Originally I had planned to review the original arcade machine, but realizing I didn’t have one I went for the next best thing (that I already had, what? retro games are expensive so best I review ones I already have). So I remembered a while back I downloaded the Game Boy game based on the original Donkey Kong.
The game opens up just like the arcade machine: Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline (before she became mayor of New Donk city) and Mario has to get through the 4 levels to save her. Starting out with a condensed version of the original barrel jumping level, you may find Mario (and yes he was called Mario by this point) has some abilities he didn’t have in the original, namely somersaults and backflips which allow him to jump higher.
So you get to the end of the game where you cause Donkey Kong to fall down onto some girders…. except unlike the arcade machine he gets back up and grabs Pauline and the real game begins now. Yes just when the arcade game recreation ends, suddenly a much larger game is revealed. You now chase the ape through several different worlds consisting of groups of 4 levels in each world, some times a world has just 2 groups of 4 levels, some times more. The first three levels have much more of a puzzle element to them than the simple get to the end of the stage or the arcade. In these levels you have to find the key and bring it to a locked door, it may sound simple but the levels are full of gimmicks like switches, ladders and platforms you make appear ( one particular level in the Egypt area pisses me off) so they often require a fair bit of forward planning, more so if you want to grab the 3 other items on the map to get to a bonus stage for extra lives.
After the 3 puzzle levels you confront DK. If it’s not the one at the end of the world then the objective is just to get to him, after which he will look at you angrily and grab Pauline. If however it’s the one at the end of the world the objective is to throw 3 objects at him (usually barrels) to pass that stage then it’s onto the next world.
If you know what you are doing, you can probably complete the game in around 2 hours or more (think I saw a speed runner doing it in just over an hour but then I’m not a speed runner… except for Metroid games for reasons obvious to Metroid fans). As mentioned some of the levels I found… very frustrating, one of the ship ones though… what I first thought was a speed run turned out to be something obvious I just hadn’t thought of ( I proceeded to kick myself for that one).
With its mix of platforming and puzzles in a style reminiscent of the original arcade game, Donkey Kong on the Game Boy is a surprising treat though you will probably start getting frustrated on certain levels.