Puzzle platformers: 1994 edition

Pshh, you think those shiny new games from TGS are worth talking about? Man, I think you came to the wrong site. We love old stuff here, and what could be older than a Game Boy game from 1994? Well…a lot of stuff, to be honest, but this is my blog post and I’ll do what I want.

So yeah, after finishing up Braid, I was in the mood for more puzzle platforming, and the general consensus was that Donkey Kong (sometimes called Donkey Kong ’94) for Game Boy was one of the best puzzle platformers out there. Turns out that’s a pretty accurate statement, because this game is awesome.

[[image: ar_100308_dkgb_01.jpg:DK94:center:0]]
Imagine, if you will, a 2D Mario that has all the moves from Mario 64 (handstands, side-flip-jumps, double and triple jumps), but two years before its release. Now imagine plunking that Mario into the original Donkey Kong, which, after the four initial stages, becomes a crazy puzzle game where you have to get a large key to the locked door of each stage. I’m told Mario vs. Donkey Kong is similar to this, but I haven’t played that (yet). But if you have, you get the idea.

It skews slightly more to platforming over puzzles than, say, Braid, but it’ll definitely stump you later on. Case in point: I’m currently stuck on a level in the seventh world, and have no idea how to progress. (Oh, did I mention there are, like, a billion levels in this thing? Best ten dollars I ever spent.) That’s okay; I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually, because I can’t put the thing down. Seriously, it might rival [insert personal choice here; I tend to go with Link’s Awakening] as the best game on Game Boy. I know — I had a hard time believing it, too, but I’ve played it, and it’s true. Ignore all those new games and go pick this up, or, failing that, pray that it shows up on the DSi someday and play it then. (And if you’ve already played it, good job! Go play it again and relive your youth, or something.)

15 thoughts on “Puzzle platformers: 1994 edition

  1. It honestly does rival anybody’s personal choice for best Game Boy game ever. I remember getting it at some point soon after its release and playing the heck out of it. Like most games I got as a kid, when I had plenty of free time but not much cash, I completed the entire game three times through, and made a couple aborted attempts at it as well. Great stuff. I’m glad to know that it holds up today!

    You know, I never did make the connection that SM64’s moveset first appeared in DK’94. I learned something today!

  2. This is an amazing platformer, and I thank you again for bringing it to my attention. I played Mario Vs. Donkey Kong first and was impressed by how they adapted Mario’s N64 moves to a 2D plane. I had no idea that the origin of his modern moveset lie in such an unassuming GB title. It was like discovering the missing link in the evolution of Mario. Everyone should try it, and EBstop has it for cheap: http://www.ebgames.com/Catalog/ProductDetails.aspx?product_id=11620

    (man, I gotta get my Super Game Boy running, those enhancements are sweet.)

  3. I’ll give credit where credit’s due: TheSL is the one that pointed out to me that those were, in fact, the same moves from Mario 64. I probably wouldn’t have thought about it otherwise.

  4. I bought it used and played it a couple of years ago, so maybe I should go replay it and relive my adulthood?
    But DK94 is a really good game, and yeah, its amazing how they used the moveset that would become M64’s. It makes the original DK levels (the first four) stupidly easy, but then you discover you have 96 more levels to go. And hard levels at that. So yeah, go play it.

  5. Donkey Kong’s Super Game Boy remake is easily one of my favorite Game Boy titles ever. Unfortunately, it makes it all the more annoying that the dated “3/4ths of the arcade title” NES port received three methods to play it on the Game Boy Advance and a Virtual console port, while the awesome DK ’94 has only seen a spiritual sequel with pre-rendered 3D visuals.

    Here’s to hoping that Donkey Kong ’94 gets the respect it deserves as a DSi download.

  6. My dream Nintendo game would be a WiiWare remake / sequel to DK ’94 with gorgeous 480p pixel graphics (non of that prerendered crap), level design on par with the Game Boy classic (best portable game ever? perhaps) and a level editor / online level sharing feature. *Drooooooooooooooooool*

  7. I can’t remember, did this thing come packaged with super gameboy or did it just come out around the same time?

    Either way, I remember playing this game and loving it whenever I’d borrow my friend’s super gameboy. Good times.

  8. All I know is, when I get my grubby hands on LittleBigPlanet, my level designs will inevitably have this game to thank.

  9. I didn’t much care for Mario vs Donkey Kong, but the original GB Donkey Kong is indeed ten pound of awesome in a five pound bag. I have many fond memories of playing the hell out it when it first came out.

  10. I’ve only found it hard in the “I’m stuck” sense, not the platforming itself. Something I forgot to add, that struck me when I really dug into the game: each one of your jumps are pretty useful. It’s nice to have a range of jumps in, say, Mario 64 or something, but here each and every one (the handstand ump, the flip-jump, the double and triple jumps) each seem to have their own unique places in the game. It’s pretty fabulous.

  11. Being able to protect yourself from falling debris with the handstand is pretty sweet too.

  12. Man I love this game. Played through this and Wario land more times than I can remember. I always found DK to be hard, level wise, but really easy in terms of getting extra 1ups. I always hit 99 lives just before the final 8 levels, which was good because those last ones are ultra brutal.

  13. Yes, it is the greatest game for Game Boy and Link’s Awakening wishes it could be this awesome.

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