So I have been meaning to write a post about this game for a while and I thought hey, why not 1. write it for three_weeks_for_dw
and 2. post it to this comm? So here I am.
I have been a huge fan of the DKC series since the first game and was very, very sad that Rare's breakup with Nintendo meant there were no more DKC games (forever, I thought at the time). But then Donkey Kong Country Returns was released and I was thrilled at the idea of a new DKC game for the Wii.
Thankfully like the New Super Mario Bros. series, it is "retro" and doesn't try to be 3-D or anything. 3-D games can be fun, but I really prefer my platform games to be side-scrollers. (Just as I prefer my RPGs to be 3/4 topdown with super-deformed characters... Really, the SNES was the height of gaming for me.)
DKC Returns does incorporate some flash-bang new technology stuff by having Donkey Kong shot into the background by barrels and stuff like that, but for the most part it's still straightforward side-scrolling action.
Of course this is the Wii, so it also incorporates motion-sensor tech. Personally I could do without that. I find it fiddly and it gets tiresome to keep shaking the controller for stuff. (This was most tiresome in Wario Land Shake It, but DKC Returns comes close.) You can choose to use the nunchuk + controller, or just use the controller turned sideways. (I use the nunchuk.)
The gameplay is pretty much exactly like the DKC games from the SNES. You collect bananas and puzzle pieces and letters to spell KONG and red balloons. You can jump and roll and throw barrels and ride minecarts. In some ways it is more limited. The only animals that appear are the rhino (whom you can find in some levels) and the parrot (whom you can buy from the shop and then use to locate hidden puzzle pieces). Also the only other character is Diddy, who is not playable himself (except in two-player mode) but can be used to help Donkey Kong jump farther.
One thing I really dislike about it is that it's obviously meant for a much larger TV than I have. When you're shot into the background, it doesn't switch to having that as the foreground, so you're really tiny and sometimes it's hard to figure out what's happening. Also the backgrounds are beautiful, but they're so detailed that again, it's sometimes hard to differentiate between background and foreground stuff.
I also felt like the game had too many levels where you had to be really precise and duck/jump/etc. at just the right moment. Like, I don't know if I'm explaining myself well, but I like levels where you get a little more freedom to explore, but I found that those felt too few and far between and instead the focus was more on levels where you could only do one thing or you died. (This is especially true of minecart levels, of course (of which there were many), but there were a ton of other levels like this as well.) Once you get the timing down on those levels, there's not a lot of replay value (at least not for me).
Overall this is a fun addition to the DKC line and I'm very happy to have another side-scrolling game for the Wii, but it really made me want to get on the virtual console and buy DKC 2 and 3 for the SNES and replay those. (Since I didn't have the money, I contented myself with watching playthrough videos on youtube. That...can get addictive quickly.)