DKL was released just about 6 months after DKC, and i was fully expecting DKL to be just a portable, fairly watered-down version of the original as many other game boy games are, such as operation c (a contra game), and ninja gaiden: shadow which i’ve previously reviewed. but i was surprised to find that the game actually has more than a few unique elements. true, there are a host of levels that are strongly tied to the original game, including jungle, snow, cave, and water levels. but there are entire sections that are completely new and feature some entirely unique game mechanics, including ship, cloud, and city levels. the ship levels seem to be a preview of the ship levels in donkey kong country 2 which would be released another 6 months later. needless to say, these additions were a welcome surprise and really made the game so much more worthwhile than i expected.
the graphics, of course, take a hit and there are some problems with the rendering of the sprites, but for the most part they do a good job and there aren’t any problems that are too distracting. despite the downgrade in graphics, in general the gameplay holds up. although the levels that are based on DKC levels feel like retreads more often than not, the secrets are much better integrated and less arbitrary. the map also now updates to show which levels are fully completed, although i was surprised you don’t have to get all four of the “KONG” letters in the levels for the stage to be marked completed. the biggest complaint that this reviewer at nintendojo had is that to save you have to find all four “KONG” letters in a level. it was rather annoying to not be able to save when you wanted to, but it ended up giving me an incentive to revisit earlier (and easier) levels that i’d previously completed but hadn’t found all the secrets in. i also disagreed with his complaint that the sky level where you have to jump to change the direction of the platform was annoying; it didn’t take too long to get used to it, and besides there was a similar mechanic in the classic SMB3.
so all in all this was a surprisingly decent little game boy game. it still amazes me how much developers were able to do on such a limited platform. the game’s a bit on the short side and definitely easier than the original, but it’s fun and has enough challenges and new elements to keep you interested and has definitely left me looking forward to seeing what surprises are in store for donkey kong country 2.