Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DK: King of Swing Review

Sorry, I know I said I'd have this up yesterday, but it took me longer than I thought. Because of that, you get this review before the scheduled 2:30 update!

Developer: Paon
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: February 4, 2005 (EU), May 19, 2005 (JP), September 19, 2005 (NA)

After Rareware and Nintendo split up in the early part of the 2000s, Donkey Kong and his friends starred in a number of experimental and gimmicky games for nearly a decade. The ape went from a party games, to rhythm games, to racing games, to platformers with a twist. It felt like Nintendo didn't know what to do with the franchise, and just tossed it from developer to developer, hoping to find something that would stick. DK: King of Swing was one of the games released during that period of time, and it stands out even among the other Donkey Kong games released in the first decade of the 2000s just for its unique gameplay.

In DK: King of Swing, the Kongs are preparing for the Jungle Jam tournament, and the winner of the tournament would be proclaimed the Jungle Hero. Unfortunately, King K. Rool shows up and steals all the medals that were going to be used in the tournament and says that he's the Jungle Hero. Donkey Kong must set off and retrieve the medals so the Kongs can hold their Jungle Jam tournament.

It's not the most interesting story of all time, and it comes off as extremely childish and cheesey, even for Nintendo standards. The writing isn't the greatest either, which is a disappointment after Rareware's funny and snarky writing they included in their Donkey Kong games. Though, at the very least, it does give you reason to play through the game. But the story isn't what makes DK: King of Swing stand out from the rest of franchise; it's the gameplay and controls.

King of Swing's entire premise revolves around pressing two buttons: the R and L buttons. In this game, you only control Donkey Kong's hands. The right shoulder button controls Donkey Kong's right hand, while the left shoulder button controls Donkey Kong's left hand. You traverse the levels by grabbing onto and swinging from walls of pegs. Holding one of the shoulder buttons will make Donkey Kong hold onto a peg, while letting go of a shoulder button will make him let go of a peg. If you press both shoulder buttons at the same time while on the ground, it causes Donkey Kong to jump. Holding both L and R for a few seconds will cause Donkey Kong to charge up, and when you release the buttons, he'll go flying through the air, damaging anything in his path. It's that simple.

DK: King of Swing's unique gameplay sets it apart from
other games.

The simple yet unique controls allow for some interesting level designs. Instead of having levels that go from left to right or right to left, the levels in DK: King of Swing are mainly vertical, making Donkey Kong travel from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen. There are also a few simple puzzles that revolve the mechanic, like spinning on a valve to open up a new path.

Just like previous Donkey Kong games, you collect bananas as you go through each level. Unlike King of Swing's predecessors, bananas are used to heal and make yourself invincible. Pressing B will remove ten bananas from your total and heal one heart of Donkey Kong's life, while pressing B will remove twenty bananas from your total to make Donkey Kong invincible for a few seconds.

Paon also does a nice job of keeping the levels nice and fresh. With the entire game revolving around a simple gameplay mechanic, the game could have possibly turned repetitive after the first few levels, but the developers added new and interesting twists throughout the game, such as wind throwing you off, underwater levels making the jumps more unpredictable, and ice pegs making Donkey Kong slip as he tried to grab them. The difficulty curve is nice too, with the later levels causing you to get hit and fall off ledges over and over again. However, the levels are also a little on the short side, though. They don't take very long at all to get from beginning to end, even if you tried to collect everything in the level.

The game itself is short too. There are only five worlds in the entire game, and each world only has four levels, bringing the total number of levels to twenty. Luckily, there are extras to collect that extend the length of the game. In each level, there's a crystal coconut and a medal hidden. Collecting all of them unlocks additional content for you to enjoy after the main game is finished, including a few multiplayer modes.

There are medals and crystal coconuts for you to collect.

The multiplayer modes range from races to battles, and they're a fun way to pass the time when you're finished playing the main game. In multiplayer, you have the option of playing as various characters, including Diddy, Dixie, and Funky Kong. Each character has their own pros and cons, and you can even unlock more characters in the multiplayer by playing a mixture of the multiplayer mode and the single player mode. And if you don't have anyone to play with, then you can play the multiplayer games by yourself against the computer.

Although the gameplay itself is memorable, the music sadly isn't. It's pleasant to listen to while you're playing the game, but nothing will stick out and you won't find yourself humming anything along with the game. By the time you turn the game off, every song you heard in the game will be an obscure memory, and you won't be able to recall the beat.

Unlike the music, the graphics of DK: King of Swing are memorable, but they aren't exactly fantastic. Instead of the more realistic style that Donkey Kong had become known for, King of Swing opted for a more cartoony style. It looks nice, but it feels generic and not like Donkey Kong at all. Everything is colorful and vibrant, though, so one can't knock it too much.

Concluding Thoughts
Overall, DK: King of Swing is a good game with unique gameplay that sets it apart from the rest of the games in the Donkey Kong series, but that's about it. The game is short, the story isn't that great, the music isn't memorable, and the art style chosen feels generic and un-Donkey Kong like. The inclusion of a multiplayer mode and extras does boost the game a bit, but it's nothing substantial to make the game better than just good.

Final Score

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