In slightly belatedly keeping with it being the 20th anniversary of the Game Boy’s japanese launch, I’ve been playing Donkey Kong. Commonlly known as Donkey Kong ’94 to set it apart from its Kong related peers, it’s was actually the very first Game Boy game I owned.. and I think I’m right in saying it’s the first game I ever bought with my own monies. Purely on spec I might add, I wanted into.. Games ‘R Us (remember them?) in Midland, not long after they’d opened their new store there. I bought my clear Limited Edition! Game Boy.. those in the know will realised that a while I bought it, they took the Limited Edition! labels off the cases and just kept selling all the colours. I guess they were too popular to give up. Anyhoo, the game..
It starts out as the Donkey Kong we all vaguely remember from seeing bits and pieces of the arcade version.. or know and love, if you’ve ever actually played it. At first it seems rather samey.. unless you read the instruction booklet first. As a wee lad, it was something I used to do.. so I knew that Mario can now backflip, handstand, spin on ropes.. all sorts of new acrobatic abilities. On the flip side, he has a rather weedy little jump.. just like in the original. Once the first four levels have been cleared, the game opens up into a whole new world filled with new levels, new enemies and all sorts of devious little puzzles. This game is the very essense of platforming.. levels are no more than two screens in size, either vertical or horizontal (they scroll smoothly along, no janky screen transitions at all here) yet are constructed in such a way that there are no wasted surfaces. All of the limited space is used as you grab the key and make your way to the level finish door. The game is broken up into 10 worlds (including the original levels) which are segmented into groups of four levels, three standard ones and one where you must either reach Pauline or defeat Donkey Kong. After these levels, there’s a short cut scene that will introduce or reinforce the more advanced techniques at your disposal
It all varies around the same themes, but there’s no two levels the same.. there’s switch puzzles, there’s crumbling blocks, there’s enemies in the way, simple premises honed and combined to perfection to produce a game that should be on every platformer fan’s must-play list. I was going to go super old school and play it on my Game Boy (I still have it, and it still works!) but the light in here’s not great and I couldn’t see much.. so I whipped out the Super Game Boy, chucked it all into the SNES and off I went! It was one of the game paks especially enhanced for SGB play too, so I figured it was appropriate. Also, I could see what I was doing!
It puts a snazzy border around the game play area for extra nostalgia. Fun! Another funky touch is that on the Game Boy, when Pauline shrieks out for Help! it’s a high pitched trill from the speakers. In the SGB there’s actually a little sample voice that is heard. Nice. These little touches really show how much the team that created the game enjoyed what they were doing. They created a joyous little platformer that’s definately one of the best games produced on the Game Boy, and deserves a spot in any best games ever list. It’s that good.