Sunday, July 20, 2014

Separating the Game Boys from the Men: Donkey Kong

As I was digging into the Game Boy library to do these reviews there have been a couple of games that really surprised me, maybe none more so than this one. I just picked it up figuring it would be a port of Donkey Kong, with maybe Donkey Kong Jr. also on it. It turned out to be much much more.

This game starts out with the four levels of the original Donkey Kong arcade game, albeit a little bit simplified for the Game Boy's tiny screen , then when you rescue Pauline at the end Donkey Kong grabs her again and the real game begins with 97 stages over 9 worlds of puzzle platforming to rescue Pauline. The game play is similar to the original Donkey Kong, although this time Mario has a few more tricks up his sleeve. Mario can stand on most enemies and pick them up Super Mario 2 style and trow at things. Another handy trick is when Mario has the hammer he can throw it up, allowing him to either ditch it, or throw it up right before climbing a ladder, which if timed properly allows him to then having on the next platform.

This game would be the beginning of a game play formula that would become the Mario vs Donkey Kong series on Nintendo's handhelds. Also as far as I know this is the first we see of Pauline's modern look with the brunette hair and red dress. Donkey Kong Jr. is in it as well, which I find a little confusing as I thought it was official Nintendo lore that the Donkey Kong in the red tie actually was Donkey Kong Jr all grown up. Perhaps Nintendo hadn't decided on that at this point.

This is a fantastic game and is a bit of a hidden gem in the Game Boy's library. I think a lot of people overlooked it thinking it was just a port, but it's actually one of the best original games on the system. It has tons of levels, addictive and challenging game play, solid graphics and sound, and yes, a save game system. I can't recommend this game enough. I give it five barrels of monkeys out of five.

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