Donkey Kong (Game Boy)
North American packaging artwork
Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング Donkī Kongu) is a platform game developed in 1994 by Nintendo for the Game Boy handheld video game system, which also contains puzzle elements. Donkey Kong is loosely based on the 1981 arcade game of the same name and its sequel Donkey Kong Jr. The game was known under the working title Donkey Kong '94 before the release.
Like in the original arcade and NES version, the player takes control of Mario and must rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong (who are both given updated character designs for this game). Donkey Kong Jr. makes a guest appearance in the game on some levels, helping his father hinder Mario's progress.
Donkey Kong begins with the four levels found in the original arcade game, in which Mario must reach the top of the level and save Pauline. After these four initial stages are completed, the usual arcade ending begins, but after a few notes of the "victory theme" Donkey Kong revives, grabs Pauline again, and takes off with her, with Mario giving chase. The player is then presented with 97 additional stages spanning nine worlds, for a total of 101 stages with the very last one a fight against a mutated, larger Donkey Kong.
The subsequent levels follow a completely different game mechanic in which the player must guide Mario through each level to locate a key. He must pick it up and carry it to a locked door elsewhere in the stage. Every fourth level is a "battle level" in which the player must either try to reach Pauline, like in the original levels, or defeat Donkey Kong by using his own barrels against him. After the fourth level is cleared, a short cutscene is shown depicting a player's abilities that may be needed for the upcoming levels, or to introduce new kinds of traps. At this point, players are allowed to save their progress, including their time for each level or for the total set. Extra lives can be earned via mini-games, unlocked by collecting three special items in each level, or at the end of each set based on the total unused time from that set.
The game features various gameplay enhancements from the original game. Mario is able to survive falling from certain distances, though will lose a life if he falls further. Mario will also lose a life if he hits an enemy or obstacle, though some instances allow Mario to withstand the hit, such as being hit while carrying an item. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, he is able to pick up and throw items or certain enemies, which he will need to use to carry the key over to the door. If the key is left alone for a certain amount of time, it will return to its original place. At any point, Mario can flip over onto his hands, which allows him to catch falling barrels, and can also perform higher jumps by timing his jumps from flipping, or by performing a jump while changing direction.
The classic mallet item can be thrown upwards and can be used again if Mario catches it, allowing him to bring it to different parts of the stage. There are also several blocks that allow the player to add bridges, ladders and springs anywhere on the screen for a short amount of time. Other abilities Mario can perform include swimming, climbing ropes in a similar fashion to Donkey Kong Jr. and spinning on wires to reach new heights.
During its release, Nelsonic released a promotional LCD game wristwatch based on it. It is based on one of the early levels in the original game. Ten years later, an enhanced version of the Game Boy title for the Game Boy Advance was planned, titled Donkey Kong Plus. In addition to featuring enhanced graphics and backgrounds, the proposed remake also featured a level designer accessible through the GameCube. The game ultimately resurfaced as Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a completely new game with similar gameplay. It was followed by a sequel titled Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis, which featured a level designer. The Game Boy title was re-released as a download for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service on June 15, 2011.
Since its release, Donkey Kong has received positive reception from critics, holding an average score of 84.93% at GameRankings. GamePro described it as both a great killer app for the Super Game Boy and an excellent game in its own right. They particularly praised the nostalgia value of the arcade game levels, the intellectually challenging puzzles of the new levels, and the overall longevity of the game. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it their "Game of the Month" award, similarly hailing it as an excellent killer app for the Super Game Boy and commenting that it "brings back all the best aspects of the arcade, while introducing new concepts, making the game even better."
Nintendo Power praised the game as "challenging and fun" while noting that its "control is styled after the arcade games, not the Super Mario Bros. so it can be confusing at first". The review gave high marks for the games' play control, challenge and theme & fun.
Donkey Kong was awarded Best Game Boy Game of 1994 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. Nintendo Power listed it as the eighth best Game Boy/Game Boy Color video game, praising it as the only true followup to the original Donkey Kong arcade game. Official Nintendo Magazine ranked Donkey Kong 89th on their list of the "100 Greatest Nintendo Games". Game Informer's Ben Reeves called it the sixth best Game Boy game called it a "criminally overlooked ... puzzle masterpiece". AllGame gave the game a four and a half star out of five rating, proclaiming the game as "graphically sound, brilliantly challenging game that requires careful planning and strategy as well as dexterity for the player to succeed." The review also applauded Nintendo for not taking the "easy route by simply cranking out a remake of the original."
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Graphics and Sound: 3.8 / 5, Play Control: 4.1 / 5, Challenge: 4.2/5, Theme and Fun: 4.3/5
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