During an afternoon full of upcoming Wii and DS games yesterday, I got a chance to play the next Donkey Kong game with a second player. It went better than my first co-op Mario Bros gaming last year.
When I teamed up with other players in 2009's New Super Mario Bros Wii, I was usually soon playing against them as much as I was playing with them. We'd race for coins, toss each other off cliffs and maybe move toward the right so we could actually complete the level.
When I teamed up with a Nintendo representative for some Donkey Kong Country Returns yesterday, we were helpful to each other's cause of finishing the level. I was Donkey Kong. The Nintendo guy was Diddy. In this side-scrolling game, I could run, jump and make Donkey Kong attack with a slap or by dropping from the height of a jump. Diddy had a peanut gun, which shoots in small arcs.
We started a level called Poppin' Planks and each tried to take care of enemy crabs, each tried to jump to bananas. We didn't grief each other; it wouldn't be that easy to do. I could put Diddy on my back, but that just let him shoot the peanut gun from my back without having to worry about movement. It also let Donkey Kong hover when he jumped, thanks to Diddy's jetpack. When I activated a Donkey Kong rolling attack, Diddy ran on his back, keeping him steamrolling the bad guys.
We died a lot. The game requires some precise jumps and, with the comfort of a second player around, we were both being reckless. As long as one player is still alive, the other player respawns from a descending balloon. You can pop your friend's respawn balloon to hurry his return, similar to how you could pop the bubble of a returning player in New Super Mario Bros Wii. In the new Donkey Kong, if you assume you can always keep coming back, you might get reckless, as we did.
The new game is made by Retro Studios, creators of Metroid Prime. There isn't much Metroid Prime to the levels I've seen, aside from the creative graphics. Something is always happening in the background and foreground. For example, in the Planks level, a whale swam in the distance. I forget how, but we got him to make some waves, which caused the foreground we were running across to ripple with shockwaves. As this kind of thing happened and the level got more hectic, we realised that the safer way to get through the rest was to get Diddy on Donkey Kong's back. Suddenly I could hover over those shockwave ripples. My Nintendo co-pilot could shoot enemies from afar with that gun. Combined, we were much more potent. This co-op felt co-operative, not competitive like Mario's.
We tried a boss battle against the guy in this screenshot. He's called Mugly. He runs back and forth and Donkey or Diddy have to wait for his spikes on his back to recede, then jump on him to hurt him. Nothing revolutionary there, but made easier with the help of a co-op player, since whichever one of us got killed by Mugly could respawn as long as the other player stayed alive. Taking advantage of that, we got our four or so hits on him and beat him.
Donkey Kong Country Returns feels good when played in co-op. It's rewarding to team up. Given that Diddy is only occasionally available if you play this game solo, I think I'll enjoy Returns more if I can play through it with a friend. The game is out for the Wii later this year.
That's it for Nintendo impressions today. I hope you enjoyed the full batch.