Saturday 2 June 2018

Donkey Kong (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Imaginative Systems Software
Publisher: Coleco
Released: 1982

Donkey Kong is a platformer that was originally released in the Arcades in 1981.

You control Mario and your mission is to rescue your girlfriend from the clutches of Donkey Kong. The action takes place across two screens (that simply loop once completed), rather than the four featured in the Arcade version. The first tasks you with reaching the top of the screen while climbing ladders and jumping over barrels; there aren't any fireballs here and the barrels don't move diagonally, but everything else is pretty faithful. Graphically, the stage can best be described as functional, with Donkey Kong looking like a tasty Gingerbread Man, and barrels resembling chocolate chip cookies! However, thankfully the gameplay is up to scratch with zero slowdown / flicker and great collision detection, all complimented by responsive controls. The second screen sees you attempting to remove all eight rivets while dodging fireballs; unfortunately, some of the challenge is lost as the fireballs can't move up or down ladders (allowing you to safely camp on a ladder until the coast is clear). It's still somewhat entertaining, but the repetition of the same two screens does grow tiresome after a few rounds. It's a real shame that Coleco refused to use an 6K cartridge and instead tried to fit everything into 4K as it seriously hinders this otherwise fun port. To make things worse, this is perhaps the easiest version of the game I've ever played; there's no difficulty settings either and the challenge only seems to increase marginally as you progress. In fact, most times I lost a life was as a result of 'zoning out' or trying to force Mario into a tricky situation in a lazy attempt to create some drama!

Donkey Kong is an odd version of the Arcade classic due to its lack of screens, but it plays well and is a decent representation of the game. Due to the use of a minuscule 4K cartridge it's not a patch on the superior Colecovision port (also released in 1982), but there's certainly some fun to be had, if only for a brief play session.

Random trivia: In 1983, a sequel called Donkey Kong Junior was released on the Atari 2600.

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