Review by nastynate3118

Reviewed: 11/25/14

We need more games in our lives where Mario is the antagonist.

Introduction

Donkey Kong Jr. is a 1982 NES game that was ported from the arcade and is the sequel to the classic Donkey Kong. While Jr. does not have the legendary staying power of the original game, this one is a classic in its own right thanks to solid gameplay and above-average presentation. Compared to its peers from the same year this game stands tall as one of the finest examples of a brief arcade platformer. I may be committing blasphemy by stating that I prefer the NES port over the arcade version but I find the NES version to offer far more fun and variety than the frustrating and coin-sucking arcade counterpart.


Gameplay – 8/10

Donkey Kong Jr. has nearly identical gameplay to its predecessor. The player controls Donkey Kong Jr. as he navigates through four platforming stages to rescue his dad. The big addition to this game comes with the vines that the player must transverse to reach the top of the stage and the goal. DK Jr. moves rather slowly along these vines/chains/ropes and while this is a source of frustration, it does add a level of fun to the gameplay. I should point out that he moves much faster along these obstacles in the NES version as opposed to the arcade version. The other significant feature of completing each stage comes with the traditional platforming and dodging hazards and enemies. I was pleased with the variety of obstacles the game throws at you and things are always fresh while playing.

While this simple formula is certainly a recipe for success, there are a number of issues that are a source of annoyance. Like the original game, your jumping has to be absolutely precise and falling even a small distance results in death. The other really terrible aspect of the game comes with the little crocodile enemies that chase you around as you navigate across the vines. They travel along the vines and have different patterns based on their color. Depending on your luck, there are many times where they will trap and gang up on DK Jr., resulting in death and frustration. Again, this is a problem much more apparent in the arcade version than the NES version.


Interface- 8/10

The interface is very good and gets the job done. You have a clear high score display and life display while playing. I was annoyed with a few minor things such as there being no check points in the final stage and the weird bonus points system. Otherwise, there really isn’t much to say and no news is good news.


Story- 9/10

This game definitely goes above and beyond when it comes to story and presentation for a game from 1982. The most notable aspect of the plot comes with the fact Mario is the featured antagonist and I believe this is the only video game ever made where that is the case. While it really is never explained why Mario has decided to ruin poor Donkey Kong’s life, the developers did an outstanding job making him look evil and Donkey Kong a sympathetic character. Personally, I wish there had been more games made featuring Mario as a villain.


Graphics – 9/10

The visuals in Donkey Kong Jr. are very clear and crisp. The Donkey Kong and Mario sprites are unchanged from the original game but the level design is simply outstanding. The animation is very smooth and I especially love when DK Jr. falls to his death and his eyes pop out. The enemies are also animated very well but sadly lack variety and do not really stand out in terms of their detail.


Sound/Music –8/10

The soundtrack is very simple and extremely catchy but considering the overall atmosphere of the adventure it fits perfectly. The music and sound effects are not as “zany” or memorable as those found in Donkey Kong but they are still very fun and lighthearted. I especially love the little Bach tune at the beginning presentation. The sound effects are a bit of a letdown and simply are not as refined as the music is. The vine-climbing sound is especially grating and sounds half-complete.


Play Time/Replay Value – 8/10

I completed my play through of Donkey Kong Jr. in 36 minutes and 14 seconds. This time would be much shorter if one was extremely proficient and can beat the game in one go, bringing the time to about five minutes. The game is very short and obviously inflated by its tough difficulty but one cannot ignore the fun gameplay and quest to attain a higher score. While I was disappointed with the simple loop after the game ends, the core gameplay is very strong and always worth another visit.


PROS
+Variety to stage design
+Plenty of obstacles and hazards to overcome
+Solid interface
+Outstanding presentation
+Mario is bad guy
+Smooth animation
+Varied level design
+Simple, catchy song
+High score and strong gameplay encourage replay

CONS
-Jumping is too picky
-Enemies can gang up on you
-Last stage annoying with no check points
-Enemy design is disappointing
-Sound effects are lackluster
-Play time inflated by difficulty


Final Recommendation

Donkey Kong Jr. is often forgotten about when compared to its more famous predecessor but this game is a classic in its own right and anyone who enjoyed that game would love this one as well. I also love to see Mario as an antagonist and this title has a bit of notoriety because of that. If you can, give the NES port a try over the arcade version.


Final Score: 8.3333333/10 rounded to 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Donkey Kong Jr. (US, 06/30/86)

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