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.