Things you should see.

Donkey Kong Country Returns… With Style

Donkey Kong Country - now with sunset silhouette stages.

In case all my ranting about Sonic 4 and those fan-made remixes didn’t tip you off, I’m fan of 2D games. If existed when New Super Mario Bros. came out I would have written about that too. However the key comment that you could make about all those ‘2.5D’ half-remakes is that they are perhaps good homage but not good gaming- in each case something is lost in the transition. Not so with Donkey Kong Country Returns, which is easily the best of the DKR bunch and one of my favourite platformers of this generation.

Without breaking into a full review, I simply think this is because nothing is dumbed down. The game is accessible as ever, but features haven’t been cut and there isn’t an overwhelming design initiative toward nostalgia. But at the same time the nostalgia is there in every SFX, BGM and stage names like Jungle Hijinx.

Personality, particularly on the part of the Kong brothers (who remain illogically different species), is what sells the game though. I will describe everything as ‘playful’ with a broad stroke but you’ll know what I mean when DK has been in a barrel too long and cheekily pops his head out or when he just smiles resisting the mesmerising talents of the game’s new baddies. That’s a long story in itself – King K. Rool and the Kremlings are gone and while reserving judgement on whether that’s for better or worse there is at least now a good reason for the banana hoard being stolen…

I was expecting DKCR to flop. NSMB was fun but a bit sterile, not measuring up to any of the original games it sought to emulate. Sonic 4 was a reasonable effort but too short both in length and new ideas. This gem, it turns out, takes all the best elements of DK’s seminal SNES franchise and outdoes them all handily while injecting its own flavour into the mix. No easy feat as both Sega and Nintendo have discovered in the past.

In a week where there’s The Tudors to watch, Dragon Age: Origins DLC to play and a fresh copy of Gran Turismo 5 to try out, the fact that Donkey Kong Country Returns excites me the most is both surprising and worrying. Is it just cause to stop me slagging off the Wii though? Let me get back to you on that…

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