Thursday, March 31, 2011

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) - Session 2

Total Play Time (incl from January): 3hrs 15min

What Happened:
I played this game for an hour or so with Issam back in January. We had fun, but nothing about it really kept me coming back. I recently looked it up again because of a conversation I had about games with good animation. I watched a youtube clip which featured levels I hadn't gotten to yet, it struck me how varied the gameplay seemed to be across different levels. Because of this, I picked it up again - and I've been playing it for the last couple of nights and really having fun!

Over the last couple of nights I played through the Beach levels, and some of the temple ruins levels. It took me longer than it should have... I die a lot in this game.

What I Liked:
Varied gameplay! So this is a sidescrolling platformer, and I made the mistake of assuming that level 60 might not be very different from level 3. Totally incorrect! This game does an amazing job of really mixing it up. In the beach section, for example, there's a level with a giant octopus - which attacks you in the somewhat 'typical' giant octopus manner of smashing the floating platfrom you're on - but then, when you're climbing through the cave systems away from him, he manages to get his tentacles in there and block your path. There's another level where a giant tidal wave comes crashing from the foreground to the background at a set interval, and you have to get cover or you die. There's another level where you pilot a small rocket, where pressing the A button fast makes you rise, and too slow makes you fall - so you have to have the correct timing of pressing it. In another level, you travel almost exclusively by barrels - choosing the correct timing to send you in the right direction. Anyway - I think an amazing amount of thought and effort went into the level to level gameplay of this game. Every level feels different, and imaginative.

What I Didn't Like:
Unexpected things? Well... honestly this is the one drawback you would expect from having a game with such varied gameplay - a lot of stuff catches you off guard. You don't know that the octopus is going to smash the platform you're standing on until he does it (although you can tell he's going to do something from his tell... just not exactly what). There's a lot of stuff like that - things which come as a surprise because you haven't encountered them before (and will not encounter again), where you're probably going to die unless you have super good reflexes (which I apparently do not). For the most part these cases are still handled well! There are usually checkpoints near the sections where this happens, so even if you're caught by surprise, the punishment isn't too severe. There are only a handful of cases where it felt like I had to play large sections over again because of these surprise deaths.

The first world. It clearly didn't impress me when I played back in January. Issam and I had fun, but we didn't see anything that seemed to set this game apart from others besides a really high level of polish. If I hadn't happened to watch that youtube clip, I would have totally let this game pass me by. Maybe they should have put some more variance in the first world, since it really just felt like we were getting the same gameplay as the original DKC. We were so wrong. :)

How Do I Feel About Continuing?:
Excited! It's weird, right? As much as I've been frustrated while playing, the variety in gameplay is keeping me coming back. It's fun to see what they do to make each level different, and I'm excited to see what else they've got.

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