Wednesday 15 July 2020

Donkey Kong 64 (N64 review)

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1999

Donkey Kong 64 is an adventure-platformer and the first title in the series to feature 3D gameplay.

Playing as DK, Diddy, Tiny, Lanky and Chunky, your mission is to stop King K. Rool from destroying Kong Island with his Blast-o-Matic machine. There's nine worlds and opening them involves collecting items such as golden bananas, regular bananas (that only certain Kongs can obtain) and boss keys. The gameplay is undoubtedly a 'collectathon', but it also encourages exploration and hooks you in by keeping items tantalisingly out of reach behind locked doors. You're never far away from obtaining a new item or ability to open them, which provides enough incentive to keep delving into the intriguing worlds. It also offers you a ton of freedom in terms of which task to focus on next, and the ability to switch Kongs gives the game some minor puzzle elements that greatly enhance the experience. The worlds are mostly excellent with huge, intricate areas to explore; standouts include Jungle Japes with its lush greenery and curious caves, and Fungi Forest which introduces a cool day/night cycle that you can alternate between to open up otherwise inaccessible paths. However, Gloomy Galleon is an absolute clunker, as it takes place mostly underwater, making for some slow, tedious gameplay that accentuates the awkward camera controls that plague most early 3D platformers. Also, most of the mini-games don't appear to have been well tested, as they feature shocking collision detection. These criticisms don't ruin the overall experience though, especially when you consider the humongous amount of content on offer; just seeing the credits will take you 20+ hours so there's plenty of value for money.

Donkey Kong 64 is a hugely ambitious title that draws you into its enticing and well thought-out environments by constantly rewarding the player and encouraging them to explore every nook and cranny. It's expertly crafted, but make sure you set aside dozens of hours as beating it requires some serious dedication.

Random trivia: In 2015, the game was re-released on the Wii U Virtual Console.

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