Game Info:

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Developed by: Retro Studios
Published by: Nintendo
Release date: May 24, 2013
Available on: 3DS
Genre: Platformer
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Everyone with Mild Cartoon Violence
Price: $18.99
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Thank you Nintendo for sending us this game to review!

Donkey Kong Country Returns was originally released for the Wii in 2010 and has since been ported to the 3DS and the Wii U (virtual console).  Since I’m blessed with a New Nintendo 3DS, I haven’t experienced any performance issues running this title, though it does run at 30FPS compared to the Wii’s 60FPS.  The portability is worth the trade off in my opinion.  

Upon launching the game, you’ll be prompted to choose between a single-player or two player experience.  In order to play local multiplayer, both players need to own a copy of the game.  Once the game mode is selected, you’ll have to choose which mode you want to play.  The classic/more challenging experience is available, but an easier mode has been introduced that gives Donkey and Diddy Kong an extra heart along with more stuff available at Cranky’s island shops.  Once the difficulty is set, it cannot be changed mid-game so choose wisely.  If you’re new to the series I recommend trying it on the easier mode first because even on easy, this game gets pretty challenging later on.

The story is simplistic, but it works.  Tikis have invaded the island and have hypnotized many of its inhabitants.  Donkey Kong isn’t phased by their hypnotic powers and is pretty angry about the Tikis stealing all of his bananas.  With the help of Diddy Kong, they’re going to get back every last one of them!
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Strong Points: A portable port of the challenging but fun Wii game
Weak Points: Some of the later levels get rather difficult and can be frustrating; runs at half of the speed of the Wii version
Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

Donkey Kong has several abilities including jumping, pounding the ground, and blowing dandelions/candles/fires out.  These skills will come in handy when it comes to locating all of the hidden letters and puzzle pieces scattered throughout the seventy plus levels.  If you miss collecting a letter or puzzle piece, you can always go back and replay a level.   If you die mid-level you’ll have to restart from the beginning or at a checkpoint and recollect the letters since the last checkpoint.   Collected puzzle pieces are accounted for after dying though.  

Besides collecting puzzle pieces and letters, there are also bananas and banana coins to grab.  For each one hundred bananas gathered, Donkey Kong will earn an extra balloon/life.  The coins can be spent at Cranky’s shop, which sells balloons individually or in cost saving bundles. There are also keys available, which will unlock a previously inaccessible level.  Various power-ups and other helpful accessories are available to purchase as well.

While Donkey Kong can usually survive a couple of hits, there are many instant death scenarios.  When partnered with Diddy Kong they double their number of health hearts.  If half of the hearts get depleted, Diddy Kong will go away until you can find another DK barrel.  Diddy Kong’s rocket boost is helpful, especially during boss battles.  Thankfully there’s usually a DK barrel available before triggering a boss fight.

The levels, enemies, and boss battles have a pattern to them.  If you figure it out you’re golden, if not you’ll be losing balloons left and right.  Thankfully, if you run out of balloons, you have the option of continuing and getting four more without having to start the game over from the beginning.  You will lose progress made at checkpoints though.  If you lose many lives, you’ll have the option of shadowing a competent Donkey Kong to learn how to complete the level.  However, if you do beat the level this way, it won’t count until you can do it on your own.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

While I was thankful for the checkpoints, I often wished that there were more of them.  Most levels have just one.  The enemies are usually avoidable, but the environmental threats are much harder to avoid.  There’s a decent amount of variety when it comes to enemies including different types of bats, birds, drums, sharks and several others.  The environmental obstacles include bombs, tidal waves, stalagmites, and stalactites.  

There’s plenty of level variety and many of them were fun while others are brutally difficult.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to lose twenty lives on a single level.  Yes, there’s the sense of accomplishment for finally completing it, but that quickly ebbs away upon discovering that I was missing a puzzle piece or a letter and I had no desire to replay it to perfect it.  I was often frazzled, but happy to continue onward in the quest of reclaiming the stolen bananas.    

While this game is pretty clean with cartoon violence, it may be too difficult for younger children to enjoy.  It is great for playing in short spurts though.  It brought a smile to my face when I was greeted with a “You have been playing for a while.  Why don’t you take a rest?” screen.  I remember seeing those a lot growing up!

In the end, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a lot of challenge and variety to the platformer genre.  I typically enjoyed the levels where I was able to ride rhinos, rockets, and mine carts, though they got pretty challenging later on in the game.  If you don’t mind a challenge and enjoy finding hidden secrets, this game can be yours for less than $19 physically.


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