Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

Nintendo often likes to go back to the well on its stable of franchises. While we can pretty much count on a Zelda or Mario title on a yearly basis, Donkey Kong sometimes takes a break in between titles.

Donkey Kong Country has a pretty good reputation with the Nintendo fans out there, especially those who played during the N64 era when Rare was responsible for the series. Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii is really a return to form for the franchise and it has enough of the key elements to interest fans.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii [Reviewed])
Developer: Retro Studios, Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 21, 2010
MSRP: $49.99

Fans of Mario’s original foil will find Donkey Kong Country Returns is a platformer that captures the essence of the original games. You control DK and Diddy as they run through the jungle in cooperative mode fighting the evil floating Tiki masks and other foes to liberate the jungle banana supply. Even DK’s secret hoard is looted as the musical foes abscond with all the precious yellow fruit, leading the Kongs on a chase through multiple levels and boss battles.

Donkey Kong Country Returns reminds me a lot of the platformer classic Super Mario Bros. 2.It features a lot of distinct levels to play and two playable characters.  Luckily DK and Diddy have distinct moves so playing either one is a slightly different experience. The addition of a rideable rhino and the old Rocket Barrel gameplay differentiate the formula just enough to keep things fresh.

Playing as a team is the best way to experience the game. You can share lives with your partner and parts of the levels become more accessible in the collaborative mode. When there is only one player the game controls Diddy and no one should expect the AI to live up to a live player’s skill level.

It is nice that the game also supports two different control set. A more traditional sideways Wii remote like a classic NES controller and the now ubiquitous Wii Remote – Nunchuk combo. The Wii-centric control is more of the same “waggle & flick” action that permeates just about every Wii game. Certain moves, like the Ground Smash are custom designed for the motion controller and can be pulled off in either control mode. I found that I enjoyed playing Donkey Kong Country Returns with the horizontal Wii Remote option more than with the Nunchuck.

It should be noted that Donkey Kong Country Returns is a very challenging game. The platform levels offer a lot to explore and the game has a good number of levels. Unlike some recent Nintendo titles, this is a game made for players willing to push through adversity. Playing co-op reduces the challenge a little but adds the complexity of coordination with another player. Either way, expect a tough run through the game.

Longevity wise the game allows you to go back and re-play levels you’ve defeated in a Time Attack mode. The goal is to collect items in a rapid time and reach the end point as quickly as possible. Your results will yield a gold, silver, or bronze medal based on your performance. The medals translate to bragging rights more than anything but I found racing through levels with only the time on my mind was a fun exercise.

I was a bit disappointed in the visual delivery in the game. Maybe it’s just my fond memories of Rare’s games and the relatively immature graphics of the older generation of consoles, but Donkey Kong Country Returns just didn’t look very good to me. Its 2.5D characters were recognizable but the more zoomed out perspective and my personal bias toward HD visuals probably colored my impression. The game moves fine, the game is bright and colorful, but it definitely suffers from lots of “jaggie” graphics.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a bit of a throwback to the days of good platforming titles. Like the recent Super Mario Bros on the Wii it is an example of a platformer done right. The issue of difficulty will be a nice feature for more experienced gamers looking for a challenge. There are a lot of levels in the game and replaying these boards looking for extra collectibles is always fun.


  • Great platform-based gameplay
  • Co-Op really fun
  • Long, diverse game levels
  • Multiple control methods for old and new school gamers


  • Not the most visually impressive game on the Wii
  • More “Wiggle and Flick” gameplay

The Verdict: 90/100

Convinced by our review? Got a copy of the game? Check out our full Donkey Kong Country Returns walkthrough!

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2 Comments on Donkey Kong Country Returns Review


On November 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

“Not the most visually impressive game on the Wii”
The hell are you guys smoking?


On November 24, 2010 at 7:33 pm

“When there is only one player the game controls Diddy and no one should expect the AI to live up to a live player’s skill level.”

Um, when there is only one player Diddy automatically stays on DK’s back when you find him. The AI does absolutely no controlling of Diddy. I’m kind of shocked you guys got that wrong.