Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a Nintendo 3DS adaptation of 2010’s Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii. New content has been added as well as a welcome “easy mode” option. However, the game’s traditional control scheme offers reason enough to pick it up if you found yourself frustrated with the Wii title’s waggle-based controls.
Developer: Retro Studios/Monster Games
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
GOOD: Adds new content, traditional controls, and a difficulty selection to the original Donkey Kong Country Returns. Creative levels. Great graphics and sound.
BAD: Can be frustratingly hard at times. Can’t change difficulty level on the fly. Controls still require some getting used to if you’re familiar with the SNES Donkey Kong Country games.
NECESSARY READING COMPREHENSION: Low. There’s very little text, and the game’s controls are simple to grasp thanks to visual cues.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is available at retail, and downloadable from the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
THE BASICS: It’s Bananas
With his beloved golden stash gone, with the Tikis running rampant, and with the jungle’s wildlife hypnotized, Donkey Kong and his pal Diddy Kong explode out of their jungle-hut home and begin a quest to bring peace back to the wilderness.
The story for Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is pretty lightweight, but that’s no surprise; the game puts action and atmosphere above storytelling. The sparse narrative is told through amusing and well-animated cut scenes, which grants the Kong cast plenty of personality without the aid of words. Donkey Kong Country veterans may pine for the Kremlings, however, as the Tikis’ antics and character designs just don’t match up to the doofy alligators we grew to love through the ‘90s. Maybe a sequel will add a little charm to these little wooden guys.
GAMEPLAY: Getting Back into the Swing of Things
As is the case with its predecessors, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong work together in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. In the single-player game, Diddy rides on Donkey’s shoulders and helps his friend make more accurate jumps with his jetpack. He also serves as a meat-shield of sorts, since his presence allows Donkey to take an extra hit or two. However, if Diddy takes too much damage he flees, and Donkey is on his own until he can recover Diddy by shattering a “DK” barrel.
If you have a pal who also owns a Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D cartridge or download, he or she can team up with you via Wi-Fi. This lets Donkey and Diddy act independently, and Diddy can make use of his peanut popgun as well as his jetpack. There is some lag in the two-player game, unfortunately, which adds unwanted frustration to an already-challenging game.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D works best as a single-player experience anyway; you won’t want to be distracted as you climb, swing, bounce, and bash your way through the game’s varied worlds. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D exhibits some admirably creative spins on old gameplay mechanics (including a trip on a mine cart wherein the track rolls along with you, and a horrifying but memorable encounter with some spiders), making it that much more satisfying to be allowed to default to traditional controls.
Be warned, however: Donkey’s war against the Tikis is a rough one. Whereas the Donkey Kong Country games were quite laid back, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D demands precision and perseverance. Levels are long, and there’s almost always something waiting to trip you up at the finish line and send you back to the midway point.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a single olive branch: An easy mode. With easy mode enabled, enemies need to hit you three times before you die (six times if you have Diddy), Cranky Kong sells power-ups at lower prices, and “Super Kong” can automatically finish the level for you if you really get stuck. These additions definitely take the edge off the game’s more severe pitfalls, but it’s still no stroll through the jungle. There are, for instance, plenty of traps that will off you in one smack regardless of how many hits you can actually take. Also, once you choose a difficulty level, you’re stuck with it until you start a new game. There’s no switching on the fly.
Finally, a last note of caution to longtime Donkey Kong Country fans: Even the traditional control scheme in Returns 3D isn’t an exact translation of what you may be used to. For example, Donkey Kong does not gain the same level of momentum when he rolls into an enemy. It might be best to un-learn what you already know.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Monkey Business
The game’s soundtrack is energetic and pays occasional tribute to David Wise’s classic Donkey Kong Country tracks. The sound effects likewise shine, and include plenty of monkey screeches.