Middle-aged monkeys moving to Mark Morrison’s music

Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010)

God, they warned me this would happen. I’m 32 this year and, while mercifully I haven’t degraded to a broken down ould fossil like some, and I’ve even managed to hold on to most of my hair, I can admit it – time is speeding up for me at a bloody alarming rate. It won’t be long now until I’ve got tubes up my nice, hairs in my ears and God knows what up my bum, and I’m racing towards the light, thinking “where did my life go…?”

Now, there’s a few reasons for this acceleration of time, as us timeologists will always be happy to explain to you. Firstly, it’s a question of relativity – a year seems like an impossibly long amount of time when you’re 5 and it represents 20% of your life, especially when it’s between Christmases and you’re waiting for the N64 to come out. On the other hand, when you’re aged 50, a year is a paltry 2%, which incidentally is the type of milk you probably shouldn’t be drinking anymore. It makes sense actually, but then as a gifted timeologist, strictly speaking everything I say makes sense.

I really do mean that you know, and I can prove my credentials – ask me at any point in the day what time it is, and I’ll tell you the answer accurate to within five minutes. Stonehenge and Newgrange couldn’t do that for you. They should call me Sundial.

The other reason for time speeding up definitely interests me more. Our brains, which when you think about it have a bit too much control over our bodies, well they’re always filing things away in the old memory banks for later. But like any worker, it can make mistakes, putting short-term memories in the long-term memory cabinet, hence we have the déja vu phenomenon.

But also like any other worker, it eventually learns where it can take shortcuts and just not do its work as diligently. To wit – the brain will take those mundane, samey memories of routine and just throw them into one vast ether, or burn it up altogether.

This is why you don’t remember your commutes, and why if asked in court you unfortunately would not be able to recount what you were eating the night your wife was stabbed and established your alibi. So if you want time to slow down again and make days stick out, then you need to get out of your moribund routine and get to trying something different.

And I reckon this is where mid-life crises come from, you know. You suddenly realise that your life is whizzing by, and you ain’t getting another,, so it’s time for a change, time to take back control. So you sack off your wife and buy a Ferrari if you’re a man, or you poison your husband and get a tattoo if you’re a woman.

Either way, people will laugh at you, but why? What’s wrong with taking control and making a comeback, even if you’re a bit more advanced in years? You can take a few years out of the game, not being competitive, until one day you feel that urge to blare out Return of the Mack and get back in the game.

Or is that Return of the Donk? Truth be told, it’s not like any of us had forgotten about Donkey Kong when he made his return in, ah, Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii in 2010. After all, the SNES games were in the 90s, remade on the GBA in the 2000s, it took any normal gamer ten years to 100% DK64 and there were a number of non-entity DK games on the GameCube and DS as well.

But forget about all that – this was the new platforming adventure starring Donkey and Diddy, 2D (or rather, 2.5D) and all new worlds to roll through, new enemies to stomp on. You can also expect a return to great music and soundtrack (David Wise returns?), giving you a strong sense of that déja vu phenomenon (did I say that already?).

There’s a lot to this game, you know. You’ve got nine worlds with 8 or so levels each, lengthy ones too, and each level not only contains 4 KONG letters to collect, but also a number of jigsaw puzzle pieces for unlocking concept art and the likes. You have to be bit more than braindead to find them as well, not for your average monkey, and there could be nine of them in a single level, so that’ll keep you interested.

And once you’ve done all that, you’re invited to speedrun the level again in a pursuit to win medals, we’re talking Bronze, Silver, Gold, and even a goddam Shiny Gold ultra hidden medal if you can haul your monkey’s ass, all very Crash Bandicoot. Then, forgive the spoilers, you can do it all again in mirrored levels, with only one hit-point this time.

Whew, boy, they really want you to play every inch of this game. Of course, those mid-lifers in crisis like me won’t have the time for all this; we’re far too busy trying to convince ourselves that this hell-on-earth nightclub is exactly where we wanna be at age 40. I’d also have to say that speedruns could have been fun if not for the fact that the Wii motion controls come racing to the surface, faster than any speeding monkey. They always do, don’t they?

In this case, it’s OK really to hold the Wii Remote on its side for this game. I don’t mind that. I’ve got those Donald Trump hands, so the Wiimote doesn’t give me cramps, I suppose I should mention. But God, where’s the Classic Controller support? Essential piece of kit for the Wii, that, and DKCR won’t support it.

It’s stupid, because that would have been a fantastic throwback to Donkey Kong’s SNES days. But now, if you want DK to do his classic roll, or indeed keep him rolling indefinitely once he partners up with Diddy, you have to keep shaking the Wii Remote every half-second, and I’m not making this up.

I’d also have to say that, while there aren’t a large amount of gimmick levels, there are recurring minecart and rocketbarrel levels – one world is filled with nothing but – and they are dreadful to play after the first one each. Everyone hates these levels, so I suppose it’s like the water levels in platformers, or PE class, you know, shitty things we all have to go through together.

Apart from that though, Donkey Kong Country Returns is very enjoyable. I liked it a lot, even if it can get frustrating – I must admit on a pique of anger I once put the Wiimote between my teeth and bit, in a manner quite similar to Simon Pegg biting the phone when he can’t get the restaurant reservation in Shaun of the Dead. But I ain’t laughing at Donkey Kong here, this game was a great return to form for the big hairy lad, and it has the sales figures and marketing budget to prove it. What would DK be doing in a Ferrari anyway?

24 January 2023

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