Alright, Nintendo, knock it off. Just stop it. You know, I thought you'd done it this time. I thought you'd slipped up, just once. But you haven't. No, you've robbed me of my chance to give a game with one of your beloved flagship characters slapped all over it a bad review. Donkey Kong never was a favourite; a drum-banging, vine-swinging ape; flea bitten (probably), unpolished, not as sleek as a Mario or a Link. I wasn't going to lose sleep over sticking it to his latest outing on the DS. DK Jungle Climber? What a dumb name. But the game spoiled everything by being so damn good. Hey, Nintendo? I hate you for being so perfect.
One of Donkey Kong's adventures on the Gameboy Advance was via King of Swing, a game that didn't do huge things in the market but that got favourable reviews and used the same basic control format as DK Jungle Climber does today. Using the L & R buttons, you'll send DK grabbing for pegs on pegboards laid out across a number of levels built in a traditional, almost completely 2D environment. Grab a peg with either the L or R button and DK will start to revolve in a clockwise or anticlockwise motion, until you let the button go and have him fly off in whichever direction he's facing. Hit L & R at the same time, and he'll stop dead, holding two pegs at once, provided they're both within his reach. You'll also use these skills to flick switches and catch items in the mini-games.
Boring? Hell no. Well, for the first ten minutes one does tend to wonder how there'll be enough to keep one going - collecting bananas for 1-ups? Old hat. Special coins secreted about the place, leading to undisclosed surprises? Ho hum. What sets this game apart after you've completed the first few levels, though, is the ridiculous, hilarious, yet (in its own way) quite arresting story line and the sheer number of features packed in. Bonus levels, new attacks to master, control variations, new characters to know and love and sometimes destroy... after a while you'll forget just what in the hell you're supposed to be doing and which levels still have banana coins waiting for you, but it doesn't even matter. Cranky Kong's giving out advice, Diddy's riding piggyback (for once, having a monkey on your back is useful - ho ho ho) and there's always new islands to explore and mini-games to master.
Apart from the dual-screens, which give a taller level scope and therefore less cause for vertical scroll than would be possible on a single screen system, the unique features of the DS are under-utilised. This essentially seems to be a GBA game on a newer platform. The touch-screen is almost never used, although some power-ups are activated by touching a button that will appear in the bottom right hand corner. Handy, this position, considering you won't already have your stylus out and need to be able to reach it with your thumb. There's a wi-fi option with various multi-player features, but, as with all games that are at their root platformers - regardless of whatever else has been tacked on - the magic of DK Jungle Climber is really in playing solo.
Those familiar with Nintendo's brand of 2D scrollers will like the old-school feel of this game. The graphics aren't anything special, but they don't need to be. Once again, the Big N delivers with a unique gameplay experience, visuals that are, in the very least, fun, music and sound effects that hark back to a simpler time and any gamer's holy grail - a giant, luminous space banana. Happy climbing!