Donkey Kong: King of Swing
Swing into our full review of the Kong's latest...
Despite its dual screen hand held and recently announced remote controller for its upcoming Revolution console, Nintendo continues to innovate with its now aged GBA hardware, the latest example being DK: King of Swing. This platform adventure stars the 800 pound gorilla himself and this title manages to stand on its own because of its unique design. Unfortunately, said design isn't good enough to make this game a must buy.
When it comes to jungle living, our buddy DK's literally on the up and up. That's because instead of moving to a deluxe apartment in the sky he must ascend a series of pegs that comprise each of the game's numerous worlds. You see, that's the catch. Instead of moving from left to right like all of the other 2D platform titles out there, the object of this game is to vertically maneuver DK past a series of hazards. To do this, you must grab onto a bunch of pegs using the L and R buttons, so L controls his left hand and R controls his right. Whenever he latches onto something with one hand he slowly spins around in a counterclockwise or clockwise direction, and the basic idea is to press L and R to make him move. Plus, if you really want to catch some air or knock out enemies you can press and hold both triggers, whereupon which DK begins to flash red and he'll perform a spinning attack.
Naturally, there's a lot more to King of Swing than just simple climbing. The developers have tossed in a plethora of interesting gameplay features that will serve to make your life easier or difficult. With that being said, expect to encounter disappearing pegs, fragile pegs that break shortly after you grab hold of them, collapsing walls, a host of useful switches, rubber tires that'll aid you in bouncing all over the place, and barrels that'll boost you across chasms, among other nifty things. But the inclusion of humongous bosses, numerous enemies, spiked walls and floors, and other obstructions will impede your progress. Thankfully, you can boost DK's health bar by collecting bananas, and if you want to make a really tough level much, much easier you can make him "go bananas" which makes him invincible for a brief period.
In fact, at times things become a bit too maddening. I admit to being so fully immersed in this game that when coworkers came into my office to ask me questions I just couldn't be bothered listening to them. That's how cool King of Swing can be, yet at the same time it's also extremely frustrating. There's a whole bunch of trial and error levels coupled with tasks that are far too easy to complete, and these night and day contrasts don't exactly work in the game's favor. It's also too easy to become confused and press the wrong trigger, and that's what leads to the majority of my anger. There are points when King of Swing just stops being fun and becomes this tedious chore that warrants a GBA chuck into a wall.
Moving outside of the 25 level primary campaign (which is actually longer than I expected it to be), there's single and multiplayer Jungle Jam modes, events where you can compete against the AI or up to three other people. None of these mini games are extremely amusing (win a race, break barrels), but they're a welcome diversion from the main quest. However, it's really annoying having to use a Link Cable in order to play with other people. The wireless adaptor was apparently designed for Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen and that's it.
Then there's the cheapness factor. I can't be 100% certain, but it appears that Nintendo didn't spend much time preparing this game's materials. The title screen (with DK swinging about) looks extremely second rate, as does the plain old title slapped onto the front of the game's instruction booklet. That doesn't factor into my final score, but the lack of presentation is noticeable and therefore worth mentioning.
The story's equally shallow. DK is battling King K. Rool and you have to pick up these crystals and hey guess what no one cares. You get a short intro at the very beginning of the game and that's about it.
Thankfully, Nintendo made sure to apply presentation where it counts. King of Swing's visuals aren't Donkey Kong Country quality but the game has a vibrant and colorful cartoon style. There are numerous worlds to explore and each has a different theme, so you'll traverse a dessert and become caught inside of a tornado, float underwater, and spend some serious time in a lush, green jungle, among other detailed locations. The bosses are also pretty cool. They all follow a rudimentary pattern that can be figured out in a few seconds, but I like how the developers integrated the peg swinging into the actual battles, one of my favorites being the showdown with a burning phoenix. The huge bird unleashes fire balls from its flaming beak, and if you manage to dodge them they cool off and can be used against DK's foe.
The animations are equally cool to watch. Most of the characters move a bit stiff, but I like how DK's legs sway from side to side depending on the direction that he's traveling.
I'm also fond of the soundtrack, which is comprised of classic tunes from previous Donkey Kong games. It just feels good to see the likes of DK, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky while listening to DKC tunes.
I fully understand that this game was intended to run at a methodic pace and it actually works quite well, but DK: King of Swing just didn't WOW me. It's no doubt a solid videogame, but despite the game's quality it's just not as innovative or enjoyable as I hoped it would be, and that's why I awarded it with a 3/5. There's just something very bland about the gameplay. I find myself enjoying it for the most part (its slow pace is actually quite relaxing), but I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to friends. Definitely good, but it doesn't ascend to the higher plane where many of Nintendo's other platform games reside.
What's Hot: Interesting gameplay mechanics.
What's Not: Lackluster multiplayer modes.