At E3 a couple of years ago, Donkey Kong Country Returns would have been huge. However, this year the fact that a game of its’ quality slipped by virtually unnoticed by all but the most hardcore fans sets us up for a very promising 2011. If the more anticipated titles are half as good as DKCR, then we’re in for a treat.
The most impressive thing about the game is its’ size. It not only has more levels than the first two DKC games combined, it also adds an enormous amount of replay value by hiding hundreds of little bits throughout the levels. If you’re a OCD collect ‘em up type gamer, an explorer who wants every last 100%, then DKCR will be right up your street- Certainly those who wish to be like the rest of us. Anyone who gets everything in Country Returns should probably be branded “Has too much time on their hands”.
Yet the thing about the scale that hits you is how much attention has gone into every last pixel. When designing a huge game, developers could almost be forgiven for being slightly lazy and leaving some bits to the imagination, or switching off theirs half way through. Not so Retro Studios, who having filled the Metroid Prime games with such love, have followed up superbly with a return for Donkey Kong. The level design is a huge departure from them, from 3D FPS-adventure epics to a more simple side-scrolling platformer, yet you’d think they’d been doing it for years. There’s an almost Mario understanding in how a character should bound around the level and make those perfect jumps.
The final feather in DKCR’s hat is the co-op play. With two able to help or hinder each other, it conjures up the family spirit that was NSMB Wii’s saving grace last year. However, this time you actually need the help. DKCR is hard as nails, and makes the later levels in NSMB look like its DS brother.
Yet while it may be stupidly tough, one go on Donkey Kong’s latest is enough to make you fall in love with the ape all over again. It’s a perfect Christmas game. Open and warm, yet undeniably cold at heart, DKCR is an absolute must for Wii gamers.