Donkey Kong was released in 1994 for the Game Boy and packs quite a punch. At first glance, it appears to be another port of the Donkey Kong arcade game, but no, Nintendo delivers a brand new Donkey Kong experience in this puzzling platformer.
The game starts by throwing you back into the four levels from the Donkey Kong arcade game. Here, the goal remains the same as you jump over barrels, climb ladders, and dodge bouncing springs to rescue Pauline. However, when you complete the final stage, Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and flees the scene, forcing Mario to chase him; this is where the game truly begins.
This brilliant twist sets up the next 97 levels – over nine worlds – that follow a new set of mechanics. Instead of reaching the goal platform, in the majority of these levels, you must find and carry a key to the locked door to complete the level. Every fourth level will feature Donkey Kong, and sometimes DK Jr., throwing barrels, flipping switches, and a variety of tactics to keep Mario from reaching Pauline; essentially, similar to the format of the arcade game. The very last level in every stage will be a battle against Donkey Kong in which you need to grab and hit him with a barrel three times.
Over the course of the game’s 97 levels, you must use all of Mario’s abilities to grab the key and reach the exit. Mario can pick up and throw objects, back flips, handstand jumping, and lastly, swing on ropes; in fact, you could probably mistake Mario for a gymnast. There are other mechanics at play as well, and include the ability to flip switches (to open doors and bridges), and of course, the ability to create ladders and platforms. To create an object, you must grab their respective icon in the levels that feature this mechanic. This particular gameplay mechanic is pretty cool and adds an extra dimension to some of the more puzzling levels.
One really neat aspect of Donkey Kong can be found in the cut-scenes that play each time you manage to overcome Donkey Kong. These brief – and often comical – cut-scenes often showcase new gameplay mechanics that you haven’t used at that point in the game. These clever clues are an awesome touch to the game’s overall presentation.
Most of the game’s levels are extremely easy and don’t require the use of any additional techniques, but quite a few are built to test your ability to manipulate Mario. Some of these levels can be excruciatingly frustrating because you have to be 100% perfect in everything you do, but thankfully, these levels are few in number. Also, each stage has three items for you to recover, and these can be quite challenging to reach. If you do recover all three items, you will be sent to one of two bonus stages to try to win some 1-UPs.
Donkey Kong is a hard game to put down once you start playing, simply because the game is a lot of fun. I love the level design in each level and never grew bored of the game’s mechanics. I also enjoyed practicing and mastering Mario’s abilities to see if I could finish levels faster.
For a Game Boy game, Donkey Kong is impressive in every area, and that stands for its visuals and soundtrack, as well. This game surprised me with its detailed visuals, especially with its many different backgrounds. Donkey Kong also has a great soundtrack, with different themes for each world, including some classic sounds and themes from the arcade game.
5/5 D-Pads: If you own a Game Boy or Nintendo 3DS (only $3.99 on the Virtual Console), Donkey Kong is a must own game. It has 101 levels –including the four intro stages – which have plenty of variety, and lots of cool abilities to master. It can be challenging at times, but never becomes too frustrating. The game takes around five hours to complete, but it’s also the kind of game that welcomes a second play.