Donkey Kong Country Returns review

  • Active world full of stuff to see and do
  • Great fan service via music and level design
  • Several standout levels, 2D at its finest
  • Countless unfair deaths
  • Boss battles can be really repetitive
  • Wii waggle is a huge pain

The original DKC marked the first appearance of Diddy and Cranky Kong (among other, more forgettable characters). Both are present in DKC Returns, but in an oddly diminished capacity. Diddy, for instance, is always on DK’s back. When you’re hit, he leaves, and you play as DK solo. Originally you’d actually switch to Diddy, but now it’s all DK. We’re not torn up about it, as Diddy is extremely useful on DK’s back, thanks to his hovering jet pack ability that lets you alter jumps in mid-air for a last-second save. However, this ability is so useful and ultimately crucial to certain areas, that it makes playing as solo DK twice as hard and half as fun.

Above: Who would’ve thought Diddy would be so indispensible?

The other option is to grab a friend and play some co-op, in which case player two handles Diddy directly. The catch is that you’ll really want to use that hover jump, which means Diddy will sit on DK, immobile and only able to fire a peanut gun at enemies. Not how we’d want to spend our two-player time.

Then there’s Cranky, who used to complain about how good games used to be “in his day,” and how today’s newfangled 16-bit machines were no good. He’s still here, still in a rocking chair and still full of complaints, but they’re extremely lame, groan worth jokes that never elicit a laugh.

Above: The living end

On the other hand, Retro did a fantastic job paying homage to the brilliant soundtrack first created by David Wise in 1994. There are tons of retro tracks taken from the first DKC, so if you remember that OST well (and so many of us do), then you’re in for a treat.

Above: A 16-bit classic, brilliantly updated


Is it better than...

New Super Mario Bros Wii? Yes. Even though we’ve spent a good deal of time complaining about the difficulty, we still prefer having a hard time to the training-wheels gameplay of New SMB Wii. Other than a few levels near the end, we never once felt challenged. Furthermore, the vibrant world of DKC Returns completely outclasses the comparatively sparse NSMBW, and at least the bosses of DKCR aren't complete wastes of time.



Kirby’s Epic Yarn? No, though this is kind of a toss-up. Epic Yarn definitely holds your hand (you can’t even die), but the amount of creativity, infectious charm and easygoing gameplay outweighs the lack of a hardcore angle. Conversely, DKCR will hand you your ass and then follow it up with a pain in the ass boss, so which one is "better" is probably dependent on your mood.



Sonic 4: Episode I? Yes, in this reviewer’s eyes. Both are valiant throwbacks to classic ‘90s titles, yet both suffer from misremembering what made their originals such mainstream successes. If I personally had to pick a favorite, it’d be DKCR for having a few fewer cheap deaths and (comparatively) much better boss fights. And even though Sonic 4 isn’t “done,” we can assume Episode II won’t be drastically different. This also depends on your childhood allegiances - did you go Sega or Nintendo?



Just for you, Metacritic!

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a lush, vibrant re-imagining of the DKC franchise, but a barrage of cheap deaths, uneven difficulty and iffy motion controls keep it from matching Retro Studios' previous amazing work with Metroid

More Info

Release date: Nov 21 2010 - Wii (US)
Available Platforms: Wii
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Retro Studios
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence


  • Darkhawk - February 26, 2012 3:45 p.m.

    100% agreed. Trial-and-error side-scrolling is for Contra, not Donkey Kong. Some of the mine cart and rocket blast levels will eat up dozens of lives per checkpoint, solely because you don't know what is coming up next until it's been memorised. Epic Yarn is also easily my favourite co-op game in recent memory, and its charm (and collectathon, I should add) are far better than DKCR. That said, when DKCR is good, it's unbelievably brilliant.
  • WreckedReviews - April 16, 2011 5:02 p.m.

    Hey, I wrote a review for this one a while back over at Wrecked Reviews, a new entertainment site written by regular guys like you! Check out the DK article here:
  • Danielspeaks - March 9, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    I really like this game, even though there are a few things I think they could have done a better job on, especially the controls. I loved the original Donkey Kong Country games, they were easy to control, and had a very "real" feel to them from the graphics (which were pretty good for that game system, anyway). The tradition has continued in this game, the graphics are really amazing, and even interact with you now and then (like the famous "wave" level). It took me a while to get used to the controls for this game, especially the rolling, I kept instinctively pressing the run/grab button to try to roll, and sometimes I would roll and overshoot what I was trying to jump to. Once you get used to the controls and decide on a few things not to do (example: rolling, lol) the game gets easier. It has great replay value, the secrets of the levels are generally tied in to puzzle pieces, which you can collect to unlock extra galleries from the main menu. My favorites are the dioramas, where you can rotate and zoom around a model based on scenes from the game. It's another neat way to get a good look at the graphics in the game. I have a project to go through the levels in the game and create a detailed walkthrough for finding all of the puzzle pieces and KONG letters, it's still a work in progress, but someone might find it useful. This game is great, and it's still one of my favorites, but it could have been even greater if they had fine-tuned the controls further. Hopefully if they ever make another Donkey Kong Country, they'll take that into consideration more than they did this time.
  • shadowboy8456 - December 27, 2010 2:29 a.m.

    one itty bitty little thing i find wrong WHY ISINT THIS GAME COMPATIBLE WITH THE CLASSIC CONTROLLER
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - December 3, 2010 2 a.m.

    Still amazed that people think I'm too used to "easy" games of today. Shall we talk about the NES and SNES for a while?
  • foxyexplosion - November 26, 2010 9:01 a.m.

    Im really disappointed they kept the waggle and deny the classic controller. Its a bad move to force controllers I hate and refuse to use on us. i agree with the score for the most part and the whole comment about a super guide seems wrong, im not sure what it is but if its a guide saying how to beat the game why should i even play. To simply go through the motions? Though I must say the mine cart level seemed somewhat intuitive aside from the ball part. an 8's a good score though it does seem like you are currently feeling the results of forcing your way through a game, but there seem to be definite problems keeping it from a 10
  • GearsofRabies - November 24, 2010 11:30 p.m.

    "A rare case of retro at its prime" Jesus Brett, how long did it take for you to come up with this?
  • stonr_playr - November 23, 2010 6:09 p.m.

    i bought this game after renting it, and i love it! brings me back to wen i was 6 sittin in my room on a tiny little black n white 14" TV LOL i love it! its a great game! get into it and you will love it too!!
  • hester2 - November 23, 2010 1:28 p.m.

    Thank you, GamesRadar, for posting the video of the minecart level. I absolutely owned that level on the first try after watching the video.
  • TheElephantManchurianCandidate - November 22, 2010 10:09 a.m.

    I loved DKC so much my nostalgia wouldn't let me live it down if i didn't get ths game
  • YoshiAteMyBaby - November 22, 2010 6:19 a.m.

    Brett Elston & Gamesradar are biggest fails. This site can't be taken serious. Not never was. Only the funny articles they post, thats what Gamesradar is only good for. Professional reviews ? No way looking at there track record. Just kidding. 8 out of 10 is a solid score, and I'm finding it harder to postpone getting this game ASAP. It's unfortunate to hear about the difficulty with the motion controls, though.
  • Aletheon - November 22, 2010 5:02 a.m.

    The controls are PERFECT and the game is a PERFECT 10. End of story.
  • nomnom52 - November 22, 2010 2:10 a.m.

    OMG! New vid player! :'D (crying face) (of joy) As for the review, W/ever. I never played the original, so I doubt I'll be picking this one up.
  • ThePigHostage - November 22, 2010 12:59 a.m.

    This game looks amazing, but between AC Brotherhood and GT5, I won't have time to play it for a while. I'll definitely have to pick it up sometime though. I was a big fan of the original DKC games (and DK64, which never gets enough love).
  • AMCApril - November 21, 2010 7:33 p.m.

    does look like a good game from what I have seen
  • QWERTYCommander - November 21, 2010 5:03 a.m.

    I had to refresh the page 4 or 5 times for the new video player to work. Dunno why everyone is praising it.
  • TreeWhale - November 21, 2010 12:17 a.m.

    Holy crap its been a long time sense i have been on this site... so what the F*ck has happen to it. It's front page is a mess. Well good thing IGN looks better than this site. Its now going to be another year before i take a look at Gamesradar again.
  • Darkhawk - November 20, 2010 9:06 p.m.

    Reminder: Ghouls 'N Ghosts 'n Goblins did the running from waves level first!
  • NightCrawler_358 - November 20, 2010 3:32 p.m.

    Looks cool. I'd rather play Epic Yarn, but its too easy. Nintendo has some great sidescrollers, but they all have only 5-10 hours of gameplay before you beat it like NSMBW, this, Epic Yarn, WarioLand: some Waggle pun. So... i could always just rent it.
  • philipshaw - November 20, 2010 1:47 p.m.

    Great review Brett. From watching the quick look on giant bomb of this game, the score seems fair. I will definitely get this game but I think I will wait until Christmas to get it

Showing 1-20 of 62 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000