Game Review

Donkey Kong Jr. Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Defeat the villainous Mario!

Donkey Kong Jr. was the inevitable sequel to the massively popular arcade smash Donkey Kong. Surprisingly — and rewardingly — it inverted the formula, casting Mario as the villain to be defeated, and Donkey Kong's diaper-clad son as the avenging hero. Is there any wonder Nintendo released this one just in time for Father's Day?

For the few out there who haven't played it already, it might be a good idea to read our Donkey Kong Jr. Virtual Console review. After all, it's the same game. The eShop version has the benefit of being portable, but at the time of writing any enhanced features — such as restore points — have not been added to this particular port. This is presumably an error on Nintendo's end, but we can't say for sure.

Regardless, Donkey Kong Jr. is a fun game and a clever concept, but it quickly becomes repetitive. There are only four stages in the game, and they loop endlessly until you lose all of your lives. As in its predecessor, though, these stages are unique and interesting. Unlike its predecessor, however, this game doesn't have the same timeless appeal and addictiveness.

The first stage is rather straightforward, and it's a chance to master the innovative climbing mechanism: holding two vines makes climbing up faster, but climbing down slower. Holding one vine makes climbing up slower, but climbing down faster. It's a much appreciated quirk in an otherwise dull game.

The second stage is a bit more interesting, what with its moving platforms, springs, and egg-dropping enemies, and it's here that players are most likely to find themselves truly challenged. The third stage is a series of long platforms being patrolled by sparks, and the fourth stage finds Jr. using keys to free his father. Complete that task and you'll find yourself back at stage one, with slightly faster enemies.

There are two game modes, but they're largely identical, with Game B featuring faster and more intelligent enemies. Donkey Kong Jr. certainly looks great and it's full of fun sounds and animations, but it's a rather slight experience, and it doesn't have anywhere near the staying power of the original. While it's certainly fun for a few competitive sessions, it's an experience that isn't worth having too frequently.

The fact that it's on a portable console certainly does work in its favour, but when you take a look at how many truly great games — such as, well, Donkey Kong — are already in the eShop, offering longer experiences and more satisfying gameplay at a lower cost, it's pretty hard to justify this one as a recommendation.

Fans of Donkey Kong Jr. certainly do exist, and they will no doubt be grateful to have their favourite game on the go. Others, however, might do well to occupy themselves with one of the many alternatives.


Donkey Kong Jr. is well suited to quick bursts of gaming, but extended sessions can turn tedious quickly. Having it on the go can be nice, but Nintendo's pricing really backfires here, with much better games already available on the eShop for less money. It's sure to have its defenders, but this game is by no means an essential purchase.

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User Comments (49)



6ch6ris6 said:

bought it on the wii. think it was my first VC game there

relly not that great.
but i have it as an ambassador game on my 3ds which is quite nice



47drift said:

I find it a little unfair to rate a game with the game's price being a factor. I mean, unless the game was selling itself like that, like those HD collections or the Orange Box or anything similar. Everything else about this review is fair and agreeable, but the price could have been left out of it. It's all fair though, and this was as well written a review as always. Still one of my favorite games to play every now and then!



FonistofCruxis said:

I'd give it a 6/10 but then again, I did get it for free from the ambassador program so my score might be a bit different if I had to pay for it.



TNLGUY said:

I remember it from my youth. Small amount of content makes 5 bucks a bit steep, but not a bad game. Also, restore points are totally unnecessary in a four level, score-based game, I'm assuming that's why they were left out.



Ras said:

@Knuckles Yes, it was made by Shiggy. I love the game, and definitely play it far more than the original. Back then, having a reasonably accurate port on the Coleco (no Mario's Hideout) was amazing.



komicturtle said:

I first played this on eReader though technically, in Game and Watch Gallery 3. Decent game... Stupid physics and a small fall busts his... Ok, it hurts him bad and he dies.



Hokori said:

I've been playing this one more in the past week and am enjoying trying to get a good high score



TheConsiglio said:

I think it's because of father's day they did this. Whats not cooler than looping through 4 levels to save your father (an ape) than to play the game with you and your father together for a 1.00 cheaper.



RevolverLink said:

Yeah, I wouldn't be able to, in good conscience, recommend this game over Donkey Kong '94 either. That game is all of the best parts of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., turned up to eleven.

Plus, Mario can do handstands and backflips!



C-Olimar said:

I presume there is no wireless multiplayer in this... I thought we were getting that for NES VC games?



Philip_J_Reed said:

@C-Olimar: You presume correctly. Super Mario Bros. didn't get it either, though both that game and this one alternate turns, so it wouldn't have all that helpful.



paburrows said:

I have to disagree with this article, I grew up on these type of games and sure they repeated themselves, but that was the point! The object wasn't exploring different areas and upgrades, it was to see how far you could get and wqho could get the highest score. I loved Donkey Kong, but felt that this was actually the best of the three games.



Tasuki said:

I remember playing this game back in the days of the NES era now I can only play through it once and thats it for me. I wish Nintendo would make a enhanced version of DK JR like they did with DK 94.



Lobster said:

Sadly, nothing can recreate the feel of pumping quarters into the arcade version at the skating rink, my friend and I skating around the snack room and drinking so many slushies we were on a constant sugar high. Though even then we preferred Frogger and Dig Dug.



bro2dragons said:

It's about 3 points too many. Your "death from falling" height is WAY too short, as is the distance you can jump, and the movement speed is downright sluggish. It's as close to unplayable as anything Nintendo has ever produced.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math is a better game. By a full 2 points.



Morpheel said:

Eh, to me it will always be "that weird old game I got for free for buying the 3DS early".



ajcismo said:

5 or 6/10 depending on personal nostalgia. Holds up surprisingly well for being 30 years old.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Fair review.
If i didn't get it as an Ambassador game i would have only downloaded it for 1€. Maybe.
It was fun for a few minutes though and games like this would really profit from online / friend leaderboards and achievements. But even then it would be hard to justify spending any more than 2€ imo.



Bass_X0 said:

Why is this a point higher than the same game on the Wii VC?http://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2006/12/donkey_kong_jr_virtual_console

I believe NintendoLife should give scores as "one site, one opinion". If it was 4/10 when it was released on the Wii VC then it should still be 4/10 now. It shouldn't matter if Damien and Philip have differing opinions, they both still write reviews for the same website. If they were writing for seperate websites then fine, no problem.

Also, why is the Game Overview for the Wii VC version, not the 3DS version? Where can I see the 3DS version on the "Out Now" lists?



Philip_J_Reed said:

Why is this a point higher than the same game on the Wii VC?

As explained in the review, it has the benefit of being a portable experience, which, we feel, suits the game better.



Lyndexer said:

@Chicken_Brutus Only because people are picky with the games they play and pay for. I feel this game is great on 3DS. I can see why so many games are rated low on other gaming sites, magazines, etc...



MegaAdam said:

Did they ever do the update for this with restore points and whatnot? I know they hadn't at the time of the review. Nintendo Life, can you guys reach out to Nintendo and see what they have to say?



DoodleJohn said:

If you're an Ambassador, this isn't too bad really. I wouldn't give it a 5, but I wouldn't say it's super good either.
I'd say hope for the best and hope that Ninty lowers the price before buying.



ATDI said:

Of all the ambassador games they could put up on VC...
I'm an ambassador and I only played this game once.



FluttershyGuy said:

Donkey Kong Jr. holds a special place in my heart. It was the first Nintendo game I ever played, circa 1984 (had to be Spring or Summer, as I remember it storming that night) at a Colorado Springs, Colorado arcade called "Nickels & Dimes!" The first in a very, very long line of Nintendo games I'd play over the next 28 years, with many more to come!



Bass_X0 said:

Yeah, I like it as an Ambassador. Its a fun pick up and play game. But I wouldn't want to pay £4.50 for it. It is a game from 1983 after all.



RevolverLink said:

@ZIMM - First time available on the go? How could anyone forget about the port that was available for the (goofy and bulky) Nintendo e-Reader!?

Oh wait, only a couple dozen people even remember the e-Reader existed.



Urbanhispanic said:

I actually had owned this on the NES and it was fun in the beginning just to see who can get the high score. Afterwards, it got boring pretty quick. Nintendo should have released this at a cheaper price. The score, however, is fair to me.



CanisWolfred said:

I believe NintendoLife should give scores as "one site, one opinion"

That is a horrible, horrible idea. Seriously, people's opinions change over time, not every game is played by the same reviewer, not every version is the same, and the circumstances aren't always the same. They need to be dynamic, instead of setting everything in stone.



UnseatingKDawg said:

I didn't play this until I got it for free as an Ambassador. I will say this: it does not hold a candle to the original, it is one of the titles I question as to why we Ambassadors got it, and I wonder why it hasn't been updated like Super Mario Bros. and Metroid.



tiger443 said:

just to let you guys know that the update for donkey kong jr had just arrived on nintendo eshop in the u.s.

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