Donkey Kong 64
There are few video game characters that have been around as long as Donkey Kong. Rare worked magic on the Super NES by reviving him for Donkey Kong Country, and now Nintendo and Rare try to bring that same magic to the Nintendo 64. Only problem is that DK64 isn't as revolutionary a game to the N64 as DKC was to the Super NES. Graphically DK64 isn't a huge step up from games like Rayman 2 or Banjo-Kazooie. The game itself walks the now-well-trodden path that BK did a few years back, making it seem that Rare has fallen into a predictable formula of games--collect multiple types of items (this time using multiple characters). Collect everything and be treated to a "special" ending. Is it really worth it for the payoff? It's not that DK64 is uninspired--its mini-games will be a lot of fun the first time you play them. But you play them over and over again through the course of the game--with shorter times limit and higher requirements making them harder. Control does not seem quite as tight as it should be in a 3D platform game of this type and takes some getting used to. If you stand still and perform an attack you won't be able to start moving again until it's done--leading to situations where you're surrounded by enemies unable to escape unscathed. The camera gets in the way or adjusts itself at some of the most inopportune times in levels like Frantic Factory where you have to make pinpoint jumps. Mine cart levels are back, but they're fewer in number than DKC (thank god!) and are just races/challenges. Rare's got a fine game in DK64. Better than most. Revolutionary? No. Fun? Yes. It'll take you many hours to complete the game, and if you want to collect everything--better set aside at least 40 hours if you're not using a hint book.
I have a love/hate relationship with DK64. There are moments during the game where this is the best Rare has ever done--bits that tip their hat to Metal Gear Solid, boss battles, ingenious puzzles and minigames, the variety of multiplayer games, the inclusion of jet PAC and the original arcade DK. I especially enjoyed all of the boss battles and multiplayer games. The very last boss battle is quite possibly the most ingenious ever. There's little difference between each of the screens in four-player mode and the one-player game. But all that enjoyment is spaced out by nothing but collecting items and bananas. It's basically, get something, switch characters, repeat--that's the game. When entering a new level I thought, "here we go again" and had to stop playing a few times because I grew tired of it. At other points I had no idea where to go next, and did a few levels out of the order you're supposed to. Instead of fog, enemies and items simply fade into view as you approach them, making it difficult to stand at one end of an area and look around and tell where anything else is. I didn't feel satisfied after finishing the game, because the ending does absolutely nothing to wrap up/further the story (even after the last boss). It just doesn't seem polished. That said, this is still one of the top N64 games.
Rare has created a monster. Beautiful, vast and often a raging pain in the ass, DK64 is a blissful experience half the time and a chore the rest. The multi-Kong gameplay forces you to backtrack--a lot. New areas are always branching off old ones. Keeping track of where you've been, where you're going and what you need to collect will spin your noggin. Banjo was better put together, but this is really all the game you'll need this Christmas.
For the very life of me I just can't get myself whipped up into a Rare-induced frenzy over this. Maybe it's because most of the gameplay ideas have been seen before (in Banjo-Kazooie), maybe this cutie style of game is getting old...or maybe it just seems that Rare is just out of good ideas. There's little wrong with DK64, and it certainly doesn't suck - but it's another one of 'these' games. It's exactly what you expect it to be...but nothing more.
Five characters to choose from, sprawling levels to make your way through, puzzles to figure out, a ridiculous amount of stuff to collect and more--Donkey Kong 64 is truly the adventurer's dream come true. Even if the graphics aren't the next big thing and the gameplay isn't terribly revolutionary. DK 64 is a fun game. A fun Rare game to be more specific. So if you have the desire and the stamina to take on another game like this, go for it.
Download Donkey Kong 64
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's hard to believe that the Donkey Kong franchise is 19, nearly 20 years old already. Who'd have thought that a game featuring a monkey, a plumber with a bad moustache, some barrels and a serious translation error would have stood the test of time quite so well? Originally produced as an arcade game by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, the Kongs have appeared in almost as many Nintendo offerings as Mario himself.
Rare's latest offering is clearly an attempt at a "repeat performance" of the success enjoyed by the mighty Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES. Just when everyone thought that 16-Bit gaming was dead, Rare pulled a serious rabbit (monkey?) out of its hat and somehow managed to revitalize the market for another three years. On top of that, it also managed to prove that you could squeeze a lot out of old technology if you tried hard enough.
There are new consoles on the horizon...and, oooh looky here...a Donkey Kong game from Rare. Coincidence? Nah. Chances are they might just manage to do it again.
So. What have we got on the menu this time? Obviously it's all 3D and looks lovely, but at first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking it had something of a passing resemblance to Banjo-Kazooie. I guess there are only so many ways you can do a 3D platform game with animals throwing stuff at each other, so you'll have to get over that. First things first--DK64 is seriously different from anything else as it absolutely HAS to have the Expansion Pak plugged in to work. This is akin to PC games requiring a 3D card, but Nintendo is shouting the fact that the game will come bundled with the Pak from the rafters. Nice...unless you've already got one. This is probably going to be an expensive game. Still, there have been rumors recently that top-brass at Nintendo are so convinced people are going to love DK that they are anticipating sales so spectacular that it will out-perform the entire Dreamcast lineup combined this Christmas. They might be right. Who knows?
So why does it need the pak? Multi-colored lighting effects a go-go, snazzy textures, huge worlds, silky-smooth, high frame-rate animation, eye candy and special effects so prolific they'll come out of your ears, and of course a ton of multiplayer options and mini-games (see sidebar). We got to play Donkey Kong recently, and it really does look quite splendid. The worlds (there are eight of them) really are massive, and from what we can tell the way the gameplay is going to be structured means that this is going to take a very long time to get all the way through. If you thought Banjo had his work cut out, that's nothing compared to this.
There are to be five characters in this outing. Donkey, Diddy (both of whom we all know and love/hate--mostly love I reckon), and the new guys, Tiny, Chunky and Lanky--presumably each suffixed with the Kong family name. Chunky Kong has kind of a nice ring to it doesn't it? Each character has a unique set of moves (much like juno and crew in Jet Force Gemini), and there are apparently 109 special moves in total across the five characters. Different moves allow access to different parts of each level--and we're assured that "backtracking" is going to be a major part of the gameplay experience. From what we saw, the structure is very much "hub-based" like Mario or B-K, so you'll be opening up new areas with certain characters, and then taking each of the chums through in order to find new sections beyond the limits of each monkey. No word yet on whether co-op multiplay will be featured though--but we can only hope. Still, jet Force is paving the way...maybe it could happen. We'll fill you in as soon as we know.
Although characteristically very quiet about DK's gameplay details, Rare has promised "classic Donkey Kong Country gameplay elements" with mine-cart stages and lots of jumping about and banana-related antics. We should also see a lot more combat in DK64 too, with peanut-pistols (the name alone sounds excellent), pineapple-launchers and fruit grenades playing a dominant role, along with some first-person shooting sections. As you can see from the screenshots on these pages, there are some pretty cool effects associated with these weapons. Check out that bazooka thing that Donkey Kong's wielding. We're not yet sure about that first-person thing. Don't expect Donkey Quake or anything like that though, chances are it'll be a simple, single-screen, turret-based thing.
The levels we got our hands on showcased a number of different gameplay styles. We saw one of the simple, Mario Party-esque mini-games, along with some of the more platform-based levels. There was a lot of swinging about on vines, which was implemented with a very intuitive control system (considerably better than that found in the awful PlayStation version of Pitfall) that allowed you to swing and jump from vine to vine, Tarzan style. We also got a glimpse at the trademark Rare system of collectibles, which like so much else about this game, appeared to work in a similar way to that found in Banjo-Kazooie. Hey...it ain't broke, why bother trying to fix it? Fruit features quite heavily as I'm sure you can appreciate.
- MANUFACTURER - Rare
- THEME - ACTION
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4
As is the norm. Rare is keeping pretty quiet about the specifics of its latest project, but it's no secret that DK is joined on his latest quest not only by faithful sidekick Diddy but also by a host of new faces including Tiny, Lanky and Chunky (no prizes for guessing how they're going to look.) These new characters each have very different abilities, although as we got to press it's not clear if you can switch between them during the game, or whether they each have different quests Sonic Adventure-style. Rare will release more details on DK64 (as well as all its other projects) after E3, so hopefully we'll have a lot more screenshots and information next month. In the meantime--enjoy these.
The Donkey Kong Country series of platformers had been so mammothly successful on the SNES, Rare must have been planning a 64-bit update. They'd be fools not to, surely?
But, the good folk at Twycross kept their mouths shut, until, without warning, a single screenshot appeared on Rare's website. There was Diddy Kong, there was a Kremling, there shiny coins, and there was a minecart. Donkey Kong 64 was on its way, using the same game engine as the fabulous Banjo-Kazooie, and all signs pointed to it being a worthy continuation of all that made the originals great.
Now, exactly one year later, it's here, and it's got a lot to prove. It needs to be sufficiently different to BK. It needs to justify its astonishing? 60 asking price (thanks to Nintendo's clueless distributor, THE, refusing to sell a version of the game without the required expansion pak). And, after Perfect Dark's disappointing delay made us cry real tears, it needs to give N64 owners a Christmas to remember.
So, the be all-platforming, or just B-K in ape's clothing? Everything you need to know - about DK64 lies ahead..
Although there are scores of different items to be found in Donkey Kong, the main quest - find the eight keys that will free giant croc K. Lumsy from his cage - revolves around collecting up that bendy fruit that monkey's love.
There are five types of normal banana scattered around DK64's eight levels, each colour-coded according to which of the five Kongs can collect it. The aim is to gather enough bananas on a level to match the number on the boss door - if you then beat the boss, you'll grab a key for K. Lumsy's cage.
With every key you find, K. Lumsy will a little dance and open up a new level entrance on the DK Isles hub - but a certain Mr. B. Locker won't let you in until you've earned the required number of Golden Bananas. The glittering fruit are earned by solving puzzles and winning mini-games - just like the jigsaw bits in Banjo-Kazooie.
If you can find a tie with K. Rod's ugly mug printed on it, stand on it and press Z to be transported to a Battle Arena game, where the aim is to survive an onslaught of Kremlings, without toppling off the edge of the floating platform. Survive, and you'll win a crown - collect as many as you can, as they'll prove essential when it comes to getting your paws on DK64's final boss.
What's three minutes long and embarrassing to watch? If s not Andrea's ill-advised Russian-style dance routine - although, believe us, that's almost unbearable. We're talking about The DK Rap, DK64's intro sequence, which contains such inspired lyrics as 'He can handstand/when he needs to/and stretch his arms out/just for you'. On this evidence, wicka-wicka-Will Smith hasn't got much to worry about.
The launch of DK64 has given Nintendo the opportunity to trot out a lovely new N64 bundle, featuring a copy of the game (on a suitably banana-coloured cart), an expansion paê, and the controller and the console itself in attractive, transparent green clothing. It costs ?110, which makes for a not unreasonable ?30 discount on the usual separate selling price. A good move on THE's part, then - unlike their stubborn refusal to sell DK64 without the expansion paê. Fools.
Spadering away from DK Isles - DK64's central hub – are the games eight main worlds. They're similar to the levels in Mario or Banjo, with loads of different things to see, do and discover as you unlock doors, activate switches and uncover previously hidden areas within. Here's a look at the game's first three levels, and hints on how to bring about the Kong family reunion.
Donkey Kong 64's first world is a jungle clearing, filled with palm trees, wandering beavers and buzzing bees. Time to get monkeying, then.
- Only Donkey Kong is playable from the start, but he's free to explore the whole level for bananas. Check the tops of trees for hidden fruit.
- Climb up the green vine to find Funky Kong's house - he'll sell you a Coconut Cannon for three coins (find them just before the level entrance). Now shoot balloons for extra bananas.
- While you're here, press Z on the K. Rool tile to play the Battle Arena. Simply use your Running Attack (analogue and B) to knock out the Beavers and earn a Crown.
- Grab onto the vines and leap over to the other side of the lake, then hop into the barrel to find your very first Golden Banana. Mmm…shiny.
- Free Diddy by shooting the three Coconut switches - you'll need to take out the middle one from Funky's platform. Collect the Golden Banana to open the doors underneath the switches.
- Hop into the Tag Barrel, opt to play as Diddy, then head into the newly-opened tunnel on the right Bop the bad guy for a red blueprint (Diddy's colour). Snide the weasel will swap it for a Golden Banana.
- As Donkey Kong, head through the central tunnel to Cranky's clearing. Fire at the switch above the door on the right and jump into the Animal Crate to become Rambi. Uncover bananas and switches by destroying the nearby huts with the charge attack.
- Grab the coins that you come across near the Crate and buy the Baboon Blast from Cranky. Take the opportunity to switch to Diddy and buy the Chimpy Charge, too.
- As Diddy, buy the Peanut Popguns from Funky, then shoot the switch on the hill near Diddy's ex-prison. Quickly scamper up the ramp that appears and enter the door halfway up.
- Use the Chimpy Charge to bash open the small door, then headbutt the 'Lo' switch. Activate the floor switch with the Simian Slam, then climb the conveyor belts for a cart ride.
- Back in the main area, use Donkey's Baboon Blast on the Donkey Pad (climb up the tree near the big 'X' and swing across), and complete the Barrel game for a Golden Banana.
- Now switch back to Diddy and head out of the level. In the caves, there are two peanut switches, which will open a door that leads to some coins, a balloon and a Golden Banana.
Bearing more than a slight resemblance to Banjo-Kazooie's desert level, this world features quicksand, spitting camels, and more palm trees.
- Visit Candy's shop as both Donkey and Diddy and shell out for her musical instruments - these can be used to activate Maê Pads, and they also act as smart bombs.
- As Diddy, climb the tree on the central island and swing across to the top of the camel's cage. Stand on the Music Pad and strum your guitar to open the giant locked door.
- Head through and turn right at the junction to find Cranky. You'll need to buy the Strong Kong and Rocketbarrel Boost from him (if you're looking for coins, there are some further along the tunnel).
- Change to Donkey, head through to the next area and turn right. You'll come across a Donkey Pad - play the Barrel game to open the camel's cage.
- Shoot the switch that appears above the camel-faced door, and enter. Play your drums in the room to the south-west to fill the pool, then swim through and shoot the switch to grab Lanky.
- Tiny's also in this level. Go back to Candy's area and shoot the switch on the left wall of the giant building. Enter, then Slam the switch on the right to create a set of platforms above you.
- Jump up the platforms (you'll need to use your high jump), then fire peanuts at the switch on the opposite wall and walk along the new platform. Play the guitar on the Pad to melt the ice.
- Dive into the water, turn right at the 'crossroads', and enter Tiny's room. You'll need to slam the switch by the cage, then headbutt K-O-N-G in order to rescue the girl.
When you first meet Cranky, he'll promise you 'something special' in return for 15 Banana Medals. Collecting 75 bananas will earn you a single medal, so it'll be some time before you muster the full 15, but when you do. Cranky will give you the chance to play a full version of Rare's Sinclair Spectrum classic, Jetpac. If s a superb touch, and it means that our Missing In Action feature In N64/33 - where we confidently predicted the return of the game's star, Jetman - was spot on. Hurrah!
Set inside a huge, mechanical toy factory, complete with clockwork Kremlings and walking dice, there's something strangely eerie about this third world.
- Bash the blue switch directly ahead of you as you enter to open up the tunnel in the corridor to the west.
- Wander down there and head through the doors until you arrive in the Production Room, where Chunky's cage is hanging.
- Use the Tag Barrel to switch to Lanky, then head up the crates to find Cranky, and buy the Orangstand from him.
- Head back into Chunky's room and climb up the pipe in the corner to find a switch, which rescues the big ape.
- You can also play the origin Donkey Konq in this world. First, activate the Donkey Pad in the middle of the room.
- A lever will appear next to the DK Arcade Cabinet. To use it, you'll need to see Cranky to buy the Gorilla Grab from him.
- The Arcade Cabinet is through the door next to the Shoff portal, up the' pole and to the left. Enjoy! (And see a few pages on for tips.)
There's a big fairy hidden somewhere on DK Isles (needless hint: look for the island in the shape of a fairy's face), and she's blubbing about her lost friends, who are scattered around DK64's eight levels. With the help of the camera she hands over, you can recapture the giggling blue imps by photographing them. There are 20 Banana Fairies in all, and five superb bonuses available on the way to snapping them all. Which we're not going to spoil for you.
Most apes are restricted to swinging from trees, shouting 'ooh! ooh! ooh!' and picking fleas from their infested buddies. Not the five- strong Kong family, though: they've got over 100 moves between them, all of which come into their own for certain puzzles.
By leaping into barrel. Tiny can live up to her name by shrinking to a twentieth of her usual size. There's usually a suitably small door nearby for the shrunken simian to scamper into.
Chunky can render himself invisible by standing on a Chunky Pad. It's most useful in the big wooden hut in the Crystal Caverns, where the ape needs to sneak up to a banana without being caught by the searchlights.
Invincibility by any other name. This move doesn't crop up too much, but it's handy when Donkey Kong needs to scamper across molten lava or avoid attack from the irritating viking boys.
Clown-ape hybrid Lanky can hit a Lanky pad, flip onto his hands, and - taking a leaf from Kazooie's book - scamper up slopes that the other Kongs can't negotiate. It's the only way to reach some of the level's warp pads.
Rocket Barrel Boost
If Diddy leaps into a barrel with his face on, he'll be equipped with a flaming pair of rocket boosters. There are plenty of high switches, but you'll inevitably forget them as you enjoy soaring around the sky.
There's a big fairy hidden somewhere on DK Isles (needless hint took for the island in the shape of a fairy's face), and she's blubbing about her lost friends, who are scattered around DK64's eight levels. With the help of the camera she hands over, you can recapture the giggling blue imps by photographing them. There are 20 Banana Fairies in all, and five superb bonuses available on the way to snapping them all. Which we're not going to spoil for you.
Don't expect Turok 2-style hi-res from Donkey Kong 64 - the expansion paê (which comes packaged with the game and explains the ?60 price tag) has been used to create the impressive real-time, multi-coloured lighting that litters the game. While this is mostly used for decoration's sake - the circular shadows that dance around the Kongs, the sparkly lights that illuminate the Toff 'n' Scoff room after the torches are blown out, the deep, dark underwater sections with Glimmer the fish lighting the way - it's also put to brilliant use in some of the game's puzzles. The best is a short section where Diddy negotiates a suspended maze, with only a torch-carrying parrot for company.
Monkey Cart 64
Donkey Kong's most famous feature - the minecart ride - makes a glorious return in DK64. It's where Rare are at their most extravagant with impressive lighting, blink-and-you'll-miss-it events, and frightening speed combined to create - yes - a real rollercoaster ride.
- Don't push forward on the analogue unless you really need to - if you go too fast you'll miss important switches and door-opening bells.
- The Kremlings will bash you with a regular rhythm, so time your jumps to over their swinging clubs.
- It's best to keep tapping the jump button, as floating coins will often pass by too quickly for you to react to.
- Look out for the fevers that control the gates. You can often gain access to a more coin-heavy route by leaning over to pull one.
- The giant rocks on Chunky's minecart ride are avoidable - just press A to leap over safely. Wonderful.
Cranky's wife, Wrinkly Kong, has sadly passed away since the Kong family's last adventure, but she's still on hand to supply helpful tips. Wander in front of a Wrinkly Door, and her ghostfy form will appear to tell you how to solve one of the level's puzzles. If s of great help to novice gamers, while experienced platform fans can ignore the doors and avoid having DK64's puzzles spoiled. Neato.
We weren't convinced that weapons and platform games could mix, but the Kongs' arsenal works surprisingly well. The orange grenades are a pleasure to use, homing in on bad guys to avoid tiresome aiming problems, and the guns are superb. It's hugely satisfying to knock beavers flying with a well-placed coconut shell (complete with satisfying 'thwock!' noise), and it's possible to earn a cheat that gives you infinite ammo for maximum bullet-based fun. Additionally, Funky will sell you a sniper add-on for your weapons, where the sights take on an authentically wild swinging motion as you zoom further in to faraway switches. Lovely.
The DK64 team have borrowed the Change Tile system from Banjo-Kazooie, giving the Kongs the ability to jump into crates and change into other animals. Such as...
You can see this giant rhino doing what he does best - headbutting beavers and knocking down huts - in the walkthrough a few pages back. There are also a number of doors that can only be knocked down by Rambi's rock-like nut, opening up new switches and puzzles for Tiny and Lanky. Disappointingly, though, he's forbidden from entering certain areas - a giant No Entry' sign will appear on screen and you'll automatically morph back to Donkey Kong's beefy form.
The giant swordfish from previous Donkey Kong adventures makes his return in DK64's Gloomy Galleon level. He's a pleasure to control, cutting through the water like a missile, and there's a cute challenge where Engarde needs jump through rings to open up new areas for Kongs. Brilliantly, both Engarde and Rambi to knock down beavers or swim through rings against the clock. To gain access to these games, you need to... nah, that'd be ruining the surprise.
Rare's perverse sense of humour has become increasingly apparent in recent games UFG's 'Specialist Magazine' springs to mind), and if you're looking for more, be sure to spend some time with DK64's absolutely superb instruction manual. With Cranky 'hosting' it, Rare have been given free reign to poke fun at their very own game, including a brilliant bit where the old ape introduces the section explaining Candy's Musical Instruments with, "Hey! This is robbed from Zelda!" Top-notch.
If you want to get your mitts on all those lovely shiny bananas, you'll need to perfect your Bonus Game skills. Here's a selection of the best mini games, and how to crack them.
Mad Maze Maul
Simple: kill all the bad guys and find the chequered finish line. The time limit seems far too tight, until you realise that you're allowed to use your Peanut Popguns. You've got infinite bullets, so don't bother to aim - just keep popping.
Almost too difficult, with the aim being to snap at the beavers and herd them into the central hole. We found it best to tap A and B, jumping and barking' like crazy, and pray that the beavers didn't steer themselves away from the pit. A nightmare.
This one is brain-scramblingly difficult. Kong's in a minecart, and needs to switch routes to avoid colliding with explosive barrels Rush into the centre, slow down to lure the barrels into your lane, then quickly rush back to the outside again.
Here, hungry crocs need to be fed with melons to avoid them gobbling passing fairies. Confusing and not much fun, but you'll need your wits about you to complete it. Slowly work your way from left-to-right and top-to-bottom, then repeat.
Big Bug Bash
Does exactly what it says on the tin. It's not as easy as it looks. Forget about tapping only when the fly's underneath the swat - instead, pump A continuously, so that the insect is automatically squashed when you manoeuvre the crusher over it.
Donkey's Walrus Race
Rescue the seal in Gloomy Galleon and you'll be treated to a Wave Race-style race against him. You're allowed to miss the buoys a maximum of five times, so nip around the outside if it'll save you time, and keep jumping for those coins.
Chunky's Ghost Ride
You'll come across this variation on the minecart ride in the Haunted House level. It's easy when you know how – simply move as slowly as possible to grab all the coins. When the ghostly faces come screaming towards you, switch lanes with left and right to avoid them.
Lanky's Beetle Race
Found in the Crystal Caves level, this isn't easy at all. Avoid going all-out for speed - hold back a little so you don't crash into the beetle at junctions. On the last stretch, she loses a lot of speed, so you've got plenty of time to catch up at the end.
The boss encounters in DK64 are the most exciting since Zelda, with Rare chucking in every fancy graphical effect and quick camera cut they can muster to make the battles fast, involving and painfully tricky. Oddly, some of the battles don't ask you to physically touch the boss - Lanky, for example, needs to ride around in a speedboat, steering through rings to complete an electrical circuit and fry the big baddie, while Tiny's encounter is a tricky, platform-jumping challenge. The final battle with King K. Rool, meanwhile, is just about the longest, satisfying and most inventive in videogame history. And we're not going to show you any of it. Ha!
The story is the usual Big-Baddie-Crushes-Good-Guys nonsense (This one's worse than ail the previous efforts put together!' exclaims Cranky In the manual), but it marks the return of most of the familiar characters from DK legend. It also allows for some superb cut- scenes, including a laugh-out-loud moment where K. Rool reverses his moveable Island with a bus-style warning beep. The story also paves the way for a brilliant, Zelda-style concluding level.
Then, like the sparkling ray of sunlight that signifies the end of the storm, this arrived. Donkey Kong 64 is everything a platformer should be: vast, complex, beautiful to look at, and impossibly involving. While lesser games cower in the corner with their half-hearted controls and linear play, DK64 presents intricate puzzles, sprawling levels and magnificent sights that perfectly reflect how much real effort has gone into its making. This is Rare's second successful stab at a platformer of Miyamoto quality; this time, we hope GT, Ubi Soft, VIS, Infogrames and Crystal Dynamics are paying attention.
DK64 is the first platformer for months to ditch long, linear paths in favour of huge, open-plan 3D worlds. The very first level, Jungle Japes, is a beautiful start to the game - a gigantic, multi-levelled jungle clearing filled with things for Donkey Kong to run around, jump onto, climb up and fire at. It's followed by a wonderfully picturesque woodland area complete with working water-mill, a watery wonderland towered over by an active lighthouse, and a menacing, multi-roomed castle that takes a good ten minutes to climb to the top of Throughout DK64, Rare are positively begging you to explore and experiment, all the while teasing you with locked doors, sealed-off bananas and unreachable objects.
Once those doors and objects open up, the sheer scale of DK64 becomes apparent, and it's Truly breathtaking. As you begin, your task seems simple: grab bananas and find the keys that will unlock K. Lumsy's cage. Fifteen minutes later, after collecting a few new moves and meeting characters like Cranky and Funky, your quest has ballooned into a search for coins, blueprints, banana medals, crowns, barrels and much more. And this is all before you've even caught a glimpse of the other four Kongs - once Diddy, Lanky, Tiny and Chunky are under your control, four fresh sets of items, switches and areas become accessible. Donkey Kong 64 is nothing short of colossal.
Because the five members of the DK family are individuals (unlike Banjo-Kazooie's glued-together duo), Rare have been able to stuff every level with things to do. In just one of Frantic Factory's many rooms, you'll notice a mini game barrel just high enough for Lanky, a Tiny-sized miniature tunnel entrance, a sealed-off room that Chunky could easily punch his way into, and a mid-air platform that's crying out for Diddy's jetpacking skills. You'll be itching to explore them all, and tedious character swapping is kept to a minimum - the uniform distribution of puzzles around each world means there's plenty to do with one character before needing to move on to the next.
Sometimes - very occasionally - there's almost too much to DK64. With so much to do, and so many enticing new areas opening up with every switch pressed and banana collected, it can become overwhelming. But, mostly, DK64's size is thrilling. Time and again, you'll set off to Pineapple Gun a switch or negotiate a platform, only to be distracted by a mini game barrel you pass on the way, or an underwater door that you hadn't noticed before - at which point, you'll become irretrievably involved as another, entirely new set of puzzles unravels before your eyes.
It's all the more impressive, then, that DK64 manages to keep things sufficiently varied. Two types of challenges lead to the fabled Golden Bananas: traditional tests of agility (negotiate platforms, fly through rings, stomp on switches), and short, self-contained mini games. The platforming is mostly stuff we've seen before in Mario and Banjo-Kazooie, but pulled off with typical Rare flair - why scale a mountain when you could be trekking in and out of a mountain-sized toadstool? - and most of the mini games are tremendous fun. It's all pitched at just the right difficulty level, too: no puzzle will stop you in your tracks, but there's a pleasant 'aah, I see!' factor to every gold-plated banana reached.
The only heart-sinking moment comes as you're introduced to each new level, because Donkey Kong's worlds - and, occasionally, the puzzles within - are disappointingly similar in theme to Banjo-Kazooie's. Creepy Castle resembles Mad Monster Mansion, Angry Aztec is Gobi's Valley, and Fungi Forest is practically identical to Click Clock Wood, right down to a night/day system that's the replica of B-K's four seasons.
Donkey Kong's environments, though, are more polished than B-K's, leaving you that much more immersed. The medium resolution moves quickly and fits the cartoony style perfectly, and while it's disappointing to see the same 'fading in' scenery and objects that typified B-K, the astonishing visuals show just what the expansion paê is capable of when not pumping out hi-res frippery. We're used to seeing ice blocks glitter, bulbs swing and fireballs bounce, but not realistically lighting up characters and casting multiple shadows as they do so. Meanwhile, steam rises from molted ice, clouds of sand obstruct Kong's desert vision, and walls reflect the shimmering light of the water's properly bobbing surface.
In fact, the sections where your monkey dives below the undulating waves perfectly demonstrate the fine attention to detail - to both visuals and gameplay - that makes DK64 a Banjo beater. The music is muffled to perfectly recreate that echoey, submerged sound, the controls are immediately intuitive, and - praise be - there's no 'airometer', giving you infinite time to probe the murky depths. Above ground, it's equally impressive - even "the weather changes as you wander between areas, with the sky darkening, raindrops falling, and thunder ominously rolling. It's so convincing, you'll actually begin to feel cold.
Typically, there are a few problems with the camera. It's improved since the stubborn wall-basher we saw at E3, but it's still 'sticky', and occasionally flicks around to look at your face for no discernible reason. In the end, we came to think of it like an elderly relative - slow and doddering, liable to have trouble keeping up, but something you'll learn to live with. Thanks to the intuitive C - button controls, you'll soon find yourself subconsciously taking manual control of the camera when it has one of its turns.
There's something approaching 30 hours of 'first time' gameplay within DK64 - about the same as Banjo-Kazooie. But the moment you send the final boss packing, you'll be itching to get back into the game and collect every last banana, fairy and coin. Donkey Kong won't disappoint when you do - for every object that you've yet to collect, there'll be another glorious set-piece or inventive puzzle waiting to show itself off. And, even when you're done with the one-player, there's the multitude of bonus games (including full versions of two classic retro titles) and the surprise four-player mode to get stuck into.
But the big question is: can DK64 really be worth a full ?60? Granted, if you've already got an expansion paê, the extra one in the package is a supreme waste of money. But DK64 is a game that's often as vast, well-designed and impossible to resist as Zelda or Mario, and that's got to be worth cobbling together six tenners for. After a run of lacklustre platformers, this is the perfect Christmas present for the N64, and we've got the geniuses at Rare to thank for it. God bless 'em, every one.
While DK64's multiplayer isn't ever likely to topple GoldenEye or Mario Kart as the office favourite, it definitely falls into the sparsely-populated above average' category of four-player games. You'll need to invest some time in the main game to avoid the limited view and sticky camera hindering play in the Monkey Smash game (where the aim is to knock seven bells out of your monkey cohorts), but we much prefer the Battle Arena game everyone for themselves on a small floating platform. The 'Capture' variation in particular, with all four players battling to grab a single DK coin, is a winner.
One of Donkey Kong 64's greatest innovations is the Warp Pad, the natural evolution of Banjo-Kazooie's Warp Cauldrons. There are usually at least ten in each level, stamped with numbers from one to five, and they allow you to zip between points on the map at ease, avoiding the looong stretches of level in between. The transportation animation is great, too, with your ape popping in and out of a giant banana. We love 'em.
Gamers the world over have fallen in love with that big gorilla, Donkey Kong, and his simian sidekicks. And for those Nintendo 64 owners who've had to suffer with just glimpses of DK in Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., relief is on the way in the form of Donkey Kong 64--and it was one of the smash hits at E3.
Featuring incredible graphics in the true Rare tradition, DK64 will make full use of the Expansion Pak, delivering eight intricate worlds complete with mining cart rides, Aztec temples, and jungles full of danger and excitement The game looked and played like Banjo-Kazooie, but with much more depth and adrenaline-soaked action. Donkey Kong and his four selectable counterparts (three new apes named Tiny, Chunky, and Lanky, plus Diddy Kong) will perform specialized feats that'll make getting through the game with only one character impossible. There will also be a host of mini-games and side quests, and even some cool weapons like peanut pistols and pineapple grenades. Catch DK's jungle fever this November.