Wednesday 25 November 2015

Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D#2
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1986

Donkey Kong Jr. Math is an education game that was first released on the Famicom in 1983.

Calculate A (beginner) and Calculate B (expert) task you with manoeuvring between vines to work out a maths problem; each vine has three sets of single digits scattered from top to bottom and you simply have to decipher how to reach the game's desired figure by using the numbers, as well as the multiply, subtract, add and divide signs at the bottom. The controls work okay but I don't like that you can't continually press a direction to keep moving between vines like in Donkey Kong Jr. (1986, NES); instead you have to manually press the d-pad for each move which is cumbersome. The action is incredibly dull (basically it's a glorified on-screen calculator) and even the awesome DK Jr. control mechanics can't save it from quickly becoming stale. It's a shame that Nintendo didn't add in some light platforming or enemies to liven up the action and to keep you more engaged. At least the hit boxes are accurate so you'll rarely touch the wrong number accidentally. The other problem with these first two modes is that you can't play solo against the CPU as it's multiplayer only. The final mode is Exercise (single player only) where a choice of ten maths problems are presented to you. After you've picked one the sum is displayed and you simply climb up and down vines to get the right digits you're looking for. There's ten sums per problem and at the expense of points you can push the key to the top of the screen to reveal the answer if it's proving too tough. The problem is that it's so utterly boring and the gameplay so shamefully thin that there's really no reason to keep playing after the first minute.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math is an ill-advised entry in the series and the developers could have done so much more to make the gameplay interesting for kids and families. Avoid this one but if you're looking for a decent education game try The Electric Company: Word Fun! instead (1980, Intellivision).

Random trivia: This was the only game released in North America under the Education Series umbrella.

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