After having ventured through tropical jungles and a pirate island, I was curious about what the next logical step for the Donkey Kong Country series would be. Well, Diddy and Donkey seem to have disappeared to the Northern Kremisphere, with Dixie and Kiddie taking up on saving them from a recurring villain. Basically; we are on a vacation resort that could be in Canada for all I know. This is an interesting change from the previous entries and DKC3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble was actually the first of the franchise I ever got to try out. Hopefully, this trip down memory lane is as sweet as I remembered it being.
It might not be surprising that this instalment is yet another platformer, following many familiar footsteps from the previous games. Each stage is a linear setup where you play as Dixie or the newcomer Kiddie, which you can once again alter between if both are on the screen. Getting hit results in losing the Kong you controlled and should this happen without a partner along for the ride, it will cost you one of your lives.
Both of the heroes can run, jump, and attack, as well as carry barrels found throughout to throw. While you can switch whom to mainly control, they are also able to pick up and toss each other, with Kiddie being capable of destroying objects due to his weight, while Dixie will fly further. This adds nicely to the exploration by making you remember what strengths you have, and the levels are packed with tons of secret goodies to make these features useful.
Regrettably, Kiddie is not really that fun to utilise. Despite that he can damage larger opponents, he pails in comparison to Dixie who can float with her hair in this platformer. Sure, the big boy can skip on the water twice, but it has barely any use. Especially, when a rolling leap will make you travel far and both monkeys can execute this move with ease. Tragically, this is a strong showcase for what is to come: this is a lesser DKC overall due to most of the new features.
Animal companions return to ride or transform into, such as the swordfish for attacking underwater instead of having the Kongs swim defencelessly, the green parrot to hang onto that can fly and fire coconuts, and the spider to shoot webs and create temporary platforms with! They are all great to see again as they add to the stages’ layouts and variety, but the newcomers are absolute garbage. Be it the purple parrot who can only carry barrels while floating around, a small bird who is stationary above you to collect stuff and acts like an excessive helmet or the fish that must take bites of specific enemies to live longer, everyone here is incredibly slow and make the entire experience a constant slog.
None of the levels tries to make them interesting either, and this can also be said for the elephant who can only suck to grab kegs to throw or inhale water to spit at foes. She particularly becomes a tedious pace breaker due to having to stand still in order to gain projectiles and being afraid of rats. This is terrible to say, as there are just as many exhilarating stages to encounter as there are underwhelming ones. You will take on obstacle courses where you will ride a sleigh and need to react accordingly, climb up ropes while using projectiles as trampolines, and blast from one cask to another with sufficient timing!
These are fast and exciting, even if the difficulty curve is inconsistent. Unfortunately, it is hard to shake off those that halt your progression with annoying patterns to wait for or something similarly arbitrarily like pulling switches. It does not help either when concepts are repeated without any evolved creativity to them. The adversaries do not enhance them necessarily either, as they are a mix of solid arrangements for bouncing off and lazy hindrances.
Despite that I enjoy how the krocks with shields can act as platforms, this title has quite the fondness for the stationary metallic beez buzzers. These do minimal to alter the layouts and are just dull versions of spikes, nothing else. Further emphasising this strange blend of good and bad, is the exploration of the stages for hidden items. Bananas and the letters K, O, N, and G still provide extra lives, DK barrels offer a Kong back, and there are both wooden and iron kegs to throw! There are also bonus casks for acquiring additional materials, but these will be discussed later in this review.
Most are fun to search for, but with how you can effortlessly save on the overworld, gaining any form of continues is not a big deal anymore. Not to mention; these places are quite linear in comparison to the previous entries, which makes it straightforward to get most knickknacks. Again, this is a shame as most of the locations have something neat to them, even if nothing escalates in terms of challenge. It is just hard to ignore that the new stuff is downright worthless at times.
However, what is the most aggravating thing about this game, are some of the bosses. They can have such long and monotonous patterns with picky hit detection that makes them frustratingly bland, like the crab that needs to be stabbed by the swordfish, the giant spider jumping around for ages or the final battle that is a total cakewalk. I will give that they are all imaginative, but even if I enjoyed feeding an oversized barrel to make it fall backwards or having a fixed third-person snowball fight with a snowman, most could have had less health to be at least forgettable than irritating.
What happens after you defeat one of these key antagonists, is probably the only unique addition I love in this instalment. Throughout the overworld, you will have a boat that you can upgrade in order to traverse to other maps and tackle more stages. Gaining tools from slaying bosses is always exciting, as they allow for more exploration by letting you drive over rocks or up waterfalls just to name a few. You can even find secrets here too, and while I am conflicted on how easy it is to save now as you do not have to pay for doing so, it is undoubtedly convenient when there is so much to discover. Equipping your ride is done at Funky’s shop and it is as simple as asking him to do so.
With all of this in mind, I am completely mixed about the main playthrough. Most of the levels are entertaining, but there are plenty that is a slog to get through too and the difficulty is all over the place. Except for your vessel, every new idea is entirely inadequate and these are a big portion of this adventure. In the end though; the creativity is what helps this title to be largely fun to play, even if it is hard to not sigh at the obvious downgrades.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Cabins and fabrics
Using the same silicon graphics and advanced computer modelling as the previous entries, DKC3 is a sight to behold and this can already be seen in the cast. Kiddie and Dixie have adorable personalities, with Dixie being the more hip sibling and Kiddie being a bit of a brat. Onwards, they have nice animations and the rest of the Kongs follow similarly, be it the sly Swanky advertising his circus or Granny gaming some N64.
Everything looks superb, though the environment is an interesting shift. The setting is a vacation resort with a touch of industrial included and it is truly beautiful! Lakes with colourful plants, fabrics containing tons of dangerous contraptions, and snowy fields holding huts and harsh snowfall are just some examples. Each location sticks to the overall gorgeous theming and has a bunch of details around to make them all enchanting, with the multilayered backgrounds adding magnificent scopes to the outdoor areas.
What might be controversial then, is that this title is more of a technical marvel than an artistic one. Even if there are captivating elements everywhere, such as the subtle change of weather or the number of things going on the screen without the game ever slowing down, the creativity leaves something to be desired. This is a more safe setup with cabins and places you would travel to on holiday than anything else.
Nothing grand is done with them either in terms of imagination, though the bosses are an exception. Most are intriguing, like the giant hungry barrel inside a factory or the snowman having a snowball fight with you. Unfortunately, the regular enemies do not help much, as the kremlings do not change enough or reflect the zones to be exciting, and there are plenty of buzzards around. Luckily, everything is made with care to the point that the overworld will represent what type of stages you will take on.
Sound effects are solid throughout with clear audio cues from hitting foes and satisfying ones from grabbing collectables. As for the music composed by Eveline Fischer and David Wise, it has a more comfortable and lighthearted tone throughout! All melodies got nice beats, but a couple has repetitive parts to them that make them unengaging in the long run. Thankfully, those with a more mysterious build-up really are wonderful with varied instruments and diverse use of notes. The tracks are somewhat uneven, but still contain some outstanding melodies.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Treasure hunting minigames!
Options for bringing a friend on the journey in either team or contest return, with one being to see who can get the furthest while the other just swaps between who is playing. Both are decent additions, but you could also just share one controller in the singleplayer mode. Exploring these stages is definitely fun, and despite some linear structures that can make it easier to find everything, some trinkets are well hidden and you might even need some hints from one of the bears scattered around the maps. Getting a 103% save slot is quite the challenge, but a delightful one!
Bonus barrels make a comeback and their levels are a mixed setup. Some are commendable, with the ones letting you kill all enemies on screen, gathering items before the time runs out, and tackling obstacle courses being all worthwhile, even if some are nonchalant tasks. Regrettably, the new ones for catching randomly spawned green bananas are too bland, as you will just be moving back and forth between a small area.
However, getting the B coins from these rooms is generally compelling and I cannot argue that the rewards for these accomplishments are incredible. Also, searching the overworld for secret caves is engaging and can lead to finding crystals that require you to play Simon Says for acquiring a banana bird. While it is all minimal, they add to the free structure of the overworld. I just wish the DK tokens were not effortlessly collected by merely throwing iron kegs and having them ricocheted behind a shielding krock.
Yet, there are still a ton of other things to discover, which will be mainly tools to trade between the bears! This can be a demanding quest, but adds to clever and entertaining treasure hunting, to the point that I took notes! Even locating the right furry dude for getting further through tips or doing transactions is a blast and you get some neat extras for your troubles! Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. Besides the minor issues already mentioned, the harder mode is a shallow challenge that does not provide anything to the experience or fix the already uneven difficulty.
I cannot act as I was very into the minigame at Swanky’s circus either, as you just toss balls at targets in a fixed TPS setup. While it is fine and even comes with a vs mode, it is at best a novelty since you only get lives from it. Due to this being one of the few things you can use the silver bear tokens on, they become useless quickly. Nevertheless, the bonus coins, exciting exploration, and fantastic stages to unlock mitigate the shortcomings. It should also be stated that the cheats are a cute inclusion.
Extra Score: 7/10
There is something strange regarding the third instalment to any franchise and I can say the same about DKC3. It is honestly a downgrade from its predecessors, but I applaud it for being an adventure that stands on its own. Sadly, a lot of the new gameplay ideas are for the worse and can easily make one forget the phenomenal levels that are actually imaginative. With its intriguing landscapes, delightful presentation, and plenty of additional content worth taking on, this is still a good entry to this series. It is simply the weakest one in my opinion and not even the GBA port with its magnificent soundtrack excels it to much higher praise.