Where Jungle Beat used the drum controls to innovative effect, Barrel Blast uses them as a D-pad replacement in a game where your sole objective is to dodge oncoming threats by moving quickly to the left and right. Cornering is handled for you, leaving you to dodge barrels and baddies, and collect bananas to increase your speed. There are power-ups scattered throughout, like the wooden bazooka and the occasional animal from DKC to ride, but otherwise, that’s your lot. Dodge left, dodge right - just like a Game & Watch game. Waggling away on your imaginary drums makes Barrel Blast frantic, certainly, but the few seconds of fun you’ll get from all the craziness is ultimately down to clunky controls rather than the game’s clever distillation of the essence of karting games.
We can all get behind a big bunch of monkeys, of course - DK leads the gang, along with Diddy (ugh), Cranky and the Kremlins, but where once DK was the lead in technical showcases like Donkey Kong Country, now he’s a cheap Mario substitute, prostituted out to a terminally ugly game. Rare’s character design can’t save the apes from some of the least attractive race tracks ever made by human hands. Whether riding your jetpack low to the ground, up a waterfall or around a volcano, it never looks anything other than flat, plain and empty. Whatever happened to the sumptuous Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash Donkey Kong levels, eh? Turns out they’re still at Nintendo’s HQ, miles away from Paon Corporation and this tripe.
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