There's no more shake, but do the new controls work?
Donkey Kong Country Returns headlined the renaissance of 2D platform games on Wii, featuring familiar gameplay and expert level design thanks to the team at Retro Studio. The game is being ported to 3DS by Monster Games, who seeks to make it ready for portable play and open up the game to a wider audience.
A new easy mode has been added to the game, which is a nice feature for those who may have been intimidated by the original, as it could be quite difficult in some places. In easy mode, DK and Diddy now have three life hearts each, and you can bring up to three items into a stage to help you. Three new items are also available: a green balloon that will save you from a fall, a portable DK barrel that lets you summon Diddy at will, and a crash guard item for extra protection in the mine cart and rocket barrel stages. However, once you go down the easy or hard path, there’s no turning back; the file is locked in that mode.
The game has been expanded a bit. The golden temple has been replaced by a cloud world, composed of eight new levels representing the various worlds of the game, and ending with the old golden temple stage. As a fan of the mine cart stages, I played through most of the mole stage, which had an interesting combination of mine cart sections and regular platforming in a level strewn with environmental hazards.
It took me a few minutes to get used to the controls in DKCR3D, and I still wasn’t happy. While the Wii Remote shake moves have thankfully been replaced with buttons, the actual control scheme doesn’t make a lot of sense. Having years of experience with the original Donkey Kong Country series, the button layout simply didn’t work well, as it was seemingly mapped from the Wii version’s Nunchuk scheme. In the default configuration, run and roll are mapped to X and Y, while jump is mapped to A and B. Grab is inexplicably mapped to the shoulder buttons, which was pretty unnecessary and frustrating, given the two duplicated face buttons and the tradition of mapping run and grab to the same button. The roll maneuver itself seemed twitchier than I remember it being on the Wii, even with its despised shake mechanic.
The stereoscopic 3D is a nice addition, and while the game wasn’t originally tailored around that experience, there are a few places where it works especially well, though the character models are degraded somewhat on the 3DS.
I’m definitely glad to see Donkey Kong Country Returns make its way to 3DS and made more accessible. It was an excellent platformer that deserves more plays and being able to take it on the go is a boon. However, the controls aren’t optimal, but I hope that will be fixed before release.