Welcome to the first instalment of Speed Reviews! A new segment on Gaming Exploits where we review classic game series all in one article. Each review is 300 words or less to keep things quick. First up we have the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy!
Donkey Kong Country
The original DKC sets the gold standard for 2D precision platformers. Its gorgeous (for the time) graphics pushed the SNES to breaking point, and their charm means that they hold up even today. Donkey Kong breaks out of villain-hood to travel across DK Island with his new sidekick Diddy Kong on a quest to reclaim his stolen banana hoard. The level design throughout this journey is perfectly polished, and still really bloody hard. Jumps are precise and unforgiving, and enemies take down each Kong with a single hit. More difficult than anything, though, are the barrel gauntlets, launching the Kongs like cannons across seemingly endless bottomless pits. The crushing difficulty of these gauntlets is only balanced by just how fun they are, with the barrels remaining fresh nearly 30 years later.
Shortcuts, secret rooms, and hidden extra lives abound throughout DKC, and the feeling of smashing through a seemingly normal wall on the back of your Rhino companion always brings a smile to my face. As well as being stuffed with secrets, DKC’s world is beautiful in a way its successors could never pull off. Jungles, Greek-inspired temples and frozen tundras await, with each zone holding some of DK’s stolen bananas at its end. Guarding these bananas is one of the game’s 7 bosses, the unfortunate low point of the game. Barring the final boss, every one of these encounters feels tacked on, as if Rare ran out of time to really flesh out these fights. Luckily the game ends on a high note, with the final boss standing with the best final bosses on the SNES.
Donkey Kong Country is a landmark precision platformer that should be played by any fan of the genre. It’s now free for Nintendo Switch Online members, so go try it out!
Gaming Exploits Final Score – 9/10
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Donkey Kong has been kidnapped, and it’s up to Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie to get him back. Travelling through the most creative worlds in the series, the Kongs pursue King K Rool once again. This time around, however, the Kremling King has upped his game. Each level is even harder than the first game, pushing you and the Kongs’ new abilities to even greater heights. It’ll take more than just Dixie Kong’s Rayman-esque glide jump to get through the absolutely ridiculous difficulty that the later worlds will put you through. The platforming is tight as ever, and the environments are almost as beautiful as the first game.
The Kong’s new movement doesn’t just stop at Dixie’s hair swirling though, as the new team-throwing move is here to launch the Kongs to greater heights than they could reach alone. This new move really is great, but I can’t help but feel that DKC 2 overuses it. Whilst it starts off as a new way to hide some hard to reach secrets, the length of the animations it takes to perform sucks a lot of the speed and momentum out of some otherwise perfectly paced levels, leading to the throw jump feeling like more of an annoyance than a cool new move. Also new to DKC 2 are animal stages, full levels where you control the animal buddies from the first game. Unfortunately, the quality of these stages is spotty. For every amazing Parrot-led boss fight, there’s a snake level with clunky controls.
DKC 2 is a game that leans heavily on its near-perfect predecessor. Whilst some of its new features are missteps, the incredible strength of its platforming and world design make it a great journey to take for any platformer fan that can weather its immense difficulty curve.
Gaming Exploits Final Score – 8/10
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
DKC 3 is a game that is desperate to feel fresh. The third DKC game in three years, Rare was clearly nervous about series fatigue, and it shows in how many new things they were willing to try. For the first and last time, the Kongs can move freely in the overworld. Here they can solve hidden puzzles to unlock the best secrets in the series. Boss fights have also gotten a massive overhaul, going far beyond the formula that the first two games followed. The concept of a secret world has also been massively fleshed out, feeling much more like a part of the main game than DKC 2’s Lost World.
Unfortunately, along with the excellent overworld and secret world improvements, come some new pitfalls that plague DKC 3. Whilst the change from the boss formula of previous games is welcome, the new concepts miss more than they hit. The platforming, whilst designed wonderfully, also takes a hit here thanks to the new addition, Kiddy Kong. His sluggish movement speed only dampens the experience, a problem that worsens with the returning throwing move.
Despite these problems, when Donkey Kong Country 3 does something right, it really shines. The highlights here compete with the best moments of the original game, diamonds in an unusually rough DK title. Whilst DKC 3 is a noticeable step down from the games it follows, it still remains a worthy one-time playthrough for fans who can’t get enough precision platforming.
Gaming Exploits Final Score – 7/10
And that’s it for the first instalment of Speed Reviews. What did you think of our Donkey Kong Country Trilogy review? Let us know if you have suggestions for future instalments, over on our Twitter!
For more reviews, news, glitches and exploits, head over here!