The Donkey Kong Country games were always difficult, but fun. Returns 3D is no different. With lush visuals, an incredible soundtrack and brilliant level design, this is a very, very good game. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D however, is a 3DS port of the original Wii game, and I think a little bit of the game’s magic was lost in the conversion.
The 3D effect is awesome, really making the detailed environments pop. The move to the 3DS however has had a negative effect on the graphics. The environments aren’t as grand as they’re meant to be on the small screens of the handheld, while also taking a noticeable graphical hit. Character models too aren’t quite so detailed. Generally speaking, Returns 3D feels like a slightly lesser version of a great game.
Framerate, too, takes a noticeable hit on the 3DS, seeming to stay around 25-30fps throughout the game. The Wii version sticks to around 60fps, and while the drop isn’t terrible, it definitely feels like a downgrade. The glorious soundtrack as well takes a hit on the 3DS, sounding a tad compressed. Gameplay, thankfully, doesn’t take a hit.
Indeed, in Returns 3D there were efforts made to give newcomers to the Donkey Kong Country world a helping hand. There are options to increase your health, which can make the whole experience a lot easier for children and those unused to the high difficulty of the series. Donkey Kong Country Returns is a tricky game, but extra lives (in the form of balloons) are plentiful. You will find yourself falling down hundreds of holes, walking into enemies and getting squashed by things. Some levels are much harder than others however.
The gimmick stages are typically more difficult than others. The mine-cart and rocket stages can be particularly trying. Taking just one hit on these stages kills you. On these stages lives deplete at an alarming rate, but it never gets frustrating. No matter how many times you fail a stage, you will come back to beat it. This is a ludicrously fun game. Challenging, yes, but too hard? No.
Timing your jumps and bounces on enemies’ heads just right is a satisfying feeling, with brilliant sound-effects throughout. The jumping physics are brilliant too. Donkey Kong has a weight to him that isn’t often present in other platformers. He skids around a little when he runs quickly too, it feels like you are in control of a big gorilla. You can’t jump far, but following a ground roll, you can cover a lot more distance. Timing a jump just right is a satisfying feeling, especially after you’ve tried and died in the same area time and time again. You will die a lot in this game, usually while trying to collect everything.
In each level there are several puzzle pieces to collect, bananas, banana coins and KONG letters. Trying to collect them all can get frustrating, but you must if you want to unlock all the bonus content (including several extra levels). The extras and collectibles do add a good chunk of replay value to the game, meaning there is plenty to get on with.
There’s a good amount of variation to the levels too, each world offering a new aesthetic and some new challenges. You can ride a rhino every now and then, climb and swing across vines, bounce off of things to get more height, go in a mine cart and rocket, duck under objects to hide from crashing waves, cling onto grassy surfaces, shoot out of barrels, drum on the floor and even blow dandelion puffs. Also, you can hover with Diddy Kong’s jetpack. Donkey Kong Country Returns sounds complicated, but it is effortlessly simple and intuitive.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D may be a lesser port of an incredible game, but if the 3DS is your only chance to play the game, then by all means play it. It’s an outstanding platformer, with a hefty amount of challenge and brilliant production values.