As I talked about briefly last month, I’m a huge fan of Rareware’s work throughout the SNES and N64 eras. Some of my earliest memories of playing videogames were playing Donkey Kong Country on my best friend’s Super Nintendo, and my first N64 game ever played was Diddy Kong Racing, which started my love for the kart racing genre, M&M’s Kart Racing not-withstanding.
It’s been almost seven years since Rare left Nintendo, leaving the beloved gorilla and all his friends behind. At first, Nintendo gave Namco control over the DK franchise, producing a new platformer, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, controlled with the DK Bongo controller. Although the game was very fun, I was very annoyed with how Namco replaced all the characters, enemies, props and elements that made the DKC trilogy so memorable. Instead of Diddy tagging behind you, and Cranky bashing his cane on you and bragging about the good ol’ days, you got a giant…boar thing, and the primate version of KISS.
That’s what I love about the current developer of the DK series. Paon developed DK King of Swing on the GBA and DK Jungle Climber on the DS, which are both entertaining platformers, chock-full of DKC references and characters. The company’s third entry in this series, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, continues the trend of paying homage to Rare’s legendary series; however, there are few things the game lacks that keep it away from above average territory. Actually, it ranks right there between crappy and shitty.
Barrel Blast takes place in the airwaves of the Donkey Kong universe on flying…uh…bongo jets, or something. I’m guessing one of the Kongs was bored one day and started tangling with a pair of bongos, strapping them to his waist, slapping rockets on them and achieving flight. Then he called over King K. Rool and his Kremling army for either a race challenge around the entire world, or a friendly barbecue with happy family-friendly racing against two groups that are usually killing each other over banana-themed objects. There’s no actual story to explain what’s going on in Barrel Blast, except for five-second movies you can watch on the main menu that either look like Donkey is going to beat the Kremlings’ snouts in, or Diddy and Tiny are having fun with Random Kremling #3 and Random Kremling #43 learning to fly bongo wingers. It’s kinda disappointing having no idea why these people are racing each other in a series that has some kinda wacky plotline involving magical bongos or talking space bananas in each installment.
There are 16 playable characters in this game: eight Kongs, and eight Kremlings. Seven of the eight Kremlings are new, original characters that feature big hair, punk clothing and fat asses. The line-up of Kongs though, is simply awesome for any fan of the series. Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, Tiny, Lanky, Funky, Wrinkly, and Cranky are all playable, half of them for the first time ever. The reemergence of Lanky after an eight-year limbo is chock-full of awesome for a guy who played DK64 as much as I did, and the fact that Tiny is still a pre-teen meant to give 10-12 year olds their first erection shows Paon’s devotion to Rare’s characters. Each character is apparently rated in three categories, but the differences are so trivial that I failed to see them. Also, is there a reason Donkey Kong sounds like an actual donkey? The music might be OK, but Funky Kong sounds like he was voiced by a drunken African-American pirate.
As awesome as a roster like that is, it doesn’t make up for the game’s controls. Small history lesson: Barrel Blast was originally a GameCube game designed to make use of the DK Bongo controller, where you’d bash on the left one to turn left, the right one to turn right, slap them in rhythm to accelerate, and slap them together to jump. Choosing to have Twilight Princess be the GCN’s swan song, Nintendo moved the game to the Wii, scrapped DK Bongo support, and tacked the controls onto the Wiimote. To put it simply, it sucks.
Shaking the Wiimote and nunchuck will accelerate you until you reach top speed, at which point you don’t have to shake them anymore until you get smacked in the face by an opponent or slam yourself into an obstacle on the track. Meanwhile, you have to flick them both to jump. The Wii has a terrible time telling the difference between the two, causing you to jump the exact moment you don’t want to, slap yourself into obscure item #12, and throw your Wiimote at the TV, only to have it swing back and slap YOU in the face ’cause you’re wearing your wrist strap like a good little slave. To make matters worse, your wrist will break in five or six races due to the approachably coined “Wii-waggle Syndrome” that every other Wii game causes. You can’t sit down and play this for even an hour until you get sick of shaking anything but your cock and want to play something simpler and with gigantic human breasts. Another thing is that you don’t actually turn in this game. Yeah! It’s all on rails! You’re just dodging random crap that I’ll talk about later.
Seriously, even the horrid, painful controls can’t topple how boring this game gets! And if it’s not boring, then it’s an exercise in frustration. Look at it this way. You’re walking down an empty city street, with a bunch of other guys walking right behind you. There’s absolutely nothing getting in your way, and a hot lady is waiting for you to show up for your date at the movie theater. As you keep walking, the city becomes more littered with garbage and those annoying signs that store put out just to watch you trip over them like the handicapped man you are. Then you slip on a banana peel and fall on your ass, and everyone behind you starts running, and as you get up, God gets pissed with you because you were cheating on your wife and throws a giant rock in your path, and while you’re trying to climb the rock, everyone starts running past you, calling you names and unleashing a horde of killer bees a few yards away from you, who start stinging your white, shiny ass, and the two people behind you climb up the rock behind you, and just as you get to the top, they push you over and laugh at you while you topple head over foot, breaking your back and every other bone in your body. Meanwhile, those other guys are clambering for a shot at your lady, and you’re nearly dead. This sums up the gameplay of Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.
The tracks, while beautiful, well detailed, and full of cutesy stuff that most males would avoid in fear of catching teh gay, are littered with pointless crap that’s only there to annoy the hell out of you. First are those little bananas. For every 50 of those you collect, you get to pull off a wild move in which you get a sudden burst of speed and can keep it going if you crash into other objects around the courses. Barrels can be punched to give you more bananas by tapping the A button, or you can crash into them and wag your arm back to reach TOP SPEEEEEEED. Red and blue balloons hold items, a subtle DKR reference. Red ones are more powerful with Kremlings, and blue ones with Kongs, though the difference is, once again, small. The problem with the items is that the only place the game explains what they do is on loading screens that I never came across until I was about done playing the game, and even then I could never remember what did what cause there was simply too many..
Anything else on the track is out to kill you and keep you from achieving TOP SPEEEEEEED for more than five seconds. I don’t lie when I say I was hit seven times in about 18 seconds before I could finally get to TOP SPEEEEEEED, and by then I was so far behind that I simply gave up and started playing Mario Galaxy again. It’s terrible, and if you can play this game long enough to actually play on a higher difficulty, then I will pay your hospital bill for your broken wrist just so I can break your thumbs as soon as you get out. I did enjoy being able to board Rambi, Enguarde and a mine cart for the 10 seconds you can, but having a ton of style and no substance is the gaming equivalent of a high school stud.
You could argue that Donkey Kong Barrel Blast has no shortage on modes, but, in this day and age, ALL RACING GAMES SHOULD FEATURE GRAND PRIX, SINGLE RACE, AND TIME TRIAL MODES. Yes, this game has those, but that’s expected of a game of its genre. Cranky does host the tutorial mode, but it’s not nearly as funny as it should have been. Cranky was hilarious back in the day, and he made the DK64 instruction booklet a very enjoyable read. Not here. It’s a basic, boring tutorial. Candy Kong plays host to a challenge mode, which consists of races with different objectives, like not finishing last, and breaking X number of barrels. It’s a pointless extra that’s only there for the sex appeal Candy’s giant knockers provide.
Yeah, there’s multiplayer in this. But it’s affected by the biggest issue I have with the Wii in general. I own four Wiimotes, but one nunchuck. I would need to shell out another $60 if I wanted to have a four-player game of this going on. It’s nice that the console only costs $250, but when you need to match that cost to buy the controllers needed to make it the party console IT’S MEANT TO BE, it defeats the purpose of a low-priced console. If the Wiimote and nunchuck were bundled together, I wouldn’t have this issue, but the cost needed to have any multiplayer fun with this is a huge strike against it.
I had a hard time playing through Donkey Kong Barrel Blast to get the info I needed for this review, not only because my wrist is a brittle twig, but because I really wanted to write a positive review for the game. It looks great, and it makes me remember the days of playing DKC. Unfortunately, someone at Paon broke the fun and enjoyment of the game and replaced it with boredom and frustration, which sucks because I had such high hopes, having played DK Jungle Climber. Sadly, I had absolutely no fun actually playing Barrel Blast. I’m just going to have to sit around and dream of what could have been.