Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is — in a word — difficult.
I’d never had a chance to play through the eponymous ape’s latest quest the first time around on the Wii, But I’ve heard stories — nay, legends — of its ability to make grown men weep under the pressure. Luckily the 3DS version — essentially an updated port of the Wii game — appears to replicate the challenge while making it a bit more accessible to players less tolerant of video game masochism. Oh, and it also adds a few new levels for good measure.
You’ll need all the help you can get, as Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D will test your every reflex to make it through each of the levels on offer. Similar to Super Mario sidescrollers, you’ll typically have a ton of lives — those you don’t find, you can buy with the plethora of coins you’ll grab. Unfortunately, Donkey Kong isn’t as nimble as the mustachioed plumber, and his running and jumping isn’t quite as precise as you’d like. It’s never bad enough to ruin the game, but there were moments that I felt that I was fighting the controls off more often than the obstacles. It doesn’t help that the Circle Pad isn’t nearly as precise a control mechanism as the D-Pad, and yet, there’s no D-Pad support anywhere to be found — odd, considering that was how the original game controlled.
Control issues aside, the game looks and plays great on the 3DS. Lush jungles, bustling factories, and more are all wonderfully displayed on the handheld, with little sacrificed in the jump. There are some occasional bouts of slowdown present — especially when the 3D slider is turned on — but it’s usually over rather quickly. Speaking of 3D — wow. There are some impressive moments that take advantage of the 3D “pop” — moments when Donkey Kong shoots off into the background or foreground stand out in particular. It’s never necessary like it was at times in Super Mario 3D Land, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a solid action-platformer with a ton of neat ideas, a smattering of levels and hidden treasures, and a difficulty not found in Nintendo’s other, more popular sidescrolling franchise. There’s not a whole lot new here if you’ve bungled through this jungle already, but if this is your first banana safari — or you want to go on a second expedition — it’s well worth the trip.