It's been 14 years since Donkey Kong swung on to the Super Nintendo to rescue his banana horde from the evil Kremlings in Donkey Kong Country. It was a wonderful platform adventure which raised the bar for visuals in the 16-bit era and a title which spawned two sequels.
But the time has come for Nintendo to dust off the successful formula and deliver a quite brilliant title that will keep you entertained throughout the festive season. The plot is just as thin as it was in 1994, with Kong and his sidekick Diddy on a mission to retrieve their massive banana horde, which has been whisked away by the googly-eyed Tik Tak Tribe.
However, the wafer thin story hasn't stopped the team at Retro Studios from adding a few neat twists of their own to create a title that is instantly familiar, yet full of delightful surprises.
The biggest change here is that Diddy Kong - the agile little tyke whose nimble moves got me out of many scrapes back in the day - is no longer controlled directly. Instead, he clings to Kong's back, allowing the burly ape to jetpack across gaping chasms and provides the duo with an extra two health hearts.
There's a tinge of disappointment when discovering Diddy's been relegated to a bit-part role, but the feeling gradually dissipates when the genius of the level design and feel of the game begin to percolate through.
Retro Studios have really pushed the boat out and introduced new ideas as the game gambles along, including utilising the background to expand the levels. Kong and Diddy frequently find themselves blasted into the back of the scenery to collect bananas and coins, a gameplay twist which keeps the player on their toes.
The nods to the Super Nintendo games don't stop at explosive barrels, tree-top antics or madcap minecart rides - the soundtrack, too, is dipped in nostalgia. The atmospheric tracks from the Nineties series can be heard on every level and menu screen - something that will bring warm smiles from older players and delight younger gamers.
The 1994 game had more secrets to find than most other platform games of the time and this series reboot is no different. Exploring the levels to find all the hidden corners and secrets will take a while, while collecting all the elusive jigsaw pieces will keep players occupied well into the new year.
Graphically, the game is a triumph. Sporting bold and distinctive visuals, Donkey Kong Country Returns consistently looks stunning. A variety of graphical flourishes have been used, including an excellent silhouette effect, which gives each level a unique feel.
Despite the fact that the platforming action is wonderfully balanced, the control set-up does take a bit of getting used to. Nintendo's Classic Controller is unfortunately not supported, leaving the player to make do with either the standard Wiimote and nunchuk set-up or go it alone with just the Wiimote. The latter is definitely the preferred option, as making DK barrel roll and blow on objects while traversing the levels is much easier this way.
But despite this small niggle, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a quite brilliant game and the best 2D platformer on the system. It knocks New Super Mario Bros into a cocked hat thanks to its ingenious level design and tough challenge.
Magnificent from start to finish and a title well worth spending your Christmas cash on.
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Monday, 6 December 2010
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been putting a fair amount of time into Gran Turismo 5 on PS3. While the game feels a little clunky in places (especially the menu system) the photo mode is excellent. So here are a selction of my snaps - cars and scenery. Enjoy.