There’s an unusual trend that can be found in SNES games towards the end of the console’s life cycle – platformers starring sidekicks. Yoshi’s Island, the sequel to Super Mario World in which the earlier game’s clan of dinosaur buddies took the limelight away from the Mario brothers, is a fine example but Rare pulled the trick twice. The first sequel to the hit Donkey Kong Country didn’t even include the famous gorilla as a playable character, handing the baton instead to his sidekick Diddy. A year later in this third outing Diddy too ended up shelved while his sidekick and monkey squeeze Dixie took the lead role. We’re still waiting for Donkey Kong Country 4: Kiddy Kong’s Day Out.
DKC3 follows much of the same routine as its two predecessors; you guide monkeys through an increasingly difficult series of side-scrolling levels gathering bananas and other collectibles and occasionally recruiting the aid of a menagerie of other animals. The gameplay is just as precise and fast-paced as ever and Dixie and Kiddy make an excellent team, the former making good use of her ponytail twirl ability to fly across large gaps while the latter dominates larger foes with his bulk. The balance is good but it’s Dixie you’ll want to spend the most time with.
The game branches out from previous entries with its revamped world map and focus bigger focus on collectibles. You must traverse aquatic zones on the map freely using any of Funky’s various aquatic contraptions, each new model giving you access to wider reaches of the world. Meanwhile the game is littered with various new treasures that completionists will get a kick out of hunting down for the ultimate goal of a 105% rating. That said there’s not a huge incentive to put yourself through such trials and the simple, or rather very difficult, task of reaching and beating the final boss is plenty satisfying enough.
There’s a tremendous amount of freshness in the level design that will keep you constantly on your toes. Each level seems to have some new gimmick or quirk to test you with and the ideas are often inspired, such as an automatically scrolling level that sees you climbing through a tree that is being ripped apart by a huge saw and a poisonous water level where the controls for left and right are inversed. Each new concept comes and goes quickly and usually aren’t repeated so players will have to learn new rules all the time which keeps the business of progressing interesting.
And yes, it’s hard. Beating the game without using cheat codes will take a considerable effort especially in some of the later levels but aside from some enemy placements that seem to require clairvoyance in order to avoid them first time, the game is pretty fair. Everything has been considered carefully and the challenge should never feel beyond a competent gamer. You just might have to employ some ninja-like finger-gymnastics. It’s also another stunner to look at with the same detailed sprites and environments that made the first two games such a visual treat. The soundtrack isn’t quite so memorable but is still delivered with high quality.
Design – 8
Gameplay – 8
Graphics – 10
Sound – 8
Content – 8
Another DKC adventure, another cracking platformer with oodles of challenge and personality and tons for the obsessive to achieve.