you had five games, and all of the free time in the world, and now, as an adult, you have all the games in the world, and five minutes of free time. (As a kid, who cares if one of those five games was goddamn Mario’s Time Machine you were going to RIDE A TURTLE SHELL THROUGH TIME AND TALK TO LEONARDO DA VINCI because you were super bored with your other four games) Whenever a game comes along that remotely tricks me into feeling “like a kid,” it is a miracle, I think. So many games are about feeling like a badass GUN MAN who KICKS ASS and SHOOTS SHIT and SOMETIMES HAS EMOTIONS. I don’t find this as interesting as the industry thinks I should. It just seems like the industry is squirreling around and trying too hard to Create Something Important. In the mean time, they’re making money, and they’re assuming that Making Money means they are successful at Making Something Important, but really they’re just creating a new, more creative death simulator. In the mean time, I’m asleep! (That’s the best video game.) I want to get excited about a situation that does not involve simulated badassery.

[![]/20110502-dkcr_2.jpg "Yeah, this happens")
So, *DKCR* came out, and it’s just exactly the type of game I want. It’s exactly the game I want to show off to people. It is a terribly difficult platformer made with care and an eye towards creative detail. It subtly pays homage to its predecessors, and builds upon everything that came before it. I should not have been as surprised by the game, since it’s made by Retro Studios, who has been known to do this before. Recent rumours about the Wii 2 (rumours, by the way, that are as batshit insane as rumours have ever gotten about a video game console that has a remote chance of actually coming out I AM LOOKING AT YOU INFINIUM LABS PHANTOM) suggest that Retro Studios is making a new *Eternal Darkness* game, which makes 100% sense. Yes, I’d like new intellectual property for this new video game system, but I also want more Lovecraftian Fat-Man-With-Flintlock-Pistols, DUDES.

Anyway, DKCR is a game that you, the consumer, should have already purchased, and played. You should be online complaining about lack of classic controller support, so that I can respond “suck it up, fumbly child, with your awkward childhands.” This is what I want. This is a game that transcends all of the online complaints. It is the first game I’ve played in a long while where I’ve fell into a gaming rhythm, even with the Wii remote waggle. (Seriously, all of you “core gamers” who have written words on the internet about how much you hate the baby-ass Wii and it’s waggle controls, can you please shut up or at least start a new internet called the Whiny Internet where that’s what you do? Just whine? Can you do this? It is a tired argument) The waggle allows for more physicality in the game; it is an extension of that (well-known) effect you would experience in video games as a child where you would lean and squirm in order to influence your on-screen avatar to do the same. Waggling for rolling gives the move a little bit of actual punch, and the repeat-punching-to-defeat-the-level-boss effect is just a perfect way to get out the post-boss excitement. I mean, in normal games I am punching the air in excitement when I beat a boss, so why not give me points for it?

[![]/20110502-dkcr_pinata.jpg "Thanks, Google Image Search!")
The game is brimming with new and interesting things to do, twisting prior assumptions about *Donkey Kong Country* games inside-out. Minecart levels are inverted. Cannons are fired into the third dimension of the side-scrolling 2D platformer. Levels are presented in silhouette, requiring focus on the portion of the video game normally unnoticed. My favorite video game of all time is *Yoshi’s Island*, a similarly successful platforming experiment. As I mentioned before, the game is difficult (even more so in the co-op mode, which might be opposed to the wishes of the creators), and certain levels require dozens of lives, but the game is quite generous with spares. I think that for the audience of Wii-owners who were hoping for a more *Kirby’s Epic Yarn* style straightforwardness, there will be a lot of invective-hurling-frustration and quick-looking-up-of-the-trade-in-price-at-Gamestop, but for those of you who have the time to whale on this piñata, you’ll find it is not filled with live scorpions (OH MAN SO HARDCORE!!!) but rather it is filled with delicious, well-earned candy. Who cares if you’ve hit it for hours with a crowbar. Each hit brought you back to a time when you were a child and that’s all you ever wanted: a warm summer’s day, an endless birthday party, and a fat, perfect piñata.
[![]/mrface5.jpg "Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!")

*Mr. Face say this game AWESOME.

Mr. Face never wrong!*