And you will want to carry on playing. This is partly because there's so much variation between levels, in terms of both pace and content. Even when you're stuck on a particularly tricky bit you know there's probably a gentler platforming section, a pretty new environment or a fun mine cart race just round the corner.
Yes, DKC fans, mine cart races are back. So are stampeding rhinos and exploding barrels and banana coins and life balloons and silly boss battles. If all that wasn't enough, the same old sound effects and theme tunes are also there to take you right back to the good old days.
All those chirpy hooks, pounding drums and bright sound effects which sound like they were created by someone taking a hammer to a coconut are present and correct. Even the Game Over tune is the same. You know, the one with the ominous pan pipes playing over the mournful synthesiser. I want it played as I go through the curtains at the crematorium.
Unfortunately, the similarities between DKC Returns and the original games also extend to the multiplayer mode. Just as it was in those games, it's a bit rubbish. One player controls Donkey while the other is in charge of Diddy, and you're always on-screen at the same time. Or at least that's the plan - in reality, with so much happening on-screen, such large character sprites and that close-up camera, you spend a lot of time waiting for each other to catch up.
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When it comes to the on-rails levels the two-player mode is seriously flawed. You're both in the same boat, or rather mine cart, so you can't tell who messed up that jump or who was responsible for that leap to victory. Plus, if one player makes a mistake you'll each lose a life. This makes it easy to burn through those red balloons, and impossible to complete the trickier levels if you're playing alongside an idiot.
So forget the formal multiplayer mode. You're better off sticking with the tried and trusted formula my brother and I patented in 1994, where you swap the controller every time someone dies or finishes a level. We call this mechanism, brilliantly, lifeforalifelevelforalevel. We employed it when playing DKC Returns the other day and it was great fun, even though we now have a combined age of 60.
In any case, the DKC games were never about multiplayer. They were about great gameplay, varied levels, plush graphics and staying up all night riding a giant ostrich through a jungle full of angry wasps and golden bananas. Donkey Kong Country Returns lovingly recreates all those elements and presents them in an even prettier package.
You could argue that it doesn't move the series forwards much. There are a few new twists in here, but nothing which fundamentally changes the game or represents a significant departure from the tried and true formula.
But who cares? DKC fans who just want to remember the good old times won't, and nor will newcomers to the series. This game has the potential to win over a whole new generation, and to do so without eliciting any whinges from those of us old enough to remember the taste of a McRib washed down with Tab Clear.
If you fit into either of those categories, and you're looking for a bit of fun, old school escapism this Christmas, pick up a copy of DKC Returns. It's great to be back in the old Country.
9 / 10