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‘The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’: An Overview

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The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit isn’t a video game in the traditional sense. That’s not intended as a pointed criticism of sedentary, choose-your-own-adventure-style titles in relation to more action-packed fare – I, for one, would much rather spend an hour or two playing Gone Home or Limbo for the dozenth time than yet another round of Fortnite.

What I actually mean is that Captain Spirit is, essentially, a prologue to another game: an introduction to the characters, themes, and perhaps even the events of Life is Strange 2; whilst, it’s important to note, engaging the player emotionally and creating an absorbing, stand-alone story that ensures DONTNOD Entertainment’s latest foray into the Life is Strange universe successfully carves out its own unique identity.

Captain Spirit isn’t as light-hearted as the title might suggest

Chris and Charles Eriksen on a lazy Saturday morning - The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

Set three years after the events of the original Life is Strange, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit begins on an average Saturday morning in the snow-covered suburbs of Beaver Creek, Oregon.

With his homework already complete and no working console to enjoy, Chris Eriksen– a 9-year-old boy with a powerful imagination and indomitable spirit – decides to go on an impromptu adventure around the confines of his diminutive, slightly rundown home in the guise of his superhero alter ego ‘Captain Spirit’.

On the face of it, this could describe the premise to one of our favourite 90s cartoons or even a cherished childhood memory of holidays past. However, Chris isn’t simply indulging his imagination and childlike sense of wonder when he dons his custom-made cape.

Following a tragic hit and run incident that claimed the life of his loving mother, Emily, Chris’s father Charles Erikson spends his days drinking himself into a stupor and wallowing in self-pity, leaving his vulnerable young son little choice but to fend for himself and, occasionally, help take care of his increasingly negligent and volatile father. Consequently, childhood isn’t as straightforward and carefree as it should be for a boy of his age, so for Chris, becoming ‘Captain Spirit’ gives him an opportunity to escape his bleak reality and regain some semblance of control in an unpredictable and seemingly hostile world.

I can’t say much more without spoiling it for anyone who’s yet to experience Captain Spirit for themselves, but suffice it to say, the game’s relentlessly moving story captivates from the very first scene; dealing with delicate themes such as negligence and grief in a considered, mature manner that once again demonstrates DONTNOD’s inimitable skill when it comes to writing emotional narratives and complex, three-dimensional characters. The brief, nostalgia-fuel of make-believe that permeate the narrative tap into those lazy weekends of our childhood that seemed filled with infinite possibility and adventure, offering welcome relief from the game’s heart-rending central thread.

Naturally, Chris is the star of the show in every sense of the word, endearing himself to the player almost immediately. In the face of the tragic events that fundamentally altered his father and could so easily have crushed his own spirit, Chris retains an upbeat demeanour, vivid imagination, and innocence that only adds to his charm. In many ways, he forms a counterpart to Life is Strange’s Chloe Price who, having endured similar heartbreak at a similarly formative age, began to fall apart, developing a jaded and cynical outlook on humanity and life itself.

The game’s other main character, Charles, doesn’t quite resonate with the player to the same degree, unfortunately, coming across as the stereotypical grief-stricken widower who’s unrestrained anguish and increasingly self-destructive habits have rendered him completely oblivious to his son’s suffering, rather than something more nuanced or original.

In spite of the general disparity between the portrayal of these two characters, it’s only fair to say their interactions are very well handled. Oscillating between touching scenes of filial love and upsetting instances of unintentional negligence, DONTNOD makes sure we know Charles hasn’t always been this way; that he was once a loving father and husband who simply cannot cope with the death of his wife and the pressures of being a single parent. And perhaps this is why Chris still idolizes his father: he remembers what life was like before Emily was so suddenly and tragically taken from them. All of which adds another subtextual emotional layer to the story and characters, increasing our affection for Chris whilst giving his father’s slightly clichéd personality some much needed depth.

Shaping ‘Captain Spirit’ through simple interactions

Captain Spirit possesses a range of powers

With the usual kind of rudimentary QTEs and dialogue wheels sitting alongside a boatload of documents that provide both additional background information on the characters/world of Captain Spirit and subtle references to the Life is Strange series past and present, the game’s core mechanics will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s ever played a narrative-driven adventure of this ilk.

There are a few small changes specific to Captain Spirit that attempt to differentiate it from previous Life is Strange titles, however. The player is free to alter Chris’s appearance in certain ways (specifically, his superhero attire) at the beginning of the game, for example, as well as complete a handful of separate ‘Quests’ as the story progresses. And, of course, Chris isn’t able to ‘Rewind’ time if something goes awry.

It might not provide the most hands-on kind of gaming experience, but, as I always say whenever I feel compelled to defend the genre, these seemingly simplistic mechanics are, in actual fact, perfectly suited to the ebb and flow of a narrative-driven adventure like Captain Spirit. More importantly, in the case of Captain Spirit specifically, the novel way in which Chris engages with the environment whilst in his superhero form delivers plenty of additional insights into his personality.

Whenever he uses his ‘powers’ to interact with certain household appliances, we gain a deeper understanding of his ability to derive joy from the most mundane of things; which itself captures the spirit of childlike wonder and the irrepressible imagination of our younger selves. But there are more serious inferences to consider here, too.

Chris’s approach to these everyday tasks, whether that be recycling his father’ disregarded beer cans, doing the laundry, cooking Charles’s breakfast, washing the dishes etc., quietly masks the fact that this is a 9-year-old boy who feels, subconsciously perhaps, that he has to sacrifice a part of his precious childhood to take care of his father. A tragic reversal of roles. Equally, the short snippets of commentary we hear while he’s completing his enforced chores give us an indication of how detached Charles has become in the months following Emily’s death, and how stifled for attention and companionship Chris really is.

Moreover, on the odd occasion, these same outwardly hands-off systems let us shape (at least partially) Chris’s very outlook on life. When he’s interviewing himself in the mirror, for instance, it’s up to us to determine whether he still views his father as a hero, despite his increasing aloofness, or if Chris has subconsciously learned to rely solely on himself.

It might not be as exciting as slaloming through traffic at 90mph in a bustling urban sandbox or emerging victorious from a dramatic multi-person firefight, but it’s utterly compelling nonetheless and strengthens the connection between the player, the characters, and the story.

Another stylish and visually evocative offering from DONTNOD

Chris's bedroom, aka Captain Spirit HQ, contrast starkly with the rest of the Eriksen house

As well as broadly adhering to the same systems and mechanics as seen in previous Life is Strange titles, Captain Spirit also retains the stylized, cel-shaded graphics the series is known for. Built, this time around, in the Unreal 4 engine; a jump in technology that lets DONTNOD apply a fresh coat of paint in the form of brand-new dialogue options and generally improved visuals. However, it’s Captain Spirit’s use of color that really stands out.

The vibrant reds, blues, and yellows of Chris’s room and personal belongings contrast superbly with the dull greys, browns, and off-whites of the rest of the house – most notably in Charles’ unkempt bedroom: a visual juxtaposition of his father’s spiralling depression and alcoholism against Chris’s irrepressible imagination and childlike optimism. While elsewhere, Chris’s colourful artwork, including treasure maps and a handcrafted quest list, endows Captain Spirit with a light-hearted, cartoonish vibe that complement’s Chris’s creative personality in much the same way as photography and Max’s personal journal did in the original Life is Strange, whilst also providing some visual relief from the game’s occasionally oppressive and poignant themes.

From a musical perspective, although the brevity of the game leaves room for only the shortest of soundtracks, DONTNOD has once again hit gold in Captain Spirit, presenting a modest collection of songs that resonate with the story and gently manipulate our emotions in all the right ways. ‘Death with Dignity’ by Sufjan Stevens is particularly effective and will have all but the most hardened individuals fighting back the tears during one scene towards the end of the game I won’t mention for fear of ruining it. If you’ve already completed Captain Spirit, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m referring to.


The value of a review score is debatable at the best of times, but in the case of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, I’d go so far as to say it’s inappropriate.

Although it’s easy to see why DONTNOD would recognize Captain Spirit as a viable entry point into the wider series, the overwhelming majority of people who’ll be interested in this game are already Life is Strange fans, even if the 2015 original and Deck Nine’s popular prequel are currently sat neatly tucked away in their pile of shame.

Either way, Captain Spirit will be an automatic purchase for these individuals rather than something they need to be sold on. So, as heart-warming and touching as it undoubtedly is, the narrowness of the game’s prospective audience, relatively speaking, makes awarding it an arbitrary review score more than a little facile as far as I’m concerned.

It’s enough to say that Captain Spirit is every bit as moving and charming as you’d expect from a Life is Strange game. What’s more, it augurs extremely well for the upcoming sequel which, at the time of writing, is only a couple of months away.

Counting Final Fantasy VII, The Last of Us, the original Mass Effect trilogy, and The Witcher 3 amongst his favourite games, John enjoys anything that promises to take up an absurdly large amount of his free time. When he’s not gaming, chances are you’ll find him engrossed in a science fiction or fantasy novel; basically, John’s happiest when his attention is as far from the real world as possible.

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Game Reviews

‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On

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Unless a typical bee’s day involves a lot of clunky wasp fights, high-speed chases, and dancing for directions, it’s doubtful many players will walk away from Bee Simulator feeling like they’ve really been given a glimpse into the apian way of life. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical pollen collecting and human annoying here, but odd tasks like hauling glowing mushrooms for ants, helping baby squirrels find their mom, and stinging some little brat who’s stomping all your flowers (hopefully he doesn’t have an allergy) are also on the agenda. That’s not exactly keepin’ it real, but regardless, the variety is actually more simple and less silly than it sounds; it turns out that even doing weird bee stuff quickly becomes repetitive. Still, this family-friendly look at a bug’s life is bolstered by a sincere love of nature, as well as some smooth flight mechanics and a surprisingly large open world for younger gamers to explore.

Bee Simulator beetle

Set in a Central Park-like expanse, Bee Simulator definitely takes on a more edutainment vibe right off the bat (Goat Simulator this ain’t) with a prologue that offers up some info on the ecological importance of bees to the planet. That protective attitude is a constant throughout the game’s short campaign and side quests, as the well-being of these hive heroes is constantly under threat by those goonish wasps, the bitter cold of winter, and of course, oblivious humans. Players take control of a newly hatched worker bee (sorry, drone lovers) who dreams of a role more important than being relegated to merely buzzing by flowers, and consequently sets out to save the day. However, these crises are portrayed in the thinnest terms possible, resolved quickly, and summarily forgotten, leaving little of narrative interest.

So then, it’s up to the gameplay to keep players engaged, and in this area Bee Simulator is a bit of a mixed bag. On the good side, flying works really well, and gives a nice sense of scale to being a little bee in the great, big world. Winging it close to the ground offers a zippy sense of speed, as flowers and blades of grass rush by in colorful streaks. A rise in elevation makes travel seem slower, but provides a fantastic view of the park, showcasing a lakeside boathouse,a zoo filled with exotic creatures, as well as various restaurants, playgrounds, picnics, pedestrians, and street vendors scattered about. Precision is rarely a must outside chases that require threading through glowing rings (a tired flying sim staple) or navigating nooks and crannies, but the multi-axis controls are pretty much up to the task, and make getting around a pleasure.

Bee Simulator zebras

However, that sense of flowing freedom doesn’t quite apply to the limited list of other activities. Though the world is large, the amount of different ways to interact with it is very small, revolving around a few basic concepts: fighting, racing, dancing, retrieving, and collecting. And with the exception of the latter, these actions can only be performed at specifically marked spots that initiate the challenge; most of Bee Simulator exists purely for the view. It’s somewhat understandable in its predictability — how many different things can a bee actually do, after all? — but the gameplay is still a bit disappointing in its shallowness. Fighting plays out like a turn-based rhythm mini-game, those aforementioned races follow uninspired routes, dancing is simply a short bout of Simon, and collecting pollen employs a ‘bee vision’ that does nothing more than verify that players know their colors.

It’s very basic stuff that can’t really sustain motivation for those used to more creativity. The roughly 3-hour campaign seems to support this idea; Bee Simulator knows it doesn’t have much going on for veteran gamers. However, as a visual playground for younger kids to fly around in, free from any real danger, there is something a bit magical about the world presented. There are loads of little vignettes to happen upon, such as a family BBQ, a small amusement park, and a bustling kitchen. What exactly are those lonely row-boaters thinking about out on the lake by themselves? Where is the flower lady going in such a hurry? Discovering new places — like a lush, sprawling terrarium — creates the impression of a massive world with plenty going on regardless of whether the player sees it or not, and can serve to spark the imagination.

Bee Simulator garden

In addition to racking up that pollen for the winter, info on various flora and fauna can also be be collected and stored in the hive’s library, where 3-D models can also be purchased with ‘knowledge’ points earned through completing quests. These texts detail some interesting facts about brave bees and their relation to the environment, and can definitely be a fun teaching tool for wee gamers.

Grizzled fans of the open-world genre may want to buzz clear, however, as well as those hoping for some zaniness. Though Bee Simulator offers some solid soaring in an attractive environment, it’s a sincere, straightforward attempt to promote bee kind that doesn’t offer much more than a relaxing atmosphere and repetitive actions.

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‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’: The Force is Strong in this One

A new hope…

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Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order Review

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the more propulsive and joyous games released this year. The latest from Respawn Entertainment (the creators of Titanfall and Apex Legends) is sure to satisfy fans who have impatiently waited almost a decade for a single-player action-adventure Star Wars game, and one that is actually good. In fact, Fallen Order is better than good— it’s great and worthy of standing side by side with the best Star Wars games ever made. Save for an incredibly bland protagonist, Fallen Order delivers what any fan could hope for.  

We’ve been waiting a long time for a good single-player Star Wars game and thankfully Respawn has come through with a narrative-driven adventure that calls to mind the best of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls and even God of War while also embedding itself in official universe canon. If that isn’t enough, Jedi: Fallen Order drops you into Metroidvania style environments and features incredibly tough boss battles and a skill tree that lets you unlock tons of new abilities by accumulating experience and skill points. Jedi: Fallen Order is an ambitious game, to say the least. It features the fast-paced action the developers have become famous for and while the result isn’t groundbreaking (nor original), it’s a solid space opera spectacle with enough nostalgia to overpower even the most jaded gamer.

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order Review

Order 66

The story takes place sometime between Star Wars: A New Hope and Episode III, when most of the Jedi Order are either dead or missing in action. You assume control of Cal Kestis, a promising young Padawan in the Republic who following the events of Order 66 (which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jedi) was forced to abandon his training and seek a solitary life on the planet Bracca. In order to survive Darth Sidious’s purge of the Jedi Order, Cal removed himself from the Force, concealed his identity, and took on a job working for the Empire. Unfortunately for him, a squad of professional Jedi hunters led by Second Sister have tracked him down, leaving him with little choice but to fight back.

The Story is Canon

Fallen Order kicks off with a powerful and emotional sequence as Cal decides to risk his own life and try to save his friend. In doing so, Cal reveals himself to the Empire, setting in motion a cat-and-mouse chase that sees him team up with former Jedi Master Cere Junda and a Latero pilot named Greez Dritus. Armed with Jedi powers, a lightsaber and the trusty aid of BD1 (a droid designed to assist with exploration in remote and dangerous locations), Cal blasts his way through hyperspace discovering ancient tombs, freeing Wookie slaves, hijacking an AT-AT and basically fighting the Imperial Army.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a step forward for the franchise – an exhilarating ride, filled with exciting battles, non-stop action, soaring emotions, and performances that can be described as legitimately good, rather than just good, for a video game. It’s also a rousing introduction to new characters who will likely carry this world forward (I expect a sequel or two). There’s seriously a solid story here and one that adheres to the spirit and tone of the Star Wars universe. The supporting players, for example, are all great. Cal’s droid, BD-1, is particularly captivating, and the game does an admirable job of building up Cal’s friendship with the droid in both the cinematic cutscenes and in the actual gameplay.

Story-wise, BD-1 is crucial to the plot since the droid is entrusted to guide Cal on a dangerous mission assigned by Master Cordova who left behind a list of the missing Jedi children who he believes will one day restore the Jedi Order and defeat the evil Empire. Without BD, there is no adventure. With the help of the droid, however, Cal is able to travel to various planets and discover and unlock important messages and clues left behind by Cordova. Aside from guiding Cal across various planets, BD-1 also serves several support functions in gameplay. He can function as a zipline, hack certain droid enemies, unlock doors, project holographic maps and even provide Cal with “stims” that allow him to heal himself during combat— something you definitely need since a number of gameplay mechanics are lifted from the Soulsborne genre; in other words, the game can be hard.

Truth be told, the first few hours of Fallen Order are a bit generic as players are slowly introduced to the world, but it doesn’t take long before the game starts to shine thanks to the relationships Cal forms with his colleagues who he meets along the way. Jedi: Fallen Order is a story of rebellion and finding hope, but it’s also a story of friendship and braving adversity and the game really excels by investing in the interpersonal dynamics of its entire cast, and not just the good guys but the villains as well. BD-1 is without a doubt the scene-stealer as he certainly adds some much-needed levity to the journey, but every character serves an important role (big or small) in moving the story forward. Of the entire cast, I have to make mention of Actress Debra Wilson who does a superb job in her motion-capture performance as Cere, a warrior who is wounded and haunted by her past. She is the moral center and becomes Cal’s mentor as they desperately try and survive in a world that seems entirely devoid of any hope. As the plot unfolds, Cere relives her darkest moments and confronts the mistakes of her past. In these scenes, Debra Wilson shines so brightly, you’d be forgiven for thinking she deserves an Oscar.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a fun, polished space odyssey that embraces the appeal of the Star Wars universe.

Given that Respawn Entertainment worked closely with Lucasfilm, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jedi: Fallen Order is officially part of the Star Wars lore. And despite operating in the shadow of the immensely popular series, it understands this and hardwires that understanding into its own DNA. And like the best Star Wars games, it borrows ideas from the films (and other reading material) while inserting flashbacks to flesh out the heroes and the conflict at hand. It certainly helps that the latest game in the canon explores new characters and new corners of the galaxy while remaining faithful to the core themes of the franchise and even if some of these storylines seem recycled from past stories, the new additions and the central mystery keeps the story engaging from start to finish. And while this story is much smaller in scale than the blockbuster movies, Jedi: Fallen Order raises the stakes in every chapter thanks to the omnipresent threat of the Inquisitors hunting Cal, who always seem like they’re one step away from closing in on the kill. And if you know anything about the future of the Star Wars universe, you know that Cal’s future isn’t looking too bright. All in all, the team at Respawn did an incredible job of exploring and expanding the universe of Star Wars, especially considering the dark time in which this story takes place.

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order Cast

It’s clear when playing Fallen Order that the team was interested in creating a more nuanced, character-driven tale and in order to achieve that goal, they carefully crafted a story that weaves the player’s actions and interactions into Cal’s evolving journey. What we have here is a coming of age tale which sees Cal growing as a person while strengthening his relationship with the Force. Unfortunately, Cal Kestis is also somewhat of a dull protagonist. Sure, he has a tragic past (who doesn’t in this universe) but he’s also a blank slate, predictable and devoid of layers. Given that the story takes place after the Great Jedi Purge, you’d figure the writers could have used that trauma to create a far more complex character and inject Cal with a bit more life— a bit more personality— and/or a bit more fight; instead, he’s just a quiet, brooding loner. In the end, it feels like a missed opportunity, especially since actor Cameron Monaghan, who plays both the younger and older Cal, delivers the best performance he could with the writing he was given. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination but Cal is surprisingly the only disappointing factor of the game.

Exploration

Jedi: Fallen Order’s best quality is exploration. What at first seems like a standard linear experience quickly reveals itself to be so much more. Levels are immense with plenty of shortcuts to unlock and puzzles to solve— and to help you navigate, Cal is given a handy 3D map that highlights which areas you can and cannot yet pass. Much of the game is spent exploring and it helps that each planet feels distinct and features various set pieces that liven up the proceedings. Although you do spend some time backtracking through these environments, it never becomes tedious as most areas are filled with tons of secrets such as new outfits for Cal to wear and additional stim canisters, which become valuable when facing off against a dangerous foe. As the level design quickly opens up, Cal gains new abilities that allow him to run along walls, jump higher and push and pull large objects that help him navigate through the treacherous ground.

Second Sister Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Jedi: Fallen Order Kicked My Ass

The combat in Fallen Order which has frequently been compared to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is easily the biggest surprise. Fighting relies heavily on blocking and carefully timed parries and the decision to make combat more focused on defensive strategy heightens the spectacle as well as the flow and pacing of the game. Jedi: Fallen Order requires patience and relies less on mindlessly button spamming and more on strategic mastery. You have to look at your surroundings, understand your enemies and identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about timing, and exchanging lightsaber blows during riveting boss encounters is incredibly satisfying. And it’s not just with the boss battles either; even encounters with regular stormtroopers and alien creatures take precision and care, each battle becoming a ballet of blocks and dodges as you patiently wait for an opening to attack so you can inflict more damage. Playing in the Jedi Master mode is tough and I do mean tough. Jedi Grandmaster seems downright impossible, at least for me. You’ll die. And then you’ll die again; rinse and repeat. And did I mention that when you do die, you lose whatever XP you’ve gathered toward skill points and have to return to defeat whoever killed you in order to reclaim it. Fans of the Dark Souls series will love it; for the rest of us, you can always dial down the difficulty setting because unlike those From Software games, you do have a choice over which difficulty you want to play. Whether you’re an action game veteran or a casual Star Wars fan, the game has four difficulty modes that should accommodate everyone. That said, if you’re familiar with action games, I highly recommend Jedi Master for your first run; Story Mode and Jedi Knight are too easy and don’t provide enough of a challenge.

Jedi: Fallen Order may not receive points for originality, but Fallen Order is still one of the most entertaining games of the year.

Jedi: Fallen Order feels like a direct response by EA to its fans who’ve been very vocal about their disappointment with the company’s previous Star Wars games. Or maybe EA was just trying to please Disney who has made it clear they have no issue in parting ways with collaborators who don’t deliver quality products. Whatever the case, EA was wise to hand over the license to Respawn Entertainment who’ve proven they have a real talent for making spectacular single-player action/adventure games. In spite of some minor performance issues, Fallen Order does exactly what it set out to do. Not only does it feel like a genuine Star Wars game but it pumps new energy and life into the franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. Fallen Order is great. Not groundbreaking. But one of the very best games of 2019 and one of the best Star Wars games ever made.

Jedi: Fallen Order re-awoke my love of Star Wars video games and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. Here’s hoping they make a sequel.

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Game Reviews

‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day

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Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country: 25 Years Later

Back in 1994, Nintendo was struggling with their 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which wasn’t selling as well as they’d hoped it would. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive and original title to reinforce its market dominance. After three years of intense competition and heated rivalries, Nintendo desperately needed a hit that could prove the Super NES could output graphics on the same level as the forthcoming 32-bit consoles. They teamed up with Rare to produce Donkey Kong Country, a Mario-style platformer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone would imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of dept. The characters are fluidly animated and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’s armory. Each stage has its own theme, forcing players to swim underwater, navigate through a misty swamp, swing from vines, or transport DK using a set of barrels (cannons) to advance. And let’s not forget the mine cart stages where you ride on rails and use your quick reflexes to successfully reach the end. Every level has little nooks and crannies too, hiding secret areas and passageways that lead to bonus games where you can earn bananas and balloons, which you can trade in for additional lives. And in Donkey Kong Country, you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths. Donkey Kong can dispatch larger enemies with his giant fists, while Diddy can jump a little higher than his bulky cousin. It isn’t the most original platforming feature, but it works. The two heroes can also rely on various animal friends to help guide them through their adventure. Predating Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island, Diddy and DK can also ride on the backs of Rambi the Rhino, Winky the Frog, Enguarde the Swordfish and more!

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country’s visuals were spectacular with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, detailed backgrounds, and a lush jungle setting, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listener’s over. Practically every piece on the soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a staple of Rare’s games – from its upbeat tropical introduction to the unforgettable climax which secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo’s most memorable boss fights. The result is an apt accompaniment to the colorful characters, tropical landscape, and tomfoolery that proceeds.

What really stands out the most about Donkey Kong Country after all of these years is just how challenging this game is.

But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and with a lot of patience. Right from the start, you’re in for one hell of a ride. In fact, some of the hardest levels come early on. There are constant pitfalls and Donkey Kong can only take a single hit before he loses a life. If your companion Diddy is following you he will take over but then if he takes a single hit you lose a life and it’s back to the start of a level. Needless to say, the game is unforgiving and requires quick reflexes and precise pattern memorization to continue. This game requires so much fine precision that it will definitely appeal to hardcore platforming veterans looking for a challenge and those that do are in for one hundred eighty minutes of mesmerization, astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The only real downfall of Donkey Kong Country is the boss battles. Yes, Donkey Kong Country gave us some memorable villains such as Dumb Drum (a giant Oil Drum that spawns enemies after it hits the floor), and The Kremling King (who is responsible for stealing Donkey Kong’s Banana Hoard), but these enemies have very basic attack patterns and far too easy to defeat.

It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

Donkey Kong Country

Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the defining platformers for the SNES. The game looks great and sounds great and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero and it paid off in spades. It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

The beauty of the original is that there’s more to it than the oversized gorilla. Donkey Kong Country is truly amazing!

– Ricky D

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