Donkey Kong Country Returns Hands-On - Going Cross-Country

We monkey around a generous portion of Donkey Kong's latest adventure.

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Our previous look at Donkey Kong Country Returns featured only a small selection of levels, demonstrating some of the new tricks at your disposal, but at a recent event, we were fortunate enough to get a much bigger look at the brand-new world Donkey and Diddy inhabit. First, we took some time to get reacquainted with the controls. There are actually two control methods available in Donkey Kong Country Returns. You can select the nunchuk and Wii remote combination or just use the sideways Wii remote configuration used in games like Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Most of Donkey Kong's moves should be immediately familiar to fans of previous Donkey Kong Country games. He has a regular jump that he can use to cross gaps, as well as a ground pound where he slaps his mighty ape palms to the ground, which can either stun enemies or cause them to flop over on their backs. It also can open hidden areas and trigger switches that cause additional platforms or items to appear from the background. Additionally, DK has a roll move that's not only useful for extending his jumps beyond his normal range, but can also be used against enemies. If you have both Donkey and Diddy at your disposal, then you can perform an even stronger rolling move where Diddy rides Donkey Kong like he's some sort of hairy barrel. This roll is very useful later in the game when it's the only attack in your arsenal capable of knocking down one of the larger bosses in the game. Also, when Diddy is safely attached to Donkey Kong, the two can hover after a jump thanks to Diddy's coconut rocket pack, but you still have to be quick about your jumps because the hover lasts for only a few seconds. And finally, Donkey Kong can blow air onto objects, such as dandelions, or even onto enemies engulfed in fire to cool them down.

We got to play around in five areas in Donkey Kong Country Returns--the jungle, beach, ruins, forest, and caves. Each of these areas contains several levels where the theme factors into what types of obstacles Donkey and Diddy Kong face. The jungle zone--the game's starting area--gives a good introduction to the types of enemies you'll face over the course of the game and the platforming involved, but the following area--the beach--really opens up the gameplay and shows how the environment plays a big role. For example, in the beach area, there's a level where Donkey Kong has to move across the sand while a succession of enormous waves bombard the shore. The only way to do this is to stand behind walls (some of which eventually break under the weight of the waves) or to crouch behind stones that are just large enough to shelter Donkey and Diddy from the swells. Likewise, another beach level features an angry octopus that slaps his spiked tentacles into your path. You have to watch out for them not only while you're running, but while you're climbing on designated patches of vegetation as well.

The beach levels deliver the first taste of the rocket barrel sections of the game. At certain points in a level, Diddy and Donkey have to jump into a barrel that propels itself across the level, and the only way you can control it is by rapidly pressing a button to give it some more juice, lifting it higher into the sky. If you don’t press anything, then it drops steadily to the ground. Moreover, not only are you trying not to crash, but you have to do so while avoiding airborne enemies or projectiles being fired by ships in the background. It's more difficult than it sounds, particularly in later levels when there are more enemies and other things to avoid.

Other dangers await in Donkey Kong Country Returns. In the ruins, Donkey and Diddy have to work their way across crumbling platforms and spiked pits. In certain levels, the duo can enlist the help of Rambi the Rhino, who can not only plow through enemies with relative ease, but he can also smash through walls to find hidden areas and even walk across and destroy the aforementioned spikes. Meanwhile the forest area levels have their own set of pitfalls, such as a series of hippos propped delicately on a series of poles. If you jump on these hippos repeatedly, then you slowly drive the pole down before it (and the hippo) careens into the pit. Finally, in many of the cave area levels, you have to carefully navigate a series of gigantic flora and fauna as they bounce you from platform to platform.

Needless to say, the game will put your platforming skills to the test. In fact, It's early on in the beach area is where it becomes pretty clear that Donkey Kong Country Returns seems like it's going to offer a healthy challenge. There were quite a few sections where we died a few times--particularly an area where a ship is continually bombarding the shore with cannonballs--before figuring out the proper timing to move on. Indeed, even the few boss battles involve more than just stomping on some creature's head. Sometimes they require a specific technique and timing that aren't apparent off the bat. Still, it doesn't seem like you're ever in danger of losing all of your lives, because the game gives you plenty of opportunities to find extra life balloons or purchase them from Kranky Kong (you can also purchase keys to open previous locked levels), but the challenge remains nonetheless. Plus, most of the taxing aspects of the original game remain in Donkey Kong Country Returns, including mine cart levels as well as the ever-so-popular barrel blast sections where you have to carefully time your movement from one barrel to the next to avoid certain death.

With that in mind, a feature of cooperative play suddenly makes more sense. While two players can separately play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong, you can actually make Diddy cling onto Donkey Kong (as he does in the single-player game) if you're coming across a part where one player can't quite keep in step with the other. At any rate, we're excited to see what other challenges await when Donkey Kong Country Returns comes out on November 21.

Discussion

103 comments
Magiquiz
Magiquiz

I hope they make something like this for 3DS

Calvin079
Calvin079

Hmmm, might have to ask for this for Christmas :D

killer690
killer690

The only bad thing about the Wii is the lack of a Hard Drive, wish we could download a demo of this awesome awesome game, graphics btw, look awesome.

Dualmask
Dualmask

This is sounding more and more like a must buy.

TwistyMcFisty
TwistyMcFisty

Looks very promising. Hopefully with the success of games like the New SMB, Kirby, and now DKC we can look forward to more classic franchises getting ressurected. My hopes are for a new Starfox and F-Zero. Also, while its not a Nintendo franchise, I would also like to see a new 2D Ninja Gaiden.

DungeonLeader
DungeonLeader

No one has any idea how excited I am. I have all the original games on my Virtual Console........Beat them all twice...When this game comes out the Xbox 360 is going away for a while lol

superfakerbros
superfakerbros

@jimmygriff Not at all. I hated Mario Kart 64. I think it's the worst one of the bunch.

dan1776
dan1776

The original DKC was my first video game; hopefully this game strikes a good balance between nostalgia and new gameplay. I'm looking forward to its release.

Bangerman15
Bangerman15

looks good, hope it has the same funky and catchy soundtracks as the other ones too! :) im definitely gonna buy this game and support it.. maybe once nintendo see's that kirby and donkey kong are doing good and selling well they will realize they need to bring back their old franchises to the wii! star fox will be next hopefully :D or a new super mario rpg??? haha i can dream lol

frankj22
frankj22

I love the new sidescroller trend but kinda tired of all those wii game that you need to hold your wiimote sideways, it alway feel less natural than a snes controller or even a nes controller, DK has an amazing control specialy when using Y button for dashing. Why when they did those game they never give us the option to play it with the classic controller or even better the WaveBird gamecube controller like SSBB. Of course those controller doesn't have any motion sensing but what's for ? It's a sidescroller. Waggling wiimote almost add no depth for those kind of game.

Valdog
Valdog

a new donkey kong country? its time to bust out the SNES and relive my childhood

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

"plow through enemies with relative ease" You guys are thinking of DK64 arnt you? XD

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

The music the Tiki's play are really catchy and it really pumps you up for the boss battles :D I pre-ordered it and I cant wait for this as its the craziest a sidescroller can go! The thought that retro studios is making this game hard is gonna be awesome! I only hope the reviewer see's sense in this game seeing how New super mario bros. Wii, Metroid Other M, and Kirby's epic yarn all getting 8.5's, this game looks like its gonna be 9.0 standards

XboxGuy1537
XboxGuy1537

I already got Epic Yarn and I plan to get this masterpiece as well......

Velvundrgnd
Velvundrgnd

I'm so happy that it will be a challenge. Epic Yarn was great, but left me craving something harder. Super Meat Boy, and now this.

Travo_basic
Travo_basic moderator

This looks awesome. I can't wait for November 21.

Gargaglio5tatus
Gargaglio5tatus

Retro shouldn't just stop here. Nintendo should also get them to make a sequel to Donkey Kong 64 since this already looks like a huge success.

Lykanthropie
Lykanthropie

i am sure this will be as good as the original - maybe its even better, if you played the prime series you should know why. It looks also really good - i hope they bring games like this in hd on the next nintendo system.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

I liked the 3D version of Donkey Kong that was made by Rare for the N64...

liamcj23
liamcj23

lets hope Retro can do it again.

s_triforce
s_triforce

Looks fantastic!! Can't wait!! :D

gq_cjc
gq_cjc

This is the way Donkey Kong SHOULD be played. Good old fashioned 2D :D!!!

jimmygriff
jimmygriff

I wish they would make another Diddy Kong Racing game. Big fan of the one on the N64, better than Mario Kart 64 IMO ( I know I'm in the minority there!)...

goron14
goron14

Retro Studios + One of the greatest platformers of all time = :D

Iceman22n86
Iceman22n86

One of the original kings of platforming on it's way back. It doesn't get much better than that if you're a fan of the genre. Can't wait to get my banana sleeve for my wiimote (pre-order at Gamestop).

64-bit
64-bit

its time to release the ape in you.

xXdraky
xXdraky

Looking forward to this :D

retromikecm
retromikecm

I just beat the first Donkey Kong Country this year. How sad is that. That game is amazing still to this day and I'm sure Retro will have made an instant classic with this one.

Ezio_2009
Ezio_2009

@1Manny93 Oh man, you truly are missing out on one of the most classic series ever. Get it on the Virtual Console. It hasn't aged well, but its still a super fun game!

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

@shooterboss rare's not making it. Their stuck with microsoft making kinect sports. Retro studios is doing this and their doing a great job even though the kremlings isnt here

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

@keatsunn -_- are you serious? you actually said that? This is just the third true sidescroller nintendo made on wii and it doesnt even compare to 1% to the amount of shooters sony and microsoft keep making. complain to them for having so much

zicoundead
zicoundead

Fond memories of the first one. I would love to play this one.

slayerizer
slayerizer

Already bought it on amazon, gonna be great getting back to this amazing platformer!

keatsunn
keatsunn

I'm still a bit disappointed that it's a 2D platformer. Nintendo makes to much 2D games these days

MrM9991
MrM9991

Oh boy! I totally can't wait for this to come out! :D

grounderman
grounderman

man i remember that level. mine cart madness.

da_chub
da_chub

this is one of those games that puts a smile on your face while ur playing it. day 1 buy for me.

Land-0-Funk
Land-0-Funk

I've been buying most of my Wii games used (like the old GC classics), but this will be an early purchase for me :D

nelson415
nelson415

This game is going to be fun!

spooky102
spooky102

@hitman047m4: Yeah, that is true and it is a good thing too.

nmgenis22
nmgenis22

Hopefully the music will be similar to the older ones. The music really set the mood well. I even downloaded the soundtrack haha.

1Manny93
1Manny93

honestly, i've only played donkey kong 64 and never played the DKC series. either way, i'm still looking forward to this game, i've been saving up for it.

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

why not make a new music for the minecart level, and mix that old one.

hitman047m4
hitman047m4

@spooky102 yeah and also is good the the CEO of Retro Game was part of the developing team that made the DKC series for SNES.

spooky102
spooky102

Goes to show you that Rare aren't the only ones that can make a good DK game. This game will be awesome.