Sunday 26 June 2016

Donkey Kong (Atari 7800 review)

Developer: International Technology Development Corporation
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1988

Donkey Kong is a multi-screen platform game that was first released in the Arcades in 1981.

Playing as Mario your mission is to save Pauline who's been kidnapped by DK. There's three static screens, each with their own unique features. The first is Barrel Stage where you work your way upwards using ladders while jumping over DK's barrels. Along the way you'll come across a Hammer which gives you temporary invincibility; although you can't climb ladders while holding it you can whack enemies for points! The controls feel spot-on and the much needed precision that's required when climbing ladders is present. The twitch style gameplay is fantastic and what challenges your reactions and keeps the intensity high is never being 100% sure whether a barrel will be thrown diagonally, roll to the end of the ledge, or down a ladder! Next is the Elevator Stage where you use moving platforms to reach the far right side before avoiding the bouncing spring as you climb the final ladder. Fireballs are introduced and you must time your jumps to avoid them. It's definitely the most involved stage from a design perspective (with multiple paths to choose from) and the shifting platforms add another element of danger. The final screen is the Rivet Stage which sees you removing eight rivets while surrounded by fireballs. It's simple, yet fun, and the fact that there's less room to manoeuvre at the top of the screen forces you to strategise in interesting ways. The Conveyor Belt stage from the Arcades is absent but the biggest issue (and where the game really falters) is in the sound department; due to the 7800 using the same sound chip as the 2600 the music and SFX are distorted and off-key!
Despite the sound issues, Donkey Kong on the Atari 7800 is hugely enjoyable, with great controls and gameplay that never gets old. In my opinion though, it doesn't improve on anything found in the NES port (1986) so unless this is your only option you're better off sticking with Nintendo's 8-bit version.
Random trivia: The game was also ported to the Atari 2600 in 1982, although this version is known for being of very poor quality!

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