Donkey Kong Land
Reviewed by Diane Cote
Who'da think that a year after Donkey Kong raided every single SNES unit in
the world, those cocky blokes at Rare would cram almost all of the rendered
beauty of that landmark game into an itty bitty Game Boy cartridge and still
manage to remain true to the original. There's no way you'd mistake the two
games as the same one (unless you're color-blind, squinting and standing
across the street from your television set) but as a portable little
adventure, Donkey Kong Land ranks fairly high in the Game Boy's seemingly
endless list of platformers. I must say off the top, that DKL is not as good as
Nintendo's other landmark title for Game boy, and this game's progenitor: Donkey
Kong. As good as DKL is, it just doesn't offer as much brain candy or sense of
accomplishment that the other Kong does. The graphics are pretty and there is lots
to explore but, ultimately, the game play is severely derivative.
Part of the problem with Donkey Kong Land not being as good as it could be, is
the fact that it is a game for an obsolete platform. Perhaps if there were a median
color portable system that was somewhere in between the SNES and the Game Boy,
in terms of capabilities, this Donkey Kong adventure would have been more
representational of Nintendo's might, instead of being a reminder of the Game Boy's
lack of. The machine literally churns and chugs it's way through this game.
Flicker is every where and the screen blacks out between scenes. Beyond these
nitpicks though, the graphics are quite beautiful. The animation of our two favorite
ape heroes, running, hurling barrels and climbing along rope ladders is stunning. The
only problem with the graphics on the Game Boy, is the fact that they're, unmistakably,
on the Game Boy, and sometimes it's impossible to make anything out. Playing the game
in relative blindness, obviously, makes the game more difficult then it should be. This
problem is alleviated when you play the game on Super Game boy.
There are a few new rendered baddies, including: Hogwash, the Flying Pig, Nemo, a
mutant prawn, Fangfish, a fish with fangs (you don't say), Hard Hat, a
earth burrowing mole & a somewhat friendly controlled disaster, obviously influenced
by Warner Bros' Tazmanian Devil and his whirlwind, called Swirlwind. All of these
additions compliment the simplified representations of Donkey Kong Country's villains,
which have survived the miniaturisation process with aplomb. Rare's even thrown in
Rambi the Rhino and Expresso the Ostrich, both from Donkey Kong Country, for you to
pile onto and bum a ride.
There are four new areas to explore in this mini-cart as well; Kremlantis, Big Ape
City, Gangplank Galleon and Chimpanzee Clouds. However, backgrounds are not
the Game boy's specialty, so, even though you might enter into a new level, don't
expect to be blown away by your monochrome environment. The snow filled
mountain top areas are very well detailed but enemies do get lost in the background
and you'll find your self dying unnecessarily. A lot.
Music and sound effects are near perfect replications of Donkey Kong Country. It
is amazing what the tiny speaker of Game boy has been asked to recreate. An
impressive job from the sound department. I like the completion music the best,
because it means we're out of the last frustrating level and onto the next. You'll find
yourself humming the tunes, inspite of yourself. This can be embarrassing on public
transportation - watch out!
Control is tight and bang on. Your ape dudes jump when there s'posed ta and even
picking up them multi-purpose barrels is a snap. The only thing with bouncing off
of bad guys' heads, is that sometimes you're propelled so high into the sky, you
don't know where the hell you're going to land. Of course, this is due to the limited
size of the Game Boy screen and the comparative large sprites of DK & DK, so,
I'm not complaining (even if it sounds like I am).
Donkey Kong Land is an essential Game boy addition. I think, after having spent
more time with it, I was a little rash in giving it the number 2 spot on the Game Boy
Must Haves list, because Zelda is a better game, unquestionably. I'll make the
change to the list and you should run and check DKL out. If you haven't already
overdosed on Donkey Kong Kookiness and you're in the market for a portable,
world class, diversion for your scratched up Game boy, you're really going to love
this one. It's great on the bus or when you're standing in line for movies, concerts
or vaccination shots. It has a handy save feature, so every time you pick it up, it's
like opening a new chapter in a book. It really is time for Nintendo to release a
full color 16-bit (at least) portable but for now, gaming on the go is doing just
fine with the illustrious, 8-bit, Mr. Kong.
I'm giving Donkey Kong Land. 9 out of 10