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Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo Wii) Review
Review by 
9.19/10 from 67 user ratings
A Note: I wrote this review on December 6th, 2010 for PKgaming.org but I am simply transferring it over here as well. Hence the lack of... timeliness. ~ DrFinkelstein

Full disclosure, I have never played Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, or 3. But it didn't matter worth a damn because I still had more fun with Donkey Kong Country Returns than I've had in a long long time with any game.

At the core, the gameplay is the reason to own the title. Everything feels so natural as you play an ape jumping around collecting bananas and other goodies. Running, climbing, and rolling your way through the stages will be a challenge but ever time you see that finish screen, you'll feel nothing but satisfaction. I played the game with the nunchuk and wiimote combo and that felt very natural. You move with the joystick, jump with A, and hold on to things for climbing with B. It's all simple in a good way and then there's the motion controls which don't add a ton, but they certainly make for some fun. It feels satisfying to smack the wiimote and nunchuk in the same slapping-the-ground manner that Donkey hits for his move. You also can stop and blow air on things to either move platforms or dandelions to discover secrets, as well as more. I've heard a lot of complaints about how this stops the pacing of the game but lets be honest, it's all in how you want to play. I tended to seek out secrets during my first play-through but there's nothing stopping you from just running around however you like. You can always go back and find the secrets later.

I guess I'm already touching on the next section I wanna talk about, the content. This game contains eight worlds, each with their own boss, and a couple of extras thrown in there. Each standard level has the traditional KONG letters and each level also contains various puzzle pieces. Some of them are very very tricky to find but you can buy a Squawk item which will help you seek out your missing secrets. There is so much to find and do in each level and then you multiply that by how many levels... wow is the answer here. It's definitely on par with New Super Mario Bros. Wii as far as amount of levels but there's probably more to actually discover within Donkey Kong Country Returns. As you collect things and up your percentage, you unlock music and art in the galleries as well. Lots to do for completionists here. Besides the letters and puzzle pieces, there's time-trials to attempt medals for and even MORE to unlock and earn. Also, I wont go into much spoilery detail but hidden throughout the backgrounds of levels are allusions to other games as little easter eggs to spot. They should delight if you find them. While many of the levels are fantastic, some of the best are the 'Silhouette Levels'. I wish there had been more, at least one per world, but I guess their lack of quantity just allowed for me to love the ones that're there even more.

This game, like life, obeys a five second rule. The five second rule in this case though is that, if you don't hate the game after five seconds, you will in fact become addicted for weeks until it's completion. That. Is. Fact.

Like with Retro Studios' most recent outings with Metroid, Donkey Kong Country Returns looks fantastic in the graphics department. The levels are colorful and crisp. They do away with the old style from the SNES games, obviously though as that's obsolete. The game may be 2D but the 3D assets look great and their 2D textures help sell their look. The mossy areas you can grab on to for instance look absolutely wonderful. They look realistically lush. The character models for Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong look great also. The game features cutscenes before the boss battles and in the beginning of the game as well. You will be surprised at how good an elephant's ass looks.

I don't have that much to say about the music besides that it's rather enjoyable. Even without playing the original Rare series, I know that the music is classic in those titles. Donkey Kong Country Returns does a great job with the sound effects and music but for me anyway, nothing ever reached the heights of Bramble Blast for instance. In the levels that feature any kind of 'magma', you can definitely feel a hint of "Magmoor Caverns" from the Metroid Prime series. It's greatly appreciated and obvious why they did.

I'm not quite sure why I never played the original SNES titles, I certainly don't miss the Kremlings. I also don't know if I see an urge to go back and play those titles after this. From what I've heard, Retro Studios has made the DKC formula and made it even better. Maybe that's ignorant, and I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually, but Donkey Kong Country Returns has quenched my platforming thirst and made me hungry as hell for some banana bread.

The Verdict:

This game is amazing. Retro Studios is amazing.
Buy it at all costs if you like fun.

What I liked:
Level Design is impeccable and the gameplay is top-notch. Lots of levels too, and reasons to go back to previously beaten levels. Lots of replayability. Rambi is a blast to play with and I don't feel the need for more animals.

What I didn't like:
Once in a while, the game gets almost TOO-hard. The motion-controls work MOST of the time, but when they don't, it's rather annoying.

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 Excellent  9.6 / 10
12/23/11, 19:48   Edited:  12/24/11, 23:59
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Loved the game. I pretty much agree with you. The game sees some ridiculous difficulty spikes at times. I wasn't a fan of the rocket barrel levels...maybe one or two would've been nice, but there were more of them than I expected. The blow mechanic...well it kinda blew IMO. Once they put a secret coin in a flower or something, you have to blow everything in the game, which is really annoying. I also think I wouldn't have minded some more environment variety - a snow area would've been great, especially if this was kind of an homage to old DKC games. The lack of underwater levels was disappointing in retrospect. Surely there would've been a way for them to make underwater levels fun and exciting? I thought DKC2 in particular had some great water levels, since you could jump in and out of the water (few levels were COMPLETELY underwater). I would loved to have seen less rocket barrel levels, and some more environment variety. I thought that with the amount of mine cart levels in the game made the rocket barrel levels a bit redundant. Too many forced scrolling levels for my taste.

This is nitpicky...but it would've been cool to play as Diddy. I did kind of miss the "tag team" element that more or less defined the original games.

If you can get past the controls and simply look at the level/world design...there's a LOT to love. Retro is still one of the best (if not the best) at putting you in a world you WANT to be in. You sometimes see older areas in the distance as you make your way through a level. Levels often have tiny details that you can't believe they went out of their way to add. Sometimes, doing something in a level affected the overworld. Definitely scratched an itch for me where NSMBW and SMG did not. I felt like I was in a "world" and less like I was navigating a menu.

The music was awesome, even if the game was primarily comprised of remixes. Thankfully, they were some awesome remixes. There weren't many new, memorable tracks, but I remember one in the Cliff area being really awesome.

Overall it was a great game - one of my favorites on the Wii. It was one of the few games that I thought about when I wasn't playing it. I kept trying to get friends to play the game, simply so I could talk to someone about some of the awesome levels.

Did anyone get to put substantial time into the co-op? I remember it being kind of difficult because the game has such a steep learning curve. The motion definitely rears its head as a poor design element when you're trying to introduce someone to the game. I do like that you can't bump into each other. It can be fun in Mario because there's so much open space, but DKCR is so much more unforgiving.

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/11, 20:19
Tacked on motion controls sucked. Everything else was pretty much godly, and luckily the motion controls can't significantly bring down such an amazing game.

Posted by 
 on: 12/24/11, 09:48
Amazing game. Jesus Christ, so good. Played through it three times, and I still replay stages. IMO one of the best games on the Wii. It's one of the few modern 2D games that feel just as epic, complete, and overall filled with care as major AAA releases. Modern 2D games, while still amazing, often have that "simplified" feel. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's there. But not in DKCR.

Posted by 
 on: 12/24/11, 19:51   Edited:  12/24/11, 19:54
@GelatinousEncore Do you think New Super Mario Bros Wii feels "simplified?" That's the feeling I got from it. I mean, it's Mario, and it's not trying to be anything but Mario...but my favorite moment of the game doesn't come until the very last boss, where you finally get a "set piece" moment. I wish there were more moments like that.

DKCR feels like that practically every level. Platforms aren't just platforms. They're trees, flowers, and other things that fit in the environment. Things fall from the background. The bosses aren't really anything to write home about, which is unfortunate, but the actual levels just feel like events. Like with Super Mario Galaxy, I found myself compelled to go through DKCR just to see what the next level would bring. Not just from a platforming gimmick standpoint, but from a visual and environmental standpoint as well.

Posted by 
 on: 12/24/11, 20:18   Edited:  12/24/11, 20:23
@PogueSquadron I agree with everything you said, and also in DKCR levels feels important. Honestly, off the top of your head do you remember which level is 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 and 1-4 in NSMBWii, and the differences between them? Other than the fact that you use Yoshi in one of them. In the Jungle world in DKCR, there's the classic Jungle Hijinx, a level inside caves, with water and tongs of stuff to cling on, there's a level with tons of rockets, one in an underground mine with mine carts (that then goes outside), and of course the classic silhouette sunset level.

Posted by 
 on: 12/24/11, 22:48   Edited:  12/24/11, 22:49
I'm definitely with you two on the quality of DKCR's big "setpiece" levels. It's one of the finest games on the Wii! Nice review, Fink, I pretty much agree with it all!

Posted by 
 on: 12/24/11, 23:33
Yeah, it's something I wish Mario would've adopted more from Yoshi's Island back in the day.

Maybe Retro needs to do a Mario game too?

Posted by 
 on: 12/25/11, 02:35
Are we randomly posting music in here now!? Because this one was awesome and the fact that the stage gameplay fit the music was so awesome...

Anyway, I think this game cemented Retro Studios in my mind as not just a great Metroid Prime developer but a great developer period. The Retro retro (huh?) stages in Mario Kart 7 are more evidence. Retro Studios >>>>>> everyone.

Posted by 
 on: 12/25/11, 03:27
Whoaaaa! I thought I somehow skipped like 100 pages into the forum or that there was a glitch. A review for DKCR on the first page? Did I just wake up and dream all of 2011?

Just another reminder of my huge backlog. I really need to get my priorities straight...& starting today!
through whats left of 2011 and all the way through 2012....and Im never looking back! Im making gaming my #1 priority in life, even over work. Yea, I'll go to work, but my mind will be elsewhere. Work sucks anyways and so doesn't being an adult. And if people don't like it, they can just kiss my ass.

From here on out, Im just doing barely enough to get by at work and getting my gaming mode back on track! F*ck you real world, the gamewizard is making a comeback. New and improved, better than ever.


Posted by 
 on: 12/25/11, 09:44   Edited:  12/25/11, 09:46

Holy crap. That level feels so good when you are playing it for the 1st time. Obstacles timed with the music should be used more in games. Those totally rocked in SMG2 too.

The one thing I really loved in DKCR is that because of the "setpiece" levels and how Retro worked hard trying to make each one unique, everytime you go through a level and look back at what have you been through, it feels great. You really get that feeling that you are exploring through a world. That feel is something I miss in platform/adventure games. DKCR feels like you are in an adventure.

Posted by 
 on: 12/25/11, 17:20
Although I'd place the two Super Mario Galaxy games above Donkey Kong Country Returns, my heart tells me Retro's platformer is the game I enjoyed most on the Wii. It's a masterpiece that I have played through to completion twice. I'll probably run through it a third time before the Wii U launches.

Edit - you know what? Screw it, DKCR is my FAVORITE Wii game, period. It brought me nothing but pure joy...more so even than the amazing SMG titles.

Posted by 
 on: 12/25/11, 23:24   Edited:  12/25/11, 23:25
It's interesting that today, I was thinking about time I spent with DKCR last Christmas. That game was practically my life for a couple days. If I didn't have so many other things to do, I would've loved to play it again this Christmas.

Most Christmases I'd think about the time I got Donkey Kong Country 2 or some game like that...it's just funny that this year reminded me of the nice time I had playing DKCR all last year. Definitely says something about the game.

Posted by 
 on: 12/26/11, 03:19
This thread made me want to crack open DKCR again, and I did. Man, the K levels are pure rhythmic platforming bliss.

Posted by 
 on: 12/26/11, 03:39
Yeah I played through the first few levels admittedly on my PC. Just a really cool game. It's awesome that such a recent 2D platform has instilled such a nostalgia on me. That game really left an impact on me last generation.

Posted by 
 on: 12/26/11, 04:35
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