Donkey Kong Country Returns

PictureAfter a fourteen year gap, this game was the fourth in the Donkey Kong Country series. Unlike the first three games, this instalment was made by Retro Studios rather than Rare and so there are a few differences. On the whole things are the same though: it is still a side-scrolling game where you progress through levels and have many secrets to discover through exploration.

Probably one of the biggest changes is this: for the first time King K. Rool and the Kremlings do not appear at all. So, while the first three games each had a very similar set of enemies each time, this game brings with it an entirely new set (the Tiki Tribe). Other than that, though, the story still plays a very minor part, and, in fact it is very similar to the first game: the Tikis come out of some kind of hibernation, infest Donkey Kong Island, and steal the Banana Hoard, so Donkey and Diddy travel across the island to defeat them.

Gameplay wise, there are quite a few additions: there are now several levels where you fly along on a Rocket Barrel, these levels are usually pretty fasted paced, often having you being chased by something, and are very welcome addition (they seem to be the only reference to the third game, too). In fact, the entire game is often faster paced than the previous titles ever were: often you have to hurry to the end of a level because the whole world is collapsing around you. You now also control Donkey Kong and Diddy together, rather than having one follow the other: they can take four hits between them, Diddy going after two (and so with him, the ability to use his jet pack which slightly prolongs your time in the air when you jump). As well as the increased number of health points, every level has numerous check-points; you might think that all of these additions make the game a lot easier, but actually even with these I would say that this game is a lot harder than the other three. With only two hit points and one check-point per level, some parts of the game would be darn near impossible!

This game has quite a change in graphic style too: everything now, while still side-scrolling, has full 3D graphics and the world looks slightly more cartoony to me when compared to the more realistic looking levels of the earlier games. Having said that, that lovely indefinable ‘feel’ of the past games is still there. As always for this series, this game has a wonderful soundtrack (which includes remixes of old tracks) which is very immersive.

On the whole, while this is a fresh new instalment to the series, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of certain elements: Funky Kong does not appear at all, Rambi is the only Animal Buddy that appears and there are no underwater levels. I also felt that, while the first three games very much felt connected, this one seems unconnected to the rest. Nonetheless, this is very good and equally as good as the first in the series. Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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