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Donkey Kong Country Returns

November 21, 2010
Mild Cartoon Violence

Video Game Cat Review

Date of Review:  July 17, 2011
Format Reviewed:  Wii
Language / Country of Origin:  English / USA
Online Capability:  None.
Prequels: Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Equipment Needed: None.
Maintenance Required:  No special maintenance required.


Donkey Kong Country Returns brings us back to Donkey Kong Island, as previously seen in the Super Nintendo titles of the same name.  Some evil tikis of the Tiki Tak Tribe have hypnotized animals on the island (including crabs, birds, moles and more) in order to steal Donkey Kong’s bananas.  After unsuccessfully trying to hyponotize Donkey Kong himself, the tikis flee from his hut, propelling him to set of on a quest (along with Diddy Kong) to recover his stolen produce.

Through the course of this platform game, players visit eight different settings – covering luxurious green environments to claustrophobic dark caves to blistering red volcanoes.  Expect to see tidbits from the original, including the requisite barrel blasts, mine cart rides and vine swinging adventures.

Two different controller settings can be used to play this game.  The Wii Remote and Nunchunk can be used together or the Wii Remote can be turned sideways for a more classic feel.  Whatever configuration you choose, you will still need to use the motion sensors to pound the ground, blow or roll – as required in different situations.

The game can be played either alone or in cooperative mode with a partner.  Diddy Kong appears in the single-player game and rides on Donkey Kong’s back to enhance your jumping ability.  He allows you to jump for longer periods of time or lets you make more precise landings, as he carries a jetpack.  Unlike previous games, you cannot switch between the two monkeys.  You only control Donkey Kong.  Diddy Kong is hidden in levels within a barrel, needing to be broken free in order to be used.  If you are injured too many times, though, Diddy will run away and will have to be discovered again.  In multiplayer mode, Diddy can be controlled by player two and can go through the entire level on his own.  Multiplayer mode is solely cooperative; players work together to complete levels, rather than compete to see who can collect more coins, bananas or rewards.  This mode adds a layer of difficulty as the two players now have to strategize and synchronize their movement – sometimes at a breakneck pace.

The levels are not unreasonably difficult, but you will lose a lot of lives playing this game (or at least you will if you are me), but extra lives can be purchased from Cranky Kong’s shop, using banana coins that are abundant on the island.  Checkpoints (sometimes more than one) are also placed within each level, meaning that you don’t have to start over from the beginning when you do barrel roll off that cliff, jump into an explosive squid, or explosively crash your mine cart.  If you do find yourself dying frequently (more than 8 times within a single level), the Super Guide feature will be enabled.  This will allow you to activate Super Kong, who will complete the level for you.  The disadvantage to this feature is no collectibles will be picked up.  You can always watch Super Kong finish the level, however, and then go back yourself and do it again, learning the tips and tricks that he taught you.

You will need sharp reflexes and ample hand-eye coordination to complete this game – jumping quickly from sinking or self-destructing bridges or tracks or avoiding various obstacles thrown at your head.  Yet, the game is not so difficult that it would be inaccessible to even new players.  The brilliance of the game is that, even though you die frequently and with flourish, you are intrigued to try again.  And again.  And again.

Cultural / Historical Value: 
This continues the Donkey Kong franchise and builds off of previous titles.  If you want a complete collection, this should be included.

Teaching / Learning Characteristics: 
This is a standard platformer, but is a good example of rich graphics and well-produced music.  Retro Studios has done an exceptional job of keeping this title looking new and original, despite building off the success of previous games.  Game designers could look to this title to learn how to engage the audience and keep them interested – making sure levels are neither too easy nor difficult.

Replay Value: 
Various hidden collectibles (such as the golden K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces) give this title ample replay value.  You can complete a level fairly easily, but will likely have missed these items.  Collecting everything gives you access to additional levels.

Likely Audiences:
Everyone!  Otherwise, people who love platformers, Donkey Kong devotees, nostalgia-driven admirers of the SNES titles, people who enjoy collecting bananas and coins, kids, and those who appreciate beautiful graphics, strong design, and catchy music.

Overall Score:

Other Reviews:


About the Author:
Shannon L. Farrell, MLIS, MS
is an Assistant Professor and Liaison Librarian at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins.  Having been an avid gamer for the last 25 years, she has a great interest in incorporating videogames into library and educational environments.  She has conducted research on the topic, examining current use of videogames in libraries and the resources available for collection development purposes.  Shannon is a member of the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table.  Since she plays videogames on a daily basis, Shannon is a regular contributor and editor of reviews for VideoGameCat.  She also maintains the VideoGameCat Twitter (@thevideogamecat) and Facebook ( accounts.



Award Giver Category Verdict
Spike Video Game Awards 2010Best Wii Game Nominee
Golden Joystick Awards 2011Action/Adventure Game of the Year Nominee

Additional Info

ESRB Description:
Mild Cartoon Violence



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