Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns

One of the troubles with technological art forms is that the technology sometimes forces the shape of the art.  Alfred Hitchcock used to complain about this in the movies, even though he was always one of the first to experiment with whatever  new technology came along.  He wasn’t convinced that sound improved film (note Vertigo that must go for at least half an hour without a line of dialogue) and didn’t like color much (note Psycho, which he designed in imitation of the critically praised Diabolique) but he knew the audience wouldn’t show up for something that didn’t employ the very latest machinery.  (He even made Dial M for Murder in 3D.)

So it sometimes is with video games.  While I’m delighted with games that use the latest visual and gaming techniques, I can’t help regretting that certain old-style games don’t get made anymore simply because they’re old-style.  Which is why I’m always thrilled when someone comes up with a platformer that not only works but that doesn’t try to push the technological envelope.  Braid was a great example.

So’s Donkey Kong Country Returns.  Fun, funny, challenging, different, clever – and yet in everything but the complexity of the graphics, it could’ve been made twenty years ago.  That’s not a criticism.  I wouldn’t want all my games to be throwbacks, but I don’t see why we have to toss the old stuff just cause new stuff comes along.

Anyway, this is for Wii and it’s cool beans, highly recommended for all ages.

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  • Brian Hines

    The only problem I had with this game was the difficulty. Not the level of difficulty per se (It is very hard but I also like a difficult game), but the fact that the difficulty is provided not from the level design but more about how DK and Diddy move. There were times that they simply did not move at all how they moved at other parts of the game.

    As for the old school platforming, that’s why New Super Mario Bros Wii was so wonderful. There is also a couple WiiWare games that are really great too: Fluidity where you move around as a blob of water and then there is And Yet It Moves where you move a more standard character. The complexity of these platformers is that you rotate the screen by tilting the Wii remote. Both are really great games.

  • Sam

    AK, I would love your take on Beyond Good and Evil, a great game from a few years back that has been re-released with updated graphics. Its almost like a Sci-Fi Legend of Zelda.

    PS. Enjoyed your latest appearance on Ricochet Podcast

  • Duane Phillips

    I think it’s true that sometimes limitations come to be an essential part of any art form. The transition to talkies must have seemed superfluous to some people who treasured the total media experience of images, text, and live music. The Noir films of mid-century would not have seemed quite as dark if they had been filmed in super-saturated Technicolor with everybody wearing inch-deep Pancake. The first generation of digital movies had their own endearing quirks- in Blackhawk Down every action sequence seemed strobe-lit, and more frenetic because of it.
    As far as games go, I’m a big fan of the first two Fallouts. The story line had too much ha-ha-weren’t-people-in-the-1950′s-idiots smartassery, but the environment was a lot of fun and I don’t think it’s been hugely improved in it’s latest FPS version.