Do you remember, back in the day, when you played the same video game for months but never saw the end of it because you just kept dying? It didn’t matter how good you were – one misplaced jump or a forgotten incoming enemy were all it took to bring hours of progress to a screeching halt. Well, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a lot like that, albeit with a shinier overlay.
I had mulled over getting this game for quite a while but I had heard rumours of its difficulty. I’ll admit it – I don’t often like tremendously difficult games. At least, not games that are cheap in the way they like to send you to your death. Nevertheless, whilst I was browsing the internet pretending to work I came across a flash sale for the downloadable version of the game. Believing that Fate was bringing together my love of impulse purchases with my love of being cheap, I decided that now was the time to take the plunge and buy the game. What followed was a month of on-again, off-again gaming where I wasn’t entirely sure if my 3DS would survive the night or be thrown against the wall in a fit of rage.
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy being the king of a jungle. That is certainly the truth when it comes to Donkey Kong. Ruler of Donkey Kong Island, the brave ape must be ever-vigilant or else risk having his goods plundered and his riches sundered.
But one cannot be vigilant when it comes to a volcanic eruption releasing a horde of malevolent, hypnotic-music playing Tiki monsters. Only Donkey Kong and his family are immune to their devilish tunes and, with all his other minions turned against him, it’s up to Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong to traverse the island and regain the family’s stolen stock of bananas from the Tiki Tak Tribe. It may sound like some bizarre dream from the depths of a drug user’s idled imagination, but it is the scenario you find yourself faced with.
The first thing to bear in mind with this game is that it’s a port – the original version was released on the Wii back in 2011. Many ports, when done incorrectly, turn out looking like an amateur drag queen in the daylight in comparison to the original. Thankfully, this is not the case here. The game both looks and controls beautifully, and I imagine the 3DS’s more traditional control scheme is perhaps better suited to the title than the Wii’s combination of Wiimote, nunchuk and motion controls.
Right out the gate, however, you are going to have to get used to the fact that Donkey Kong is a heavy character. He is a giant ape, after all, and he’s been programmed to feel like one – he doesn’t jump as far or as high as you think he will, and he comes back down very quickly. It’s all a very nice touch by the game’s programmers, but it does take a bit of getting used to.
When you start the game you must select one of two different modes to play – the original mode, which only gives you two hearts, or a new easier mode which gives you three. I will confess that I chose the easier of the two and went with three hearts, and even then this game was hell on Earth, so I will happily take my hat off to anyone who manages to beat the game on the original mode. Thankfully Diddy Kong is on hand to help you out. In addition to adding extra life (2 or 3 additional hits, depending on the mode you are playing), he also comes armed with a jet-pack that will allow you to hover for a short period of time. Given the number of intricate jumps that need to be made throughout the course of the game, I cannot emphasise just how handy this little guy can be.
The levels throughout the game are devious masterpieces. It all starts off innocently enough – you have to go around quite simple stages finding the Kong family’s pilfered bananas, banana coins, Kong letters, and puzzle pieces. The scariest thing you’re likely to encounter during these early jaunts are angry parrots, and for a while you’ll foolishly think that you are a gaming wizard, breezing through a game that I’m fairly convinced could rip entire families asunder because of the rage it can induce in its players. This sense of elation will quickly pass, and you will come to realise just how foul your hubris was.
Before you know what hit you you’re suddenly confronted by all manner of horrible creatures (a lot of whom appear to be on fire), death pits where you least expected them, and jumps that make your heart stop. And that’s only when you’re on solid ground. The game also likes to take you screeching along rusty tracks in mine carts and have you flying around in a barrel that just happens to come equipped with a rocket on the back. Either way, the very Earth and the elements will become your enemy and the cart and barrel only take one hit to destroy, so expect to see the same 10 seconds of a level a lot before you get it right. Occasionally a little pig appears, manning what looks like an abandoned lemonade stand – these act as check points, but that little bastard doesn’t appear nearly as much as you would like him to.
Thankfully there are a few things that can help you out along the way. Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong’s grandfather, is more than happy to help his grandson out, provided you have some cold hard cash to exchange. In Cranky’s little shop you can buy all the extra lives you need (trust me, you’ll need lots of them), extra Diddy Kong barrels (always useful for the boss fights), extra hearts, little trinkets that make it so your cart or barrel doesn’t explode on contact (so useful), and Squawks the parrot, who will help you find all the little goodies that are hidden throughout the levels. These things make the game a whole lot more tolerable, and allow you to finish the level that you’ve died on at least 30 times without completely diminishing your sense of satisfaction.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D will bring about in you an absolute plethora of emotions. Not only will you feel rage and anger, but also fury, ire, indignation, outrage, hatred, resentment, petulance, vexation, acrimony, rancor, odium, and any other number of synonyms that express the vast chasm of irritable emotions. These will be compounded by the fact that this is a brilliant game – you aren’t dying because the game is cheap, you’re dying because you aren’t good enough. But all of this will lead to a great sense of accomplishment and a decidedly regal disposition when you have eventually finished the game and know that the Tikis were no match for you.
If you do decide to play the game, just remind yourself, as I often did, that a 3DS is an expensive piece of equipment, and it should not be thrown against the wall (or out a window, or flushed down the toilet etc.) just because you couldn’t get two monkeys riding a rhino over a lava pit. Remember these wise words and everything will be fine.
My Final Rating: 8 / 10
Buy Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D at Amazon.com