(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 / Genesis 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 came in the original instruction booklet to Donkey Kong Land, setting up the story as he challenges Donkey Kong and Diddy to try a similar adventure on an 8-bit system. They agree, and after Cranky has contacted King K. Rool to steal 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're 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 out of an ape's comfort zone 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 K. Rool'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. Originally released as a “Super Game Boy Game Pak”, Donkey Kong Land treated SGB players to a fancy rendered tree-top border and “a more varied colour selection” when played on their SNES — like all such games on the Virtual Console, however, the SGB enhancements are absent from this release. It should be noted, however, that the more colourful palette of the original cartridge basically amounted to a few different colour washes throughout the game, sometimes based on the location of each level (such as green for the jungle or icy blue for snow levels). 3DS owners hoping for a bit of colour variety can — as always — choose between black and white or green and black.

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; this 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 it lacked the capabilities of the SNES sound chip, there are still quite a variety of sounds used here in what was some of the best music produced for 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. Alternatively you could use that standard Virtual Console feature: the nifty restore point. 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 K. Rool 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.

Conclusion

Going by that instruction book story, the idea that this game would prove Donkey Kong Country was more than just a pretty face is demonstrated rather nicely. Whilst visually it can't come close to the SNES title, by Game Boy standards these are definitely “fancy graphics”, and 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. 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 (75)

b_willers

#1

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?

RaylaxStaff

#2

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

#3

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

#4

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

#5

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

#6

Mockingbird said:

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

Stuffgamer1

#7

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

#8

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

#9

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

#10

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

#11

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

#13

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

#14

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

#18

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

#20

taffy said:

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

DrCruse

#23

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

#25

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

#26

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

#27

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

#29

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

#30

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

#31

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

#32

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

#33

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

#36

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

#37

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

#40

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

#41

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.

Spectra_Twilight

#43

Spectra_Twilight said:

Final sentence of the first paragraph, you used the word "steel", rather than "steal".

And no, I don't have anything else to say other than that.

NintyMan

#45

NintyMan said:

Since three years ago, I had gotten this game again to play after returning it the first time, and I had a much easier time with it. The physics, while definitely tricky, didn't bother me the more I played. The music is fantastic, but that's to be expected when David Wise is allowed to compose 8-bit music.

Even though I still have the cart, I would gladly buy this game again for my 3DS. I've been waiting for it to come to 3DS VC since the 3DS' launch.

Pianomanfreak

#46

Pianomanfreak said:

I always like the music in Donkey Kong Land especially the bonus room music which it turns out to be the world theme music.

ToxieDogg

#49

ToxieDogg said:

@b_willers Donkey Kong Land 2 shares the exact same overworld map and even stage names with the SNES game, but all of the stage designs are brand new....of the 3 games though, it feels like the one most closely related to the SNES version. Donkey Kong Land 3's overworld map has a lot of similarities but is not quite the same as DKC 3 and has a few unique features of it's own like the Time Attack option that unlocks after beating the game. It's well worth playing them both at any rate as they're extensions rather than direct copies of the SNES DKC games.

AK-1138

#51

AK-1138 said:

Completely its own game in so many ways... Heck, I may even prefer it to DKC! The other DK Land games are great too, but pale in comparison to their 16-bit sires.

Darknyht

#52

Darknyht said:

Owned this game as a kid, and it certainly was easier to play on the Super Game Boy Player. Just not having cramped controls or LCD screen blur helped immensely. I never did manage to defeat the last boss however.

Whopper744

#53

Whopper744 said:

Would love to try this on a 3DSXL screen now. Only 8 more months until it makes it in NA!! Maybe..

invictus4000

#54

invictus4000 said:

This game blew my mind back in the day. I remember playing this on long road trips with my giant light/magnifying glass attachment on my Gameboy brick. Man...look how far we have come. Lol.
Great memories with this one but I think I can live without playing it again.

DiscoDriver43

#56

DiscoDriver43 said:

This game really isn't that great to be honest. I'd give it a 6/10. I found the saving to be confusing and weird and the physics and hit-detection to be wonky at times. Plus, there is somewhat unfair moments of me getting hit by an enemy that was blended into the background. And personally, i think the pre-rendered graphics are kind of ugly on a gameboy.

b_willers

#57

b_willers said:

@ToxieDogg Hey thanks, I will indeed be getting Land 2 and 3. Apparently Japan got the GB Color version of DK Land 3, so hopefully we get the same.

MeWario

#58

MeWario said:

I played all 3 Donkey Kong Lands to death as a kid. They're dam good :) The complete reverse of the home console ones though - Land 3 is the best.

Yai

#59

Yai said:

This was my first ever Gameboy game! I have the Banana Edition Gameboy which came with this game. Played it to death until eventually getting 100%.

I was rather small at the time so it kept me entertained for months. Sadly it breaks on GBA upwards, weird lines appear all over the enemies and Kongs. :c

Works great on the original Gameboy and Gameboy colour though.

unrandomsam

#60

unrandomsam said:

DKC for the SNES in PAL region was liked so much because it was actually made properly for PAL.

Dpishere

#61

Dpishere said:

I will definitely be picking this up at some point as I am a huge fan of the Donkey Kong games and want to be able to play them all! I am wanting Donkey Kong Country 3 on Wii U first though!

BearClaus

#62

BearClaus said:

Great soundtrack, but not a great game. More 6/10 than 8/10. The controls are pretty awkward and the level design isn't excellent, but the game may be worth checking out for its strangeness and aforementioned soundtrack.

MetalGear_Yoshi

#64

MetalGear_Yoshi said:

Had this as a kid so there's a huge nostalgia factor in my impression of the game. That said, if you love the DKC games I'm sure you'll get some fun from DKL and enjoy it despite its foibles, if you don't like DKC then this won't change your mind, also, shame on you for not loving DKC! ;)

In regards to the issues of enemies not reading well I would suggest you change the screen option to the green/black setting. Everything pops more and becomes much easier to see.

WindWakerLink

#66

WindWakerLink said:

I have very fond memories on this game and cant wait until it comes out over here in the states. This game was 1 of the games I wanted to come out when the eshop was 1st introduced WAY BACK when! It's weird that it took this long to come out or whatever.

My favorite tunes from DKL were:
-Boss Theme
-Temple theme [World 2; Stage 1]
-Cave theme [World 3; Stage 1]
-World 3; Stage 2
-World 4; stages 1 & 2

I remember dying a lot at the 1st Boss because due to timing issues; the World 3 Boss was tricky...and the final boss fight...."That was something!" That's all I can say without spoiling.

Beau_Skunk

#68

Beau_Skunk said:

@Raylax
That's a shame, that's kinda like saying you'd refuse to play SMB3, (one of the best Mario games most gamers feel) and only play the NewSMB games, just 'cause they have better graphics. I don't see what's so bad about pre-rendered graphics, as for 2D standards, the animations, and character designs look just as good as any modern polygon game.

I felt in some ways the original DKC/DKL games had some things better then the DKC Returns ones. The physics felt a bit smoother to, and felt like you had more freedom of movement with your roll-jump then the newer games. I also prefered how roll-attacking enemies allowed you to move faster, unlike the newer ones. Nothing against them, as they're still good, but honestly, I prefer the older Rare DKC games.

Regardless of the watered-down graphics, I think the DKL games looked pretty good on the Gameboy, and should be easier to play on the 3DS without the blurring problems, and such.

NintyMan

#69

NintyMan said:

Of course DKL's visuals don't look so great today, but I imagine back in the day it blew minds seeing those polygonal graphics on a simple monochrome Game Boy.

KeeperBvK

#72

KeeperBvK said:

@NintyMan Not really. It hardly looks like polygons, and I remember thinking "Wow, this is ugly and hard to watch compared to other GB games" back then. Might be better on a 3DS screen, but on a classic GB screen this looks horrible.

TanookiToad64

#74

TanookiToad64 said:

This game is awesome! I don't care what anyone says this game was very magical and one of my favorite Game Boy games from my childhood period. The levels and the music are all very good and they play very nicely on the Game Boy. It also has a lot more replay value than you might think in trying to achieve 100% completion! It also plays very well on the Super Game Boy and feels a lot like the SNES titles when played on that adapter. I have played and own all three from the Donkey Kong Land trilogy and I'll say that this game is definitely a special one!

Alucard83

#75

Alucard83 said:

I had this game. But i kinda forgot how it worked so not that good as snes version. nuff said

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