If there's one thing I've learned about myself in the last 2 weeks it's that I get very angry at games. Firstly there was Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis On The Move, the review of which can be read here. Today it's Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.
Being a port of the 2010 Wii original meant I knew what I was getting myself in for: a gruelling run of challenges throughout numerous worlds and levels, topped off with a crazy difficulty, even on the new mode that comes with the 3DS, lovingly known as the easier option. It remains completely true to what Donkey Kong Country always has been too, focusing on precision platforming where timing and finding a specific groove remain key.
Know this, though: it can be infuriating. Harking back to the days when arcade machines would mug your wallet, there are times during Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D where you'll actually shout at your console. Forget it's an inanimate object that can't respond or change its ways: something has to be yelled at regardless. Most of this is down to how Retro Studios has developed its latest pot of joy. There's a tendency, and a deliberate one at that, for DK to rely on the trial and error approach. You'll find the rhythm that all good platformers have lurking at their core, only to get punched in the face by an octopus' tentacle. There was literally nothing to indicate it was about to fly up in front of your path but hey, **** you. There will be some gamers who possess the reflexes to counter such an audacious screw job, but for the most of us it's a case of dusting ourselves off, taking a quick breath and then carrying on.
Incredibly, that's the beauty of what this offers. For all the cursing and crying, Donkey Kong Country is horrendously hard to put down. From existing as the pinnacle of game design to now almost relegated to an interesting aside, platformers don't come along that often; when they do they're not even that good. In spite of its frustrations, this is a fine throwback to yesteryear, lovingly brought forward to stand alongside its modern siblings. Retro has found that wonderfully warm balance between enticing you back for more even after it's flipped you off.
Some of you may already be aware of this, though, so Nintendo has done the decent thing in adding new content should you want a reason to dip your toe back in. Eight new levels now exist after you finish the game – and some are genuinely worthy of praise – whereas there's also a few new items to try and lighten up the difficulty further (such as green balloons which will, as a one time only deal, save you from falling off the screen). Thankfully, the Wii 'waggle' can't exist on the 3DS either, allowing DK to smash things using the face buttons...
Ultimately, though, it's the sheer shine Retro has applied here that makes it so appealing. Be it the level where the Kongs are silhouetted as they run towards their goal or the duo trying to carefully make their way between an oncoming tidal wave, it's all so appealing to look at. The 3D merely enhances this too, easily justifying not only the porting of Returns, but also allowing it to wave the flag as the better iteration to get should you be deciding between the two.
If you're like me it may actually end up killing you, but there are worse ways to go, right?
Version Tested: 3DS
Campaign completed in 10 hours
8 / 10
- Looks awesome
- Incredibly moorish
- Great platforming
- Occasionally too difficult