donkey kong (aka game boy donkey kong and donkey kong ’94) is a classic game boy game that seems to be highly regarded, so having played through all the main mario games i thought i’d check it out. this review at nintendolife and this entry at gamespite both heap lavish praise on the game, and the former even goes so far as to say “it’s easily one of the best Mario games ever made”.
i think i’ve been suffering from video game fatigue in general lately, but even still there were several reasons i wasn’t a big fan of this game, despite all the things i did enjoy about it. i definitely liked how the game starts off with a reprise of the original four levels of the arcade donkey kong, esp. since it includes the stage that was left out of the NES version. i also enjoyed how those same gameplay mechanics get used through almost 100 additional levels, inc. a large number of boss fights against the big kong himself. i also really enjoyed the reappearance of the vine-climbing mechanics of donkey kong jr., a game i’ve been a long-time fan of. the kid kong makes a reappearance as well, which was a nice surprise, and although i still wholeheartedly disapprove of mario’s two-timing it was also nice to see mario’s original damsel in distress pauline make a return. (i can only hope that all of pauline’s appearances are canonically set before mario met princess peach and that the two had an amiable breakup.) mario also debuts some gravity-defying gymnastic moves in this game that would prove to become series staples, inc. the side and the triple jumps.
as for what i didn’t enjoy, my main problem with the game is that it’s meant to be a puzzle-platformer hybrid, but to me doesn’t feel like nearly enough of both. apparently i’m in the minority here, but the platformer parts just weren’t very challenging, and only the occasional puzzle was truly puzzling. most of the game was fairly mindless, and too many of the puzzle “solutions” merely required hitting a switch and then making a mad dash to some other part of the stage. the overall design (backgrounds, settings, and enemies) didn’t feel particularly unique, and despite mario’s arsenal of moves the stages feel a bit cramped since everything is crammed into just a few screenfuls. the game succeeds in capturing the feel of the original donkey kong, but that game was designed at a time when it was revolutionary enough to have a game that had more than one level. almost 15, let alone 30, years later, having different boards, even a hundred of them, isn’t enough to distract from run-of-the-mill core gameplay.
as i said, i’m sure i’m in the minority here, but despite my general boredom with this game i’m still open to playing through its sequel, mario vs. donkey kong for GBA. i’ve already tried some of that game, and although it’s very similar and similarly mindless for the most part, it already looks like there’s a bit more cleverness with the puzzles. it definitely doesn’t look like it’s going to be on the same level as games like the fantastic toki tori, but i’m optimistic that it’ll be more enjoyable than this one.
a barrel full of game boy donkey kong links:
– entry at wikipedia
– official page on the japanese nintendo site
– some FAQs at gamefaqs, although you’ll hardly need them
– while we’re on the subject of the original donkey kong, this post-it note rendition got a fair amount of attention a while back, and here’s another group that created an animated version