Donkey Kong is one of Nintendo's quintessential characters; pre-dating even the illustrious Mario as a video game lead, the goofy simian was enthralling arcade-goers the world over during the early '80s. However, once the Italian plumber decided to star in his own game, Donkey Kong's appeal started to wane, and after experiencing this lackluster effort it's easy to see why gamers abandoned the franchise in droves, not to return until Rare's sterling SNES reboot in the mid '90s.
In Donkey Kong Jr., the son of the dastardly, damsel stealing Donkey Kong must rescue his father from Mario himself, who here assumes the role of heartless captor rather than toilet-unblocking hero. With only four levels, each of which only occupy a single screen, this game is almost as short as the original Donkey Kong.
The simple adventure's levels are littered with birds, sparks and little choppy-things, all of which have obviously been paid off by Mario to take out Kong's ebullient offspring. Similar to the original, you have the ability to jump over things, but you now you can climb on hanging vines, which you usually have to jump up to grab.
With the small number of levels, this is unquestionably a pretty shallow offering and hard to justify for the expense of 500 points. The same price tag could buy you a number of other, deeper NES hits. But at least this one's a full port — the NES version of the first Donkey Kong cuts out a stage.
After all these years, Donkey Kong Jr.'s levels can still be a slight challenge and hold replayability, and hardcore fans will no doubt argue that it's all about setting as high a score as possible, but it's clear that this is a game more suited for those who enjoyed it at the time of its original release in the arcades. The gameplay is far too basic to recommend this wholeheartedly when there are so many better alternatives on the Virtual Console; after watching King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters you might be inspired to give this a whirl, but it won't keep you entertained for very long.