Monday, May 4, 2009

DK Jungle Climber (DS) Review

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat ships to retailers today. With one quirky platformer comes another with DK Jungle Climber for the Nintendo DS. Here's a review of why you shouldn't miss out on this entertaining game!

The King of Swing Returns For An Encore

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DK: King of Swing was an incredibly underrated Game Boy Advance title buried under other hits on the portable platform. Several years later, Paon is back, developing the sequel to that gameplay gem, DK Jungle Climber for the Nintendo DS. Does a duo of screens do Donkey Kong justice, or is this sequel a sour banana? Thankfully, this title does DK: King of Swing proud.

When a gargantuan banana appears at the summit of the tropical Sun Sun Island during one of the DK crew's many days relaxing on the beach, it's up to them to investigate. Turns out the banana isn't of the edible variety-- it's a spaceship piloted by a talking banana representing his banana species. ...Yeah... okay. Players should leave their skepticisms of the story at the front door.

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There's a plethora of locales DK and Diddy will traverse.

Everything begins with a skip-able tutorial lesson from Cranky Kong who'll show young whippersnappers the ins and outs of the beginning abilities DK has to unleash upon his foes and to progress through the various stages. DK Jungle Climber, much like its predecessor, has an innovative control set-up. The aim of the game is to use the L and R buttons to climb pegs to advance. The L button controls DK's left hand while the R button controls DK's right. When DK only has a hold of one peg in one hand, he'll simply spin around the peg in a circle. If the vertigo gets to players, by grabbing two pegs with both hands, it sets DK in place. The A button performs a charging attack perfect for speedily climbing pegs or bashing various foes out of the way. The gameplay is quite simple in the first levels, but it leads the player into a false sense of security. There's a lot more to DK Jungle Climber than scaling stationary pegs. Later levels have falling pegs, barrels that need to have a rock tossed at them from far away, and switches that are pulled by holding onto one side with DK's right hand and continuously pulling the lever with DK's left. There's icy rows of pegs which cause DK to slip and lose traction upon, there's giant cobs of corn that spin like tires, and pegs that move in odd patterns. There's a lot more variety than one would expect in a game that is primarily L and R, and each level usually introduces a new gameplay principle to the table, so players will ease into each new challenge and never feel overwhelmed.

Many Donkey Kong Country veterans won't touch a new DK game because it's not exactly a new DKC title. These people are what we call morons. This game is strikingly similar to not only past DKC games but also the first DK King of Swing title. Instead of the cartoony style of King of Swing, DK is back to what appears to be a 3-D model along with other "sprites". Several enemies from past games return such as Zingers, Flitters, Lockjaws, Neckys and more. Diddy Kong could be unlocked in King of Swing, but in Jungle Climber he's readibly available. Unlike, DK: King of Swing where players could regenerate their health by collecting and then using bananas, DK, along with Diddy, are two-hit wonders. If DK gets hit with Diddy, Diddy is lost. If DK doesn't collect a DK barrel before getting hit again, the player loses a life. This fact makes DK Jungle Climber much more difficult than the game that preceded it.

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Why work alone?
Have Diddy help you out of a jungle jam!

There's new moves that DK and Diddy can use as well such as power-ups like the hammer and feather. The hammer gives Diddy Kong a giant weapon to spin around and clobber foes and certain breakable blocks with while DK climbs as normal. The feather gives DK and Diddy each a feather to float and fly past obstacles, enemies, and reach new heights. By collecting 100 multi-colored stars, players can touch the bottom screen making DK and his buddy invincible and able to fly around for a limited amount of time. This move is great for reaching an alcove that's otherwise a pain to reach normally. Finally, players can double-tap the A button to send Diddy flying toward an enemy (a great way to pummel those pesky Zingers), an out-of-reach item, or an away platform.

If going from point A to point B isn't all a player is into, they can opt to collect a multitude of items mid-level. There's the good old fashioned K-O-N-G letters which will give the Kong crew an additional life to work with. Also, who could forget those sneaky DK coins that when enough are collected, new cheats are unlocked such as 20 extra lives to work with when the player gets a game over or a faster hammer power-up to work with. There's five banana coins in each level which unlock new, fiendishly difficult extra stages once the final boss (who is one of the hardest in recent memory on a Nintendo plaform) has been defeated. Last by not least, there's oil barrels hidden in most of the levels. Get enough and Funky Kong will charter his plane to you and take you to a secret level.

Each of the six worlds (mostly of five levels each) concludes with an epic boss battle. Some are more memorable than others, but the majority are intuitive and pretty challenging actually. From taking down a gigantic Kremling mech to bashing down a possessed dragon, each battle will put your skills of climbing and dodging to the test.

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The first boss- a giant banana battleship!

There's more to do outside of the adventure mode. Challenge mode offers a myriad of mini-games to play and attempt to perfect. There's climbing challenges, banana-grabbing games, barrel-busting bonanzas, barrel-jumping contests, and booster barrel races to partake in. Players get a letter grade based on their performance (up to AAA), and these unlock even more new content for ambitious players to enjoy.

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Challenge mode allows players to replay the
various minigames for high scores.

DK Jungle Climber is incredibly polished. The controls are responsive, the presentation is remarkable, and the game presents a solid challenge to those who see it all the way through. The game is colorful, vibrant, and a joy to look at, the music is easily recognizable and memorable, and the amount of content the game offers is fantastic for only $29.99 USD. My only problem with the title is that it has six worlds, but completing the main adventure mode only takes 5-10 hours for most players. However, there are additional modes to unlock, extras to play through, and high score records to demolish. Some players may also find the formula getting a little stale and repetitive by the tale end of the game. DK Jungle Climber is a step (or I guess in this case, peg) above DK: King of Swing. Is it as good as the Donkey Kong Country series? That's not a fair question to ask as the games aren't overly similar. Nonetheless, anyone who picks up Jungle Climber will go bananas with all the excellent gameplay, challenge, and fun to be had. It's easily a fantastic DS game, and I recommend it to anyone despite a couple problems.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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