DK: King of Swing Preview
We go bananas with a finished version of Nintendo's upcoming tree-swinger for the GBA.
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Currently scheduled for release later this month, DK: King of Swing is an innovative action game in which you, as Donkey Kong, are tasked with retrieving medals for the upcoming Jungle Jam Festival. The bronze, silver, and gold medals in question are stolen by the evil King K. Rool in the game's intro sequence, and somehow end up getting scattered throughout a number of different locales boasting all of the usual platform game themes. To date we've visited a jungle world, the Wild West, a water world, and an ice world, and while there's nothing even remotely original about that lineup, we can report that the techniques you'll be using to navigate those worlds are both innovative and enjoyable.
There are very few conventional platforms for you to negotiate in DK: King of Swing, but there are pegs suspended in midair that you can swing around on and jump between. You'll control Donkey Kong using only the Game Boy Advance's shoulder buttons--on the ground you can move left or right by pressing the respective button or you can jump by pressing both of them simultaneously. You can also perform a jumping attack by holding down both of the shoulder buttons until DK flashes red. For the most part, though, you'll be using the shoulder buttons to control DK's left and right arms as you swing between pegs to collect bananas, find medals, and reach exits to subsequent areas. The handheld's A and B buttons aren't entirely redundant, but they're used only to spend bananas you've collected on energy replenishment or on powering up your jumps and attacks for a few seconds.
Like jumping between platforms in other games, swinging between pegs in DK: King of Swing is intuitive and easy for the most part, although the development team at Paon has come up with plenty of ways to make it more challenging as you progress through the game. In addition to the regular pegs that you'll be hanging onto, you'll find pegs that crumble and disintegrate after a short time, pegs that move, and pegs that are difficult to grip because they're covered in ice, for example. Levels set underwater and in the middle of a tornado also serve to keep things interesting.
Donkey Kong is able to grab onto plenty of things other than pegs in DK: King of Swing, and because the incredibly simple controls never change it'll rarely take you more than a few seconds to figure out how a particular item is used. There are one- and two-handed levers used to control environmental features, pulley systems that move in a different direction according to which hand you're holding them with, and rocks and bombs to throw at any enemies that get in your way, for instance.
The enemies that you'll be up against in DK: King of Swing come in plenty of different shapes and sizes, and each one represents a slightly different challenge. Early on, most of your adversaries will move in simple patterns and will be easy to take out using a jump attack. Later, though, you'll be confronted by nasties whose movements correspond to your own and who, in some cases, have access to many of the same moves and abilities that you do. At the end of each world, you'll be pitted against a large boss character. We've come up against four bosses to date, and since we don't want to give too much away we'll simply tell you that each boss required a very different strategy to defeat, and that we enjoyed the confrontations a great deal. Grabbing one of the bosses by the tail and swinging it into spikes bordering the screen was particularly satisfying.
In addition to the single-player game, DK: King of Swing features four different minigames that can be played against up to three other players or CPU-controlled characters. The minigames, some of which you'll need to unlock in the single-player game, include climbing races, obstacle races, attack battles, and a barrel blast mode in which you have to break more barrels than your opponent. DK: King of Swing supports both Single- and Multi-Pak play, but we've not been able to confirm exactly how many options are available using only a single copy of the game at this time. Expect a full review of DK: King of Swing later this month.