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'Donkey Kong Country Returns' is a fun romp with a famous gorilla

"Donkey Kong Country Returns" is the first game in the franchise's history to let two players play at the same time.
"Donkey Kong Country Returns" is the first game in the franchise's history to let two players play at the same time.
  • 'Donkey Kong Country Returns' is a fun romp for the Wii
  • Game is first in the Donkey Kong series that lets two players play together
  • It won't set gaming world on fire, but is a fun throwback with challenges and smooth play

(CNN) -- "Donkey Kong Country Returns" (Retro Studios, Nintendo) is a fun romp with the iconic gorilla and his pals as they try to recover stolen bananas.

Plenty of side-scroller action, collectibles and traditional movements should keep everyone entertained. For a character who has been around the fast-changing video-game world since 1981, this Donkey Kong doesn't act his age.

The story begins as members of the villainous Tiki Tak tribe hypnotize the animals on DK Island and force them to horde bananas, including Donkey Kong's considerable stash.

Donkey Kong and his sidekick, Diddy Kong, race through different stages on the island to recover their bananas and defeat the Tikis, releasing their hold on the animals.

Diddy can be played by a second player or in combination with Donkey in the single-player game.

Gameplay is in the traditional two-dimension game field with the action progressing as the background scrolls from side to side. There are some points in the game that attempt to make it feel 3-D, but the action stays on the flat 2-D level.

Donkey Kong can leap and hop on enemies, but he can also pound the ground when the Wii controllers are waggled. This stuns his opponents and also will reveal hidden treasures.

Of course, there are barrels -- it wouldn't be a Donkey Kong game without barrels. There are barrels to toss (as our hero once did in his debut arcade-classic game), rocket barrels to ride and exploding barrels that let you traverse wide spaces. They'll also sometimes launch you into secret gaming areas.

DK also has a rolling charge that gets him past hypnotized animals quickly. A friendly rhino is also available on some levels to help plow your way through spikes and solid walls.

In the single-player mode, Diddy will ride on DK's back and offer jet-pack help. This lets the Kongs hover in the air for a brief moment, making longer jumps and providing better timing to bop enemies.

In two-player mode, Diddy comes armed with his peanut gun to help in fights. Marc Franklin, spokesman for Nintendo of America, said "Donkey Kong Country Returns" is the first game in the series that lets two players play at once.

"This dynamic gives franchise fans an exciting new way to play, and gives newcomers to the series an engaging, two-player adventure they can enjoy with friends and family," Franklin said. "It's a great new way for players to cooperatively navigate the game's varied stages."

Each level also has plenty of collectibles for those people who want to seek out extras. The collectible letters K-O-N-G, puzzle pieces, coins and lots of bananas can be found on each stage and finding them all will take some repeated play and time.

Using the Wii controller and nunchuck, it was easy to move the characters around, and attacking didn't seem to miss a beat.

Waggling the controllers did different things depending on DK's position, and there were some inadvertent moves, but those were infrequent.

Franklin said there were some challenges putting "Donkey Kong Country Returns" on the Wii.

"Any time you revamp a classic series, you have to walk a fine line to provide fans of the original with some feel of the games that they loved," he said. "But you also want to make the game accessible to newcomers while giving fresh challenges."

The stages are colorfully done and varied. One stage is in a jungle, while another is like a mine-cart race. Each presents its own challenges, and some areas will kill Donkey Kong repeated times until you can figure out the timing of the puzzle.

If the action gets too difficult, the game offers a guide called Super Kong, who can get you through stages unharmed, but will keep any items he collects along the way. It's best to use him to find out how to get through and then do it yourself.

Boss battles are also challenging and will require some thought before action. They are a bit easier if Diddy is with you, since he offers additional health and power for the end fights.

"Donkey Kong Country Returns" isn't going to set the gaming world on fire, but it is a great throwback game that offers platforming at its best. The action is smooth and familiar but different enough from previous "Donkey Kong" games to be challenging.

Music and movements will evoke long-hidden memories for fans of the franchise. I fully expected a Mario cameo in the game, but I haven't found it.

The game will also capture and entice those who are finding DK for the first time with its ease of play and whimsical nature. It truly is a title for kids and kids at heart.

It really is on like ... well, you know.

"Donkey Kong Country Returns" is a Wii exclusive title and is rated E for everyone.


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