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Donkey Kong Review [Gameboy]
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Anyone remember the arcade game Donkey Kong? Remember how cool it was back in the 80s to go in the arcade and play as that guy known as Jump Man? I wonder, what ever happened to that? Oh wait, I know! It became a smash hit and launched the careers of two of the most well known video game icons in the history of video games. One being a large ape named Donkey Kong and the other, formerly known as Jump Man, now goes by the more well known name, Mario. Yes, everyone remembers that arcade game, but do you remember the Gameboy game? Much like Gyruss, this is one of the few ports of a game that completely outshines it’s original counterpart, and that’s the game we will be looking at today.

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The title screen for Donkey Kong on the Gameboy

The Gameboy rendition of Donkey Kong hit the scene back in 1994 and was one of the earliest Gameboy games to work with the Super Gameboy periferal which hooked up to the SNES and was used to give some Gameboy games color. Of course you could also play this game in the traditional black and white/putrid green Gameboy as well.

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Play the original levels of the arcade classic.

The plot of the game is identical to the original arcade version. Paulina, Mario’s girlfriend, was kidnapped by Donkey Kong and it’s up to Mario to rescue her. Speaking of indentical to the arcade version, the first four levels you play are the same levels that were in the arcade version of the game. These levels are pretty much there to give you an idea of how to control Mario. Controlling Mario is rather easy. Mario can jump by using the A button, however in this version of the game, Mario can perform different types of moves with the A button. If you press down and then the A button you can do a hand stand, which can be used to deflect falling objects that would normally hit and kill Mario, such as barrels. While in a handstand position, if Mario presses A again, he will do a high jump. This high jump is great for getting to ledges above you that would be unreachable with the normal jump. Mario can also do a jumping backflip. To do the backflip, while you are moving in a direction, press the opposite direction and A at the same time. The backflip also jumps higher than the normal jump and also covers more distance than the handstand jump, so more times than not you will be using the backflip to maneuver through levels. It also makes the first four levels much easier. When you beat the arcade levels, it looks as if Paulina and Mario will be reunited, but Donkey Kong simply gets back up, snatches Paulina and runs off signifying the true start to this epic.

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Thought you saved the girl and can go home? Not quite. That's fine though, the thrill is in the hunt.

After the final arcade level, when you see a cutscene of Donkey Kong running with Paulina, these scenes happen after every 4 levels. More times than not, these cutscenes will teach you a mechanic about the game that will suddenly be applied to you throughout the remainder of the game. Also, the game will add up the remaining time of the four levels together which will give you a certain amount of extra lives. For every 100 seconds you get, you get an extra life, also, whatever is left over also adds to your life. In the picture above, you can see that my total was 359. That means I scored 3 extra lives for the 300 seconds as well as an extra life for the remaining 59 seconds. This is one of the mechanics that makes the game rather easy because unless you try to lose you really won’t be struggling for extra lives. During these cutscenes if you see your overall score flash that means you set a new record. This adds a whole level of playability to the game because you can keep coming back just to beat your previous record.

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The map will tell you where you are as well as the location of Donkey Kong

After the cutscenes, you will be brought to a map to show you where you are and it will even show you where you are in comparison to where Donkey Kong is. He will always be at a level that is a multiple of 4, for example, level 4, level 8, so on and so forth. On the map screen, after 4 levels you will be given an opportunity to save. While you can save during gameplay, you will only save your score up to that point, not the actual levels completed. It’s kind of useless for people trying to get through the game, but for those who care about their score, it’s a nice feature. The maps obviously represent what kind of levels you will be playing and there are a lot of different level types. The stages include a big city, a forest, a wooden ship, a jungle, a desert, an airplane, a glacer, a rocky valley, and a tower.

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Solve various puzzles to find the key and get to the exit

When you pick a level, you’ll realize that things are not quite as you remember them. Now your objective in each level is to grab a key, which can be grabbed by pressing the B button along with other objects in the game such as levers or barrels, and bring it to a door. You’ll find out rather quickly that this game has some very clever stage design and every one of these puzzles is fun to solve. Some of these fun little puzzles include having to create bridges or ladders to reach various areas or having to pull switches to open gates or create bridges. Much like in the original arcade game there are various enemies that get in your way as well. Some of these enemies can be taken out simply by grabbing them and throwing them into other enemies, or they can be taken out with the Hammer and Super Hammer. The Hammer kills any enemy it hits, even enemies you cannot touch at all such as fireballs, and the Super Hammer allows you to smash through certain bricks. These are just some of the things given to you which are necessary to solve various puzzles and get through traps. There are even level design aspects also taken from Donkey Kong Jr. such as levels that require climbing on vines.

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Play levels similar to those from Donkey Kong Jr.

During normal stages there are some things to grab along the way. A parasol, a purse, and a hat will be sitting in various spots and if you collect them, not only will they increase your score, but you can also play a bonus stage as well. Depending on what kind of time you finish you will play one of two games. If you finish with an even time, you will play a roulette wheel game where you have a chance to earn a certain amount of extra lives. More times than not it will be either 1 or 2 lives, but on occasion you will see an opportunity to win 3 lives. No matter what you see on the wheel though the game automatically guarantees at least 1 extra life. If you do this with an odd time then you will play a slot machine game which. Certain combinations give you certain amounts of lives, for example, anytime you get a Mario, you will automatically get 1 extra life, and for every Mario you get it will be an extra life. If you get three of Donkey Kong, you will get 5 extra lives. Donkey Kong, Mario, and a hat, in that order, will give you a random amount of extra lives. In this bonus stage though you have the chance of obtaining no extra lives, so the risk is higher but so is the reward.

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I've been spinning 'round the wheel of life and I made one more night, yeah I've been spinning 'round the wheel of life.

Every fourth level has you facing off against DK. Every showdown with DK that isn’t a final level of the stage has you face him in a similar fashion to the arcade game. All you need to do is simply make it to the area where Paulina is and you win. As you get further into the game these levels become more tricky, especially once Donkey Kong Jr. shows up to torment you by doing cruel things such as pulling switches to remove bridges or lock switches in rooms, or even throw mushrooms at you that cause you to shrink. Despite some of these cruel things DK Jr. does to you, you can’t help but love playing these levels just to see what kind of mean tricks they pull on you.

You thought Donkey Kong was annoying on his own? Well, Jr. shows up just to torment you.

Whenever you face Donkey Kong in the final level of the stage it’s a barrel chucking fest as you must hit Donkey Kong 3 times with barrels that he throws at you. These fights are generally a good time to use the handstand move as you can deflect barrels with it and have them land right next to you making them easy to grab. Grabbing barrels is easy since all you need to do is stand on top of a barrel and simply press the B button. You need to hit Donkey Kong 3 times with a barrel. Obviously in the beginning of the game it will be rather simple but become more complicated as the game progresses. Soon enough the barrels will no longer stay on screen after Donkey Kong throws them, or after you hit Donkey Kong with a barrel a mushroom that shrinks you will come out of it. Either way the fights with DK never become boring or repetitive because of the different aspects that DK brings with him with each new fight.

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Throw barrels at Donkey Kong to beat him.

Graphically speaking, the game looks pretty good for the Gameboy. There is a lot of nice detail in areas and some cool little effects added to make it seem as if you’re actually progressing in a certain direction. This is more noticeable closer towards the end of the game during the Rocky Valley stages where you can begin to see the Tower get closer into view the further you get in that set of levels. Obviously if you played this on the old black and white/putrid green Gameboy you didn’t have to worry too much about colors, but for the Super Gameboy, while the color pallet wasn’t as wide as it would be had this game been ported to the Gameboy Color it still has a nice range of color added to it making it nice to look at. I also love the soundtrack to this game. A lot of the songs during the levels themselves are cheery, but some levels are also quite atmospheric, such as the song that plays during most of the stages in the desert. Each track of the game feels appropriate for the levels you are playing and nothing feels out of place. I also hold the opinion that the game has the best boss music of any Gameboy game. I’m speaking of the music that plays during the penultimate fight (second to last fight.) While I hate using this term due to how cliche it has become, it is absolutely an epic song.

Donkey Kong (Game Boy) - Showdown At The Tower

This is easily my favorite Gameboy game ever made, and it almost seems like it would have to be given how good this game truly is. It has some of the best level design ever seen for the system and is probably more clever than some of the newer games we see today. The game has some nice detail visually as well as some excellent audio work. The game also has an excellent amount of replayability. I can tell you first hand that every time I beat this game I always make a new save just to keep playing, it’s that good. All in all this is a perfect Gameboy game. It’s great for sitting around, it’s great for on the go, and it’s just all around great. I cannot give this game any less than a perfect 5 star rating. I highly recommend a purchase of this game immediately.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
Donkey Kong Review [Gameboy], 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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