(Game Boy)

Donkey Kong Land (Game Boy)

Game Review

Donkey Kong Land Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Dave Frear

Mobile monkey magic

Donkey Kong Country was a fun and popular platformer for the SNES, but not everyone thought it was great. Some people (possibly Mega Drive owners) said the game was in fact quite poor and any fans were deluded fools drawn to it for reasons other than gameplay – or, as Cranky Kong says, “put a few fancy graphics and some modern music in a game, and kids'll buy anything nowadays...”. His comments come in the instruction booklet for Donkey Kong Land, setting up the story as he challenges Kongs Donkey and Diddy to try a similar adventure on an 8-bit system. They agree, and after Cranky has contacted King K. Rool to steel the banana horde again, the duo set out for a new adventure.

As per Cranky's challenge, the aim of the game is to work your way through over 30 levels, collecting bananas and defeating Kremlings. They are split across four worlds, with you having to face a boss at the end of each area. There's a variety of different locations in the game, some of which will seem familiar such as the jungle or underwater stages but there are also new places to visit. Sometimes you'll be running along a pirate ship or jumping across platforms in the clouds, whilst the final world sees you travel to the city for your platforming thrills.

Despite being on less capable hardware, Rare still managed to create a good looking title. Donkey and Diddy resemble their DKC selves – not simply in appearance but animation too. There may not be as many frames or actions as its SNES predecessor but the two apes walk, jump, swim and look around in the same manner – they'll even sit scratching their head if defeated by Krool's minions. The stages match the look and a varied bunch of enemies have made it across, finding different ways to hinder your progress. There are also some new enemies for you to contend with including Hogwash the Flying Pig and Swirlwinds, miniature twisters that whilst fatal from the side can be bounced on top of to clear gaps or reach bananas and other items.

There are a few negatives: there's plenty of detail but the lack of colour means that enemies can blend in with the background, adding challenge where there shouldn't be. There are also moments of graphics flicker but overall there's not much to fault with the visuals. Of course it's a far cry from what the SNES managed – something the rendered tree-top border constantly reminds you of, should you play using a Super Game Boy. SGB players are also treated to “a more varied colour selection” which basically amounts to a few different colour washes throughout the game. At times it appears the colours are based on the location of each level (green for jungle, icy blue for snow...) but it is not always the case.

Controls are responsive and straightforward: A to jump, B to roll and pick up barrels, with a tap of Select to switch between the simian heroes. The unused Kong does not follow you onscreen, instead warping in as the other disappears. It feels very natural jumping across gaps or swinging from vines, whilst figuring out a way to dispatch an upcoming enemy. It's not just careful jumping or a well-aimed barrel that will get you through the levels though, as help is sometimes provided by animal companions Expresso the ostrich and Rambi the rhino.

Aside from Donkey and Diddy there are no other Kongs in the game, a pity as Cranky could have injected some humour. Perhaps he'd feel more at home in an 8-bit title, or maybe he'd survey his monochrome surroundings and laugh at how his titles trump it in some respects “in my day we had colour...” et cetera.

Some levels require precise jumping and will see enemies suddenly appear, providing you with a challenge. Generally the difficulty curve is well judged but occasionally you'll find a tricky level popping up unexpectedly – indeed the second level of the game sees you jumping between slippery slopes and bouncing off the enemies often sees you falling towards a chasm. To make your quest a bit less stressful, extra life balloons can be found scattered throughout the game and additional lives can be acquired by collecting 100 bananas.

Audio-wise, the game features a few sound effects to accompany things like the breaking of barrels or collecting of bananas – the best one however is the springy sound when you bounce off the head of a foe. Special mention must must be made of the catchy music by David Wise and Graeme Norgate which captures the fun and adventure of the game whilst matching the theme of the stages. Though lacking the capabilities of the SNES sound chip, there are still quite a variety of sounds used here in what is some of the best music produced using the original Game Boy hardware.

The game can be saved after any level assuming you've collected the four letters that spell out KONG. As you work through the game these letters get harder to find, but you can replay an earlier level to save if you are having trouble locating them on your current one. Your save file gives a percentage score, indicating how much of the game you've cleared. Getting to the end of the game and defeating King Krool will keep you entertained for a while, but the real challenge is trying to locate all the bonus areas within the levels to push up that score to 100%. Even when you have found everything it's still fun to replay levels – although you'll have to make your way there on foot as neither Funky Kong or his Funky Flights service feature in the game.


Going by the instruction book story, the idea that this game would prove Donkey Kong Country was more than just a pretty face is slightly flawed. Whilst visually it can't come close to the SNES title, by Game Boy standards these are definitely “fancy graphics”, but that doesn't really matter as fans can rejoice in what is basically an extra 34 levels of DKC. Tight controls and a variety of locations and enemies make for an enjoyable platformer, and add in the challenge of finding everything and Donkey Kong Land is a fun game that will keep players occupied for some time.

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User Comments (41)



b_willers said:

I loved this game at the time but I played it again a few years ago and found it completely unplayable on my original Game Boy screen. How I could ever have seen where I was going I don't know. I have a question though, this a very different game to Donkey Kong Country however I never played DK Land 2 and 3. Are these ports of the SNES Country games or do they just share similar artwork on the packaging?



Raylax said:

Prerendered graphics always put me off a game, and even with the 8/10 score here, I just can't get past "good god that's fugly."
I'll definitely be picking up DKC Returns over Christmas, but the originals don't hold any appeal for me.
Good review, though~



TheChosen said:

There's one thing I've always wondered about Donkey Kong Land....

...flying pigs? Really?

I bet there's a story behind it.



Stuffgamer1 said:

This was the very first Game Boy game I ever owned, given to me alongside the system on my sixth birthday in 1995. It was WAAAAAAAAAAY too hard for me then. I'm sure it'd be much easier now...VC release on 3DS next year, please!

@b_willers: I never spent much time with DKL 3, but I did have 2. It was definitely more similar to DKC 2 than DKL 1 is to DKC 1, but it was still its own game with its own level design, as I recall. It'd be worth getting all three downloaded on 3DS if the opportunity arises.



b_willers said:

Oh yeah and the save system sucks! Otherwise a great game though, loved the water stages as backgrounds were clear and the music was ace!



Mockingbird said:

The coolest thing is that the cartridge was yellow! Plus, all the levels were new, unlike DKL 2.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@b_willers: Well, the sequels DID at least fix the terrible save system, bringing all the Kongs from the console games including Wrinkly.



b_willers said:

@Stuffgamer1: Thanks, I was always a huge Rare fan and often wondered what DKL 2 and 3 were like. I seem to recall the UK official Nintendo magazine calling them direct ports which put me off. I will definitely be interested if these come to the 3DS.



Odnetnin said:

This makes me wish I still had one of the sequels I used to enjoy. Or perhaps that was the DKC Game Boy port!



skywake said:

The musics in the cloud levels are some of the best musics in any game ever. That's probably the nostalgia talking though, this was the first game I owned and played on my Gameboy. I used to be able to clear the game in one sitting but... I can't anymore and the battery is dead.

If this hits the 3DS VC I'll be the first in line to buy it!



Hokori said:

ahhh yes one of my 1st 2 games ive played, also ironicly I was a Genesis owner and loved this and Sonic, Im ganna get it day one when it hits 3DS



CanisWolfred said:

Graphically, it looks very painful to the eyes, I'll tell ya that. Looking at it makes me wish I had the GBC copy of DKC again.:P



Stuffgamer1 said:

@b_willers: They are far more similar to their console counterparts, as I said, and I could see where a misinformed person would think they were straight ports, but they definitely aren't.



DiggerandIndy said:

“Put a few fancy graphics and some modern music in a game, and kids'll buy anything nowadays...”
Boy, is Cranky right!



taffy said:

If memory serves me correct there was a bug on this so you could never get 100%



DrCruse said:

The original Donkey Kong Land (from my experience) has broken control which is a pity, because it's sequels, DK Land 2 and 3, are perfect and are probably the greatest portable games of all time.



sfog said:

"The original Donkey Kong Land (from my experience) has broken control which is a pity, because it's sequels, DK Land 2 and 3, are perfect and are probably the greatest portable games of all time."

I wouldn't call them broken, but DKL2 and 3 and the GBC port of Country are all much more refined. DKL1 particularly has some collision detection issues and wonky physics after jumping on enemies that were fixed in the sequels.



DarkEdi said:

I liked a lot this game. In mexican Club Nintendo magazine i send my record time with 100% in 1hr 06 min or something like that. That was a challenge in the magazine.



WiiLovePeace said:

My lord... This game was the BEST back in the day. When i was in primary school, we'd all talk about how far we got into the game & discuss secret paths, how many letters we got etc. A truly magical piece of nostalgia right there. But I played it again a few months ago think it was going to be awesome... :O Holy beep that game is ! It seriously all over any idea of beauty. Eh. I'll just not play it & keep my memories of how awesome it once was :)



KeeperBvK said:

I hated this SO MUCH back in the days. DKC on SNES was nigh perfect, but on this I couldn't make out what is background, what is foreground, what is a platform, what is an enemy or ANYTHING for that matter. This was friggin' unplayable!



StuffyStuff said:

I got this game when I got my Gameboy and loved it. Some of the enemies can be hard to see at times, but this is a very well made game and one of my favorites among my 40+ original GB games.



NintyMan said:

I bought this at a Gamestop a long time ago and played it on my GBA SP because it had backwards capability, and it was pretty hard. I can see how it was big back in its day, but I couldn't go very far in it. This should really be in the 3DS Virtual Handheld though.



Sneaker13 said:

To all the people that about the "ugly graphics". Really, you realise this is a handheld game. I'm currently replaying the SNES original to prepare for Donkey Kong Country Returns and it is still an awesome game.



suburban_sensei said:

I remember playing this CONSTANTLY. Great game, and I agree with Sneaker13, sure it ain't the prettiest thing around, but for the time, it was amazing.



CowLaunch said:

I loved this game, some of the levels (especially the city ones) were really good and some bosses were better than than the DKC ones I reckon. I also liked the save system, gave the game added challenge.

DKL is pretty much its own game as the reviewer suggests, DKL2 is virtually a port of DKC2, and DKL3 is kind of halfway between the two.

Even if you want a portable version of DKC2 you might as well get the GBA port or wait for a possible download rather than get DKL2.



Vinsanity said:

I thought about this just last week, thanks to DKC Returns. I was kinda hoping that Nintendo would see fit to bring THIS franchise back as well, on DS nowadays. New Super Mario Bros. appeared on both systems - might as well. Also, the Metroid Prime games showed up in a DS entry thanks to NST. I'm certain that NST could do a new, awesome Donkey Kong Land DS in association with Retro...



Alphack3r said:

Yeah, it seems like some games regardless of graphics or whatever never really age...actually, most Nintendo games that are worth anything in the first place end up that way! lol



Knux said:

I really want to see this on the 3DS's VC, because I cannot save on my cartridge due to a dead battery in said cartridge.

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