Donkey Kong Land 2 is Ridiculous – IMPLANTgames

You know what I like about Donkey Kong Land 2? The protagonists move along the ropes faster In the first game, the characters chugged along In the sequel, they zip along, effortlessly gliding from rope to rope It is a little change for sure, but in some ways it is a metaphor for the entire game Donkey Kong Land 2 could have just reused the first engine, slapped some new sprites and tiles into the game, and called it a day But that is not what Rare did They learned what worked in DKL, scrapped what didn’t work, and improved nearly every aspect of the title The Donkey Kong Land games could have just been cash grabs to capitalize on the success of the 16-bit franchise But no, Rare treated the handheld-franchise with love, care, and respect Much like the first game, Donkey Kong Land 2 retains the pre-rendered 3D look of the console games, despite the limited 2-bit color depth available with the hardware Thankfully, the sprite and tile work has been massaged to better fit the limitations of the Game Boy Backgrounds are greatly simplified for example, allowing the Kongs and enemies to stand out And when the backgrounds are detailed, they rarely use the darkest shade, again making sure sprites are distinguished While the reduced color count of the tileset certainly diminishes the 3D effect, it is clear the developers identified a weakness of the first game, and set out to improve the player experience This can be seen in the sprite work too Diddy and Dixie have outlines, and feel more hand-drawn than 3D rendered It is a step away from the series’ roots, but again improves the fidelity of the sprites with the reduced resolution of the target platform On the flip side, the team stuck too close to the console game, instead of the target platform, when it comes to saving The first DK Land game was perfect, find the 4 kong letters, and one could save their game This meant a save was available after each and every stage This works great for handheld games, and is great for hard games generally Donkey Kong Land 2… doesn’t follow this philosophy Instead, players can only save after opening up the Kong Kollege of each world For example, in the opening world, Gangplank Galleon, the player has to beat 3 levels before the opportunity to save is presented Granted the first three stages are relatively easy, but this doesn’t make sense for a handheld game This problem is exacerbated in the fourth world, Gloomy Gulch Players will have to beat the boss of world 3, Ghostly Grove, Krazy Koaster and Gusty Glade before being able to save again And these stages are significantly more difficult While I appreciate Rare attempting to replicate the console experience on diminutive hardware, I don’t understand why changes were made in some areas, like background tiles, but not others, like the save system Still, other improvements do exist Bouncing off enemies is less erratic, with the momentum and inertia feeling less jarring and more subtle, giving players a better sense of control and confidence Rolling into enemies will also increase the Kong’s speed, although I never found myself wanting increased speed with the limited visibility Still, between the snappier movement on ropes, and improved control when bouncing off enemies, Donkey Kong Land 2 feels even better than the first game, which was already pretty good Like DKL, DKL2 is similar to it’s console counterpart For many, perhaps even a little too close There are no unique set pieces found, and all are ripped straight from the console game That means the ships, lava, mines, swamp, roller coaster, brambles, hives, ice, and castle set-pieces will be familiar to veterans of the series There are two ways to look at this First would be disappointment as there is nothing new to see here In fact, DKL2 is often called a watered down version of Donkey Kong Country 2, and therefore not worth playing However, the level themes are still great I mean, call me crazy but these set pieces are still wildly imaginative And the fact I’ve seen them before doesn’t change that fact Even better is how each offers unique challenges for players to overcome The pirate themed stages have the aforementioned ropes Movement is limited to a grid, and players will have to pay attention to banana placement to avoid enemies, rather than just jump Lava stages offer balloon rides, forcing players to react quickly to oncoming obstacles as the balloon slowly descends The mines are packed with barrels, offering an alternate play style based on well timed button presses The swamp relies heavily on the idea of enemies as platforms, with the difficulty ramping up around halfway through the adventure The hives have sticky walls and floors, further hampering players with restricted movement The coasters again return, changing the gameplay from platforming, to quick reactions on an auto-scrolling stage As the game nears the home stretch, the player is challenged with Brambles, stages relying heavily on a variety of different barrels, bottomless pits, and spiked ceilings and walls, punishing sloppy play with every mispress

There are haunted forests with disappearing vines, icy worlds with slippery floors and castle areas with small platforms At this point, reviewing the 7th game in the series, would I have appreciated something new visually? Sure But at the same time, what is here, is good As hinted at, it isn’t just the changing visuals which is nice, but rather, how the set-pieces alter the gameplay Each level type asks something new from the player The opening stages are simple Pirate Panic eases players into the action All of the enemies can be rolled into or jumped on There are no bottomless pits, so players shouldn’t die while familiarizing with the jumping mechanics and physics The level’s secrets are reasonably easy to find, with the item placement hinting at their locations After this, Donkey Kong Land 2 pulls no punches Mainbrace Mayhem features the ropes Later, in Chain Link Chamber, Zingers are added to increase the challenge Squawks Shaft has rotating barrels, allowing players to become familiar with them before the devilish bramble stages remove the margin for error These concepts of showing a player something, and expanding upon it later are littered throughout the adventure Swamp levels have cattails, vertical vines to grab onto, and jump off of Similar obstacles are then found in Ghostly Grove, only now the vertical ropes disappear All of these moments are expertly designed Concepts are shown to the player, the player is expected to learn them, as they will be tested on their proficiency later on The player learns how to jump over a zinger in a roller coaster on a bonus stage, where failure doesn’t result in losing a life The timing is specific, and is good practice for when it counts later on Variety isn’t achieved just through unique set pieces and hazards Donkey Kong Land 2 brings back 5 animal buddies from the console game Rambi the Rhino is basically an indestructible beast, able to smash through all enemies and even bounce off spiked enemies like Zingers Enguarde the Swordfish is a welcome addition, as it increases the pacing of water levels Movement is no longer based on tapping the action button, but rather, the Swordfish has full range of movement, and a melee attack Good stuff Rattly the Rattlesnake is an interesting buddy Like Rambi, he can bounce off enemies, but his jumping changes how one tackles a stage He can’t hang off hooks, roll into enemies or float through the air So there is some balance here His extra high jump, including the super jump charged with the select button, is used to reach many bonuses and secrets It forces the player to think about the stages in a different way as the verticality of the character is so different from the Kongs Squawks the Parrot is basically a water level Tap the button to ascend, stop to descend Thankfully, his projectile attack has a generous hit box that makes the levels feel fast and loose, rather than constricted and claustrophobic There is also Quawks This bird cannot fly, or attack, only descend It essentially turns Parrot Chute Panic into an auto scrolling stage where the player must react and maneuver around hazards Lastly, there is Squitter the Spider He is quite vulnerable to all enemies, and cannot touch anything but Klobbers However, he can spit webs which can dispose of enemies from a safe distance More importantly, he can create web platforms to traverse levels in alternate ways I have mixed feelings about this buddy For one, using select to create platforms is awkward, as most players’ muscle memory is to use their left thumb purely for movement Having to move the left thumb over to the select button never felt normal or natural for me, even after a dozen hours of play time Second, certain areas offer little interactivity for the player Just shoot, select, jump, over and over and over Later the player will have to deal with enemies, which is great progression, but the beginning areas are a bit dull Anyway, while some might find the animal buddies gimmicky, I think they add variety to the gameplay, DKL2 is remarkably long for a game boy platformer, and the levels do a reasonable job of being designed around the unique capabilities of each one This is the biggest compliment I can offer to Donkey Kong Land 2 I frequently talk about games wasting player’s time Be it through bad hub world design, repeated level gimmicks, repeated story segments, poor level design, asinine puzzles or even things like limited continues Donkey Kong Land 2 doesn’t waste the players time at all Despite its miniscule size, the developers packed a massive game into a small space, 39 stages and 7 boss fights, and they didn’t resort to repeating stages to achieve this size Speaking of bosses, these are massively improved over the first game I glossed over these in the previous review so let us take a quick look at why Wild Sting Fling has the player jumping on a stingray as it swoops around the screen Seabed Showdown has the player dodging an attack, so it could ricochet back into the boss Mad Mole Holes has the player jumping onto a Mole after it throws an axe None of these require much strategy or dexterity, but none were frustrating or annoying either

King K. Rool was the only one featuring any sort of depth He had three phases, first where he threw his crown, which was then the vulnerability period, a second phase where the player dodged belly flop attacks, and a final phase where the crown throwing happened at a much faster pace Not groundbreaking, but again, hardly offensive and a decent way to cap off the adventure Donkey Kong Land 2 ups the boss game big time Krow requires the player to jump over the boss, wait for the egg to stop moving, then pick it up so it can be used offensively Kleaver requires the player to dodge attacks, use cannon balls to attack the boss, and then race to the other side of the map before the boss strikes It is nice progression, adding a third task for the player to complete in order to be successful The bosses become more suspect from here on out though King Zing is easily the most difficult boss in the game The player uses Squawks to launch projectiles at the boss’s behind With each hit, the player must avoid the boss as it homes in on the player In the second phase, King Zing will leave zingers strewn about the map, further hampering movement The problem boils down to screen crunch The boss is massive, and the player’s visibility doesn’t match the boss’s patterns, or the strategy to defeat it My first playthrough was frustrating as I died repeatedly, getting hit by a fast moving boss I could not see coming After a while, players will figure out the path the boss takes, and should be able to find safe spots on the screen to avoid receiving touch damage But this trial and error boss design is in stark contrast to the rest of the game design, which is challenging, but never cheap This philosophy continues on with Creepy Krow For some inexplicable reason, there is a massive platform at the bottom of the screen serving little purpose than to further restrict the already cramped screen size There is a distinct pattern to follow in both boss phases, but the challenge comes from trial and error, rather than testing the players dexterity To add insult to injury, players will be surprised with dropping eggs between the two phases The entire fight feels unfair, and while I’m thankful the player can save their game before each and every fight, I didn’t feel satisfaction upon victory, just bewilderment King K. Rool on the other hand, might almost be too easy His projectiles don’t move particularly fast, the patterns are simple, and there isn’t much to it It fails to be a test of a player’s skill and it doesn’t function as spectacle either I’ll take this over being unfair or frustrating, but something about it feels underwhelming and anticlimactic Of course, if one searches out all of the bonus rooms, collects all of the DK Coins, and completes The Lost World stages, they will be treated with a final, final boss This represents a vastly superior fight The attacks are more agressive, demanding quick reflexes from the player in order to beat, and the difficulty greatly increased my satisfaction upon completion While far from perfect, the boss encounters are a significant step up over the first DKL The bosses in the first game were mostly forgettable, while the bosses in DKL2 are anything but However, there is room for improvement, a middle ground where the bosses work with the limited hardware, without being overly frustrating I’ll be curious if the designers continue to improve the formula in Donkey Kong Land III Another thing that could use improvement is enemy placement Screen crunch continues to be an issue in the game Platform placement is great, with bananas guiding players to off screen platforms, and the game always giving visual queues on forward progression It is specifically an enemy placement issue, where jumping into an off screen enemy is far more common than it should be This was less annoying in the first title, because saving was available after every level, but in Donkey Kong Land 2, there are stretches where saving isn’t available, which conflicts with the game design Dixie Kong is also somewhat broken too First, I should note the general slipperiness of physics As best as I can tell, there were no changes made to the running momentum Like the first game, I still slid off platforms to my death Perhaps there were changes made to the programming, I can’t be certain, but I didn’t feel these changes in practice Thankfully, Dixie Kong eases the pain With her floating ability, players always have the ability to gently land on a platform, alleviating this problem completely While helpful, this comes with the side effect of nerfing some stages The timing and precision crafted in Ghostly Grove are basically gone, as Dixie can safely hover over the obstacles almost completely Same goes for Bramble Scramble Precision jumps onto meticulously placed platforms… no longer exist Much of the game isn’t impacted by Dixie’s impressive moveset thanks to water levels, coaster levels, vertically focussed stages, and of course, a plethora of animal buddy areas, and thankfully she cannot hover after bouncing off an enemy, but sometimes she definitely feels overpowered and unbalanced Lastly, and this is probably mostly subjective, but the game sometimes follows the console game too closely Don’t get me wrong, this is not a watered down port of the Super Nintendo title

Level layouts are completely unique all across the board Donkey Kong Land 2 is a different game than Donkey Kong Country 2 Though, once and a while I would get the feeling of deja vu Rickety Race returns, requiring players to bounce off enemies to take them out of the race Screech’s Sprint pits Squawks in a race against Screech, mimicking the 16-bit level Slime Climb has the player racing up a sinking ship These are all fine levels, but at times I couldn’t help shake that feeling I had been here before Granted, if this is or was someone’s first entry into the series this would be moot, but I would have appreciated the developers trying something new, rather than rehash gimmicks Speaking of rehashed, is the soundtrack This is a positive The soundtrack in Donkey Kong Land 2 just might be my favorite of any Game Boy title, rivaling the likes of Kirby’s Dream Land and Super Mario Land 2 Disco Train is a fantastic piece with the high energy sounds matching the onscreen roller coaster action perfectly The crunchy drum notes and high pitch percussions give the intro and chorus a ton of depth, and there is something extremely appealing about the upbeat and peppy melody Stickerbush Symphony is also present This is the opposite of Disco Train, with a somber, melancholy vibe Again, the tone of the track matches the feeling of the level, with danger looming all around the player If one ever wondered what an 8-bit version of this iconic track would sound like, wonder no more It remains an amazing composition, with instruments fading in and out with each verse, building and collapsing around the same 5 note hook that relentlessly loops through the entire piece In a Snow-Bound Land is another stellar track giving me rhythm and blues vibes Over top a bed of deep bassy drums are high notes They climb and build, contrasting beautifully with oppressive drumlines Again I can’t help but feel like the track fits the level theme beautifully, especially in Clapper’s Cavern The water damages the Kongs, the bassline, but Clapper can freeze the water, creating temporary reprieve, the high notes However, there is one constant with every track Sound effects frequently cut out a channel of the music Sometimes it isn’t noticeable at all, but other times it cuts out the focus of the particular piece at that particular moment, interrupting the track It can be incredibly distracting, and sometimes pulls me out of the experience This problem isn’t exclusive to DKL2, but I found the issue more prominent here than most other 8-bit titles Some might not be bothered by it, others might find it maddening, but overall I still find the soundtrack to be exceptional Moody, atmospheric, catchy, somber, upbeat and everything in-between, Donkey Kong Land 2 has an incredible range of emotions on display and I found the soundtrack delightful from beginning to end Last but not least, are those Bonus Rooms and DK Coins Per usual, I feel completing Donkey Kong Land 2 to be the best part of the experience and where the level design flexes its muscles The game challenges the player to notice little design queues and explore them for possible bonus rooms The bonus rooms must be completed this time, rather than just found, and challenges players to either just reach the end, defeat all enemies, or collect all of the stars, within a time limit While I’m not a completionist by any stretch, and I find 100%ing a game often reveals more flaws in a title than it reveals good design Rare continually bucked this trend with their Donkey Kong platformers Finding all 47 bonus rooms rewards the player with 47 Kremcoins, necessary to unlock 5 extra stages in The Lost World, each containing a hidden DK Coin, with all 40 being necessary to take 1st place on the Video Game Heroes end screen, and finally earn a 100% on a save file My only real complaint with the completion run is how the 5 stages in the Lost World aren’t that difficult Instead, Slime Climb is likely the most challenging stage in the game Players need to move quickly up the level as the rising water harms the player The stage is packed with dense enemy patterns and technical jumps and is sure to test a player’s mettel on a first play through Sadly, the Lost World never reaches this level of technical challenge, which I find somewhat disappointing Still, as a whole, Donkey Kong Land 2 has a gentle difficulty curve Each world represents a higher challenge than the last, keeping me engaged all the way to the end credits While I wish the bosses were better matched to the hardware, learning their patterns and overcoming adversity was still a rewarding experience And damn are most of these levels excellent There is sufficient variety to support the 5 hour campaign, both visually and mechanically

There are plenty of tough jumps to master, the timing of the barrels remains a great test of pattern recognition The animal buddies greatly enhance the water stages and each feels distinct, changing up the gameplay with new mechanics to learn and level design which matches the new abilities Donkey Kong Land 2 represents a welcome improvement over the first game The controls are smoother The bosses are better The graphics fit the color limitations better There are fewer difficulty spikes And while I wish the save system wasn’t a step backwards, the game is otherwise superior in nearly every way In short, Donkey Kong Land 2 is… ridiculously good