"Donkey Kong Country Returns" -- released for the Nintendo Wii in 2010 -- is an excellent side-scrolling platformer that is a must-play for fans of the DKC series from the 1990s. The 3D port will release May 24 on the 3DS handheld.
Yet again, Donkey Kong's banana hoard is stolen -- this time by a bunch of creatures known as Tikis, who hypnotize animals on the island to steal the delicious fruit. Along with his buddy, Diddy Kong, the two set out on an adventure to get those precious bananas back.
The eight worlds you'll travel through never become a drag, thanks to excellently designed levels around each world's theme to keep things fresh. The jungle has you swinging across vines; enemies will fire cannon balls at you on the beach; and falling statues try to flatten you in the ruins.
In some cases, you'll blast our heroes into the background to advance through a stage, which is neat to see when the 3D effect is turned on. My favorite parts involve barrel blasting, and there is a lot of it in this game. Quickly blasting from one to another during hectic timed portions is very satisfying to complete. Worlds end in boss battles, with each one playing out differently than the last.
Every level also features numerous hidden puzzle pieces and the popular KONG letters that will test your platforming skills. Time Attack lets you speed-run through stages to earn medals, and is quite possibly the most evil thing these developers thought of. They are just that tough to not make a mistake.
However, the most frustrating levels involve riding the dreaded mine carts and rocket barrels. These portions of the game are mostly finished by trial and error since the obstacles come up on you so fast, it's too late to react. Luckily, you earn a bunch of extra lives elsewhere to waste away in these portions of the game.
In multiplayer the second player controls Diddy, and only Donkey Kong can be controlled in single player, which isn't a big deal. Diddy will just hop on Donkey Kong's back, which allows him to jump further with his jet pack and roll faster on the ground. Being able to hover does turn down the difficulty a notch.
Thankfully gone from the Wii version are the waggle controls, with everything mapped to the buttons on the handheld. They are responsive, and Donkey Kong and Diddy can be controlled by the circle pad or D-pad. I preferred using the circle pad, even though the minor slipperiness of Donkey Kong's movement cost me some lives when landing near edges.
While the graphics are a downgrade from the crisp, 60-frames-per-second Wii version, you won't notice it when playing in the foreground. Characters get a little grainy in background areas, but other than that every level is detailed and very colorful.
Generally, ports of games have extra content to entice potential double dippers. DKCR 3D features eight fun, exclusive stages that are unlocked after beating the game. The other big addition is New Mode, or in other words "easy mode." Instead of starting with two hearts each for Donkey Kong and Diddy, they get three. In this mode more items are sold in Cranky Kong's shop, like a portable DK barrel to release Diddy at any time, green balloons to rescue you from accidental falls, and crash guards that allow extra crashes during mine cart and rocket barrel rides. Original Mode's difficulty is just like playing the Wii version.
So is "Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D" worth it? That depends. If you've already played and beaten it on the Wii, it's hard to recommend throwing down $34.99 for what is basically the same game plus some new levels. But if you've never played it before, the 3DS is for sure the superior version.
3 stars out of 4
A downloadable code for "Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D" was supplied by Nintendo for this review.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.