Donkey Kong Country Returns

Swing, stomp, and pound to recover DK's stolen horde.
SeriousGamer - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Mild Cartoon Violence: Player stomps on enemies, enemies vanish or bloodlessly fall apart. Donkey Kong is seen on fire or flattened. Cutscenes show punches or other blows.

Destruction: Buildings and ships are destroyed by player.

Fantasy Magic: Enemy characters shown using hypnosis, possible possessions.

The phrase ‘monkey around’ often refers to someone acting like, well, a monkey. On a more technical side, it refers to acting foolishly. Some may consider the world of the gamer a living definition of the term, but for the gamer, it may refer to something else entirely…like swinging through the trees in search of lost bananas. Such is often the case for fans of the Donkey Kong series.

Donkey Kong or DK to his friends actually got his start as something of another Kong entirely. In 1981, a hero who would soon be called Mario had to face off against DK and climb up a number of large structures to save his girlfriend, whom Kong had decided to kidnap. I suppose his little encounter with Nintendo’s famous plumber left an impression on the gorilla and the players because Donkey Kong ended up sporting a new look and turning over a new leaf, several leaves in fact, in the 1994 SNES title, Donkey Kong Country. Gamers took the term ‘monkey around’ to new areas as they led Donkey Kong and a barrel of his simian friends and relatives against the lizard-like Kremlings and their king, the aptly named K. Rool who usually sported a new identity in each game.

Fourteen years since that first Country title, the series returned for more platform monkey business on the Nintendo Wii in Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Plot

Things have been quiet on Donkey Kong Island ever since the last beating the clan gave to the rotund reptile ruler King K. Rool way back in Donkey Kong 64. There hasn’t been a single scaly face around for years. Apart from pounding away on his bongo drums and swinging through the trees, DK hasn’t had much to do apart from lounging around his tree house with his best friend Diddy Kong. Seems like life is a breeze for DK, but even in virtual life, it never stays smooth for long when the island volcano suddenly wakes up. Surely it must be the work of the Kremlings. After all, who else would want to cause trouble for the Kong clan?

If that was your first guess, you’d be wrong. Deep within the volcano lives a tribe of living tiki masks, the Tiki Tak Tribe. The eruption brings them all out of hiding, and they soon set to work using their strange music to hypnotize the local animals to steal Donkey Kong’s banana hoard. Now for those of you who remember Donkey Kong Country, you do not want to mess with DK’s fruit. It has the habit of driving him well…bananas. It’s up to DK and Diddy to traverse Donkey Kong Island in search of their stolen stash and set things up for a showdown at the volcano with Tiki Tong, the ruler of the Tiki Tak Tribe.

Gameplay

The controls for this game are pretty standard for a platform title, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shake some things up a bit, literally and figuratively. You can play with one of two control schemes. The first has you holding the Wii Remote sideways like a basic controller. You use the remote’s arrow buttons to move DK around, the 2 button to jump, the 1 button to grab onto things. If you’ve played any of the Donkey Kong Country titles, you should be able to slip into this game like a banana in its skin. The second setup has you using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, but for platforming games like this one, the traditional method seems easier to use, at least if you play like me.

When needed, you can shake the Wii Remote up and down and this will cause DK to shake up his world by pounding the ground with his hands. The world is your bongo drum in this game, and you can find hidden items or paths with a few beats. It can also stun certain enemies long enough for you to beat them.

Offensive Content

Mild Cartoon Violence

Donkey Kong was never one for handling things diplomatically. When he wants to settle things, he settles them according to jungle law: namely beat the living daylights out of something. You stomp on enemies that are either native animals, like frogs, birds, and crabs or members of the Tiki Tak Tribe. In just about all case, enemies vanish in a puff of smoke, though some like the frogs will inflate and fly away. Crabs and Tiki Taks will fall apart, but it’s kept to cartoon-like violence even when you’re on the receiving end. For instance when DK gets pounded or stomped on. He flattens out like a Loony Tunes character only to spring back into shape a second later. He will also be set on fire in later levels, but he puts himself out a after a little bit. He’s shown unharmed afterwards.

When you defeat a boss, the boss will fall over in a more stylized fashion, but it appears that they are only knocked unconscious. Often, you’ll see DK deliver some sort of finishing blow, like smashing the boss with his fist. Donkey Kong will also deliver a powerful punch to the Tiki Tak controlling the boss that sends the marauding mask flying into the distance. That’s about as violent as this game gets.

Destruction

When DK isn’t beating up the Tiki Taks, his antics typically result in something getting knocked down or over. On several occasions, you’ll turn DK into a simian cannonball that knocks over just about everything from ships to pillars. You’ll see the damage done that includes wood breaking apart and columns falling over.

Fantasy Magic

Members of the Tiki Tak Tribe have the ability to brainwash animals to do their bidding with their music. Players see a series of musical notes and swirls surrounding the Tiki Tak, and then the animal gets a starry-eyed look to show they’ve fallen under the spell. For some reason, Donkey Kong is immune to the effects. When you face a boss, the arena is set around other members of the Tiki Tak Tribe who play drums that seem to empower the boss: the harder they play, the harder the boss fights. A central member of the tribe also lands on the boss and appears to vanish inside the animal, so it could be interpreted as possession. Or it could be that the Tiki Tak is just riding inside or attached to the animal.

As you can also see, the Tiki Taks look like animated Tiki masks, which were Polynesian idols that often marked sacred sites. These Tikis on the other hand seem to have no real-world religious implications behind them. If anything, they are just a part of the tropical theme for the game. Still, the fact that they have some spiritual significance in real life is worth noting, especially since they possess magic powers.

Conclusion

I had played the first Donkey Kong Country way back when, and I have to say it was both difficult and fun to play. Then I played the second and third ones, and I was as pleased as I was with the first one, although I can also say I won them before the first. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of any good platform games featuring the DK crew. Then came Donkey Kong Country Returns. At first I figured it would be just a repeat of the first game just with updated graphics. In a way, it is, but it somehow has a fresh feel to me. The 3D affects are also brilliant, and even though they are pretty standard now, it amazes me to see Donkey Kong getting blasted way into the horizon.

So, this game is just about as fun as the first barrel of virtual monkeys. The violence is kept minimal and comical. The spiritual elements of the Tiki Tak Tribe are a bit more problematic for discerning parents though. The dastardly King K. Rool and his Kremling hoard at least didn’t get their way by hypnotizing the local wildlife. Plus, they didn’t bear any resemblance to actual pagan idols, and Tiki Tong and his subjects certainly do. But even so, their magic is kept to a minimum, and in all actuality, Tong seems to be the source of his tribe’s power. So, I could recommend this game to fans of the old series and new players who want to get a taste of the updated platform gameplay. And that, players, is no monkey business.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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