Donkey Kong 64

Abstract

I don’t usually write reviews—though my strong opinions and OCD really compel me to do so more often—but I feel like Donkey Kong 64 really needs one.

Donkey Kong 64 is the main Donkey Kong game for the Nintendo 64 and follows the SNES line of Donkey Kong Country games, albeit in 3D. It’s a pretty good game, but it has it’s issues.

Pros

DK64 has some really good parts:

  • A lot of gameplay.

    DK64 has a lot of gameplay in various ways. Unlike some games, you definitely feel like you get your money’s worth. It has the main storyline with the overarching theme (beat K.Rool by running around and reaching goals), but it also has quite a lot of other sub-goals and mini-games. There’s also a lot of stuff to collect, weapons to use, and places to explore as well as different characters along with their special abilities, and even two animals to play as. If you are a 100%-gamer, there is definitely a lot of game available. You definitely do not feel ripped off with this game. (Actually, while I thought it would take a really long time to play through, I was surprised to achieve—near—100% in just two weeks, totaling ~65 hours of in-game time. Of course by then, I was already tired of it anyway.)

  • Familiarity

    Being a Donkey Kong game, it has a lot of similarity to other Donkey Kong games, so long-time fans will be able to jump right in and enjoy the things they liked about past games (though personally, I have not yet played the DKC games :-|). It is also very similar to Super Mario Bros. 64, so if you enjoyed that, then you get more like it. (It is also similar to the GameCube game Super Mario Sunshine, so if you have already played that, like I have, then you get that bonus as well.) In addition, it has a couple of levels of the original Donkey Kong arcade game as well as Jetpac, so you get a blast from the past in that way too.

  • Environment

    The tropical island environment is just lovely. The beautiful sun, sand, plants, and water is so alluring and inviting, it really makes me want to move to a tropical island. The same applies to Super Mario Sunshine which has a similar island with intoxicating beaches.

Cons

Unfortunately DK64 also has some really annoying problems (some of which are actually pros that are poorly implemented and result in aggravation):

  • Overwhelming

    While the amount of gameplay is a good thing, there is just so much of it, that it gets to be feel very cluttered. There are several characters, a bunch of locations, and countless items. Between the weapons (shooters and instruments), the regular and golden bananas, the regular and special coins, several types of mini-games, orange bombs and crystal coconuts, fairies, blueprints, numerous moves and combos, and so on and so on, it really feels overwhelming. This is made worse for those of us who want/need to get 100% completion in games. To some degree, you do become accustomed to most of it, but it still feels uncomfortable cluttered, constantly wondering if you got everything or missed anything.

  • Rip-off

    Similarity to other games can be a good thing, but DK64 takes it to a problematic extreme. There are (too) many places where it feels exactly like other games, especially Mario 64. There are several places like the slide races, the island, moves, etc. that are so similar to Mario 64, that it is almost as though they just copy-pasted them from the other game and merely changed the textures. The similarities are so strong, that several different walkthroughs have called them out. (In turn, Mario Sunshine may have been influenced DK64.)

  • Unwieldy

    Like many of the other early 3D games of the time (particularly Mario 64), the controls for both the character and the camera are frustratingly difficult to use and poorly implemented. Moving the character around is often a real chore due to the way the controls work. This is really annoying, especially when it makes it difficult if not impossible to accomplish some tasks. The camera certainly does not help either because whether it is automatic or “manual”, it is often in the wrong place, making things like flying through rings likewise difficult or impossible. The awkward camera also makes it difficult to see some things like balloons that would be easy to see in real life (just tilt your head), but require a concerted effort to see in the game (which of course requires your knowing it is there in the first place). The controls are bad enough that players may throw their controllers in frustration.

  • Bizarre Goals

    Most of the game was pretty straight-forward and there wasn’t too much confusion on what needed to be done. However, there were several places where something that needed to be done (like some of the gold-banana games) were absolutely not intuitive and would not occur to a player. Likewise, it was not obvious howto use the dirt-piles because the move required to expose them seemed like a generic attack move that had nothing to do with the dirt patches. Another example is how in one of the Splish Splash Salvage mini-games, the vines swing down in so that you can reach the coin above water only after you get the underwater ones. The second fight with Army-Dillo was frustrating because it was not clear that you should just keep pounding on him towards the end, rather it seemed more like you had to do something else like jump on him to fly out or something; this happens several times in the game where you end up over-thinking a task, expecting it to be more complicated and clever than it actually is.

  • Lanky

    Lanky Kong was just annoying. From his goofy persona to his, literally, lanky gait and awkward movements, he was annoying to use and provided no significant benefit and had no real point. At least Chunky was big and strong. 🙁

  • Too Hard

    Most of the game isn’t too bad. There are a few parts that are really challenging like the DK arcade (especially the second time), the double-car Minecart Mayhem mini-game, or some of the races. However, most of these are doable with a little (or a lot) of practice. Unfortunately at least one of the tasks is nigh on impossible, the aptly named “Beaver Bother!”. This mini-game requires herding a small group of Gnawty Beavers and getting them to fall down the hole in the center. Unfortunately this is effectively impossible because no amount of snapping at a single beaver will get them to fall in the hole; getting them to fall in requires getting them in a position where one is next to the hole and cannot move away because it is blocked by another beaver. Since there are only four beavers in the arena (five in the “Creepy Castle” versions), it is difficult to get them in the right position. Worse, if you fall in the hole, the game is over and you have to start over. With enough practice, it is possible to get four or five down there, but the game requires 12, and with a 60 second time limit (45 in the “Creepy Castle” versions), it is flat out impossible to do. Having even one of this mini-game is bad enough, but Rare actually put it in the game three times! What were they thinking‽ Did they do any playtesting at all‽ 😮

  • DK Rap

    The DK Rap that is performed in the opening sequence is almost, almost amusing, but it is painfully clear that it was written by non-rappers. Throughout the song, there are several places where it keeps pausing for a beat, resulting in a stuttering effect, as though they could not think of a longer word to use to have enough syllables to keep the rhythm smooth.

Summary

Overally, Donkey Kong 64 is a fun, engaging game but has a few issues that make it frustrating. You feel like you get your money’s worth, and if you play it fast enough, you should be able to get through it before the novelty wears off and the problems take over.

In just a couple of weeks, I got up to 98% (198 gold bananas, all regular bananas (and medals), both special coins, all crowns, all fairies, all keys, all blueprints, and all but 29 banana coins). The only thing left other than the final fight with K.Rool, is to get the remaining three gold bananas, but unfortunately they are the three “Beaver Bother!” bananas which means that I will likely be unable to get 100% in the foreseeable future—maybe it can be left as a quick “casual game” for later on. 🙁

Worst SpaceChem Solution Ever!

I was doing relatively well in SpaceChem until something went terribly wrong on the “Applied Fusion” level. For starters, my solution uses all six reactors available. The massive pipeline is because things keep getting so backed up, that the whole assembly stalls, so I had to extend them enough to keep the molecules flowing long enough to finish the level. If more than 40 molecules of phosphoric acid were required, the assembly would fail (stall) and the pipes would need to be extended further, which is clearly next to impossible at this point. Not surprisingly, this monstrosity takes up quite a few cycles, 20,179 to be specific! In fact, on the graph, it blows far past every other result that has been submitted. Surprisingly however, while it has quite a lot, this assembly-line does not break the record for most symbols.

Assembly-line for “Applied Fusion”

Reactor 1Reactor 2Reactor 3Reactor 4Reactor 5Reactor 6

Applied Fusion_End

Applied Fusion_Stats

Plants vs. Zombies Winning Layouts

Here’s a few screenshots of the final layout that I used to complete some of the Plants vs. Zombies levels.

Unforunately I forgot to get rid of the menu in this one, but basically, I used a lot of winter melons and cat-tails.
Winning layout for PvsZ level “Survival: Pool (Hard)”

It’s the same scenario for the roof; expensive, but worth it. Plus, I had some seed slots to spare, so I woke up a few mushrooms for the party, but they fell back asleep—even one of the winter-melons dozed off. (Yes, this was the last level, allowing me to win the gold trophy.)
Winning layout for PvsZ level “Survival: Roof (Hard)”

This was pretty easy because I did it during the early levels of the second pass through Adventure mode. Just don’t forget the coffee beean.
Winning layout for PvsZ achievement “Good Morning”

Again, this was easy because it was an early level. The spike-weeds took care of the zombies for the most part.
Winning layout for PvsZ achievement “Shrooms”

This level was fairly hard. I hand’t used asymmetrical layouts or garlic until this level. I read someone on the Internet mentioning “funneling” the Zombies, so I did this.
Winning layout for PvsZ level “ZomBotany 2”

This was all that was needed because the snow-peas froze everyone for me (and you don’t even have to plant them on the flat of the roof, the top of the slant is sufficient).
Winning layout for PvsZ level “Pogo Party”

The iron-spike-weeds took out the vehicles, and the fire-repeaters did the rest of the work (the nuts were a last line of defense that was barely necessary).
Winning layout for PvsZ level “Last Stand”

This was one of the least resource-hungry levels. The iron-spike-weeds did almost all of the work and a single cabbage-pult took out any surviving bob-sledders.
Winning layout for PvsZ level “Bobsled-Bonanza”

Speaking of PvsZ, the white marigolds on the bottom row show the three sizes that they grow to.
Zen Garden with three sizes of Marigolds

Video Game List

Game([])
American McGee’s Alice
Bubblet!
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Clive Barker’s Jericho
Clive Barker’s Undying
Don’t Starve
Donkey Kong 64
Feeding Frenzy
Forever Worlds
Ghost Recon
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
Ghost Recon: Desert Seige
Ghost Recon: Island Thunder
Gunman Chronicles
Half-Life
Insaniquarium Deluxe
Insaniquarium
Kingpin
Kiss Psycho Circus
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Max Payne
NiBiRu: Age of Secrets
Painkiller
Prey
Project IGI 2: Covert Ops
Project IGI
Quake 3 Arena
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Safecracker
Scratches (Director’s Cut + Last Visit)
Sentinel: Descendants in Time
Sérious Sam: The First Encounter
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 3
Silent Hill 4
Silent Hill
SiN
SiN: Wages of SiN
Snug
Starcraft
Tomb Raider
Unreal Tournament 2003
Unreal Tournament 2004
Unreal Tournament
Word Harmony

Legend / Key
Pre (()Impression before starting (eg “hype”)
Start ([)Impression during early parts
Mid ()Impression through most of it; current impression
End (])Impression at end (or towards the end)
Post ())Final, overall impression
Didn’t finish; quit
Not applicable; haven’t/hasn’t started yet; have not heard of it
Hate(d) it; was/is a mistake/waste of time; dreading it
Negative feelings; a chore; not looking forward to it
Neutral feelings; no opinion; can take or leave it
Positive feelings; want more; looking forward to it; heard good things
Love(d) it; worthwhile; can’t wait for it

Die Abschlussprüfung

Some time ago I began my descent into language. Over a year ago I saw an episode of Electric Playground in which the game Painkiller was reviewed. I was immediately hooked by the image of the Necrogiant and set out to play this fascinating game.

Soon, I had gotten a copy of the game and played it through. My system is not up to snuff so I had to play it with lower settings and slower than ideal but I got a pretty good feel for the game and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also played the Battle Out of Hell expansion and intend to play the sequel, due soon.

While I was playing, I sought help to get me through it faster, and especially in tricky parts. I found the Dreamcatcher forums where fans of the game would congregate to discuss it. I never registered because I patently refused to create yet another account for a forum for a mere game, a forum that as soon as I was done playing, would no longer frequent. And so I lurked. Such is the name given to people on the Internet who hang around a forum and view messages but never themselves post. In fact it got to the point that I felt that I knew most of the people there quite well, but quickly reminded myself that they don’t even know I exist since I have never posted even one message. Nevertheless, I felt familiar with several of the frequent posters and liked them, especially the ones who like myself enjoy cracking things open and looking inside.

There was one person in particular that I felt closest to. One man who goes by the handle Varus77 created an entire website where he posts in-game videos to demonstrate where and how to get secrets in the game, how to accomplish tricky maneuvers, and to point out interesting parts. The thing that most caught my attention—besides the quality of his videos—was that he was German. I have known many people on the Internet from all over the world, but I was particularly impressed by this one. Moreover, while he communicated in English very well and often, he did not refrain from using Deutsch by any means, and his website is bilingual. Not only did his website contain Deutsch, but his videos did as well, with some really interesting German music.

This is where my life began to change. I found his videos to be very good, but the music he added to them was especially well done. I posted to his guestbook to compliment him on his videos and to inquired about some of the songs. To my surprise, he emailed me personally and told me the artists and titles he used. He had used some great songs from the following groups: E Nomine (a German Christian-synth-rock group), Die Ärzte (a German punk-rock group), Fettes Brot (a German rap group), Nightwish (a Finnish operatic-goth-metal band), and Scala (a multi-lingual vocal cover choir). I got music from all of these groups and before long I was hooked.

It did not end there however. In my quest to obtain music from these groups, I ended up getting great music from others as well. While trying to get an E Nomine song, I mistakenly stumbled upon a couple of songs from the German pop singer Blümchen. While looking for Nightwish songs, I got a mislabeled song by Twilightning. And that cover choir Scala, well they had several great songs and I just had to see what the originals were like which led to Wolfsheim (German synth-pop band), mickey 3d (French rock group), Damien Saez (French rock singer), and Noir Désir (French folk band). I also checked out some others that I had known about like Rammstein (a German death-metal band) and became more attuned to notice new foreign music such as MC Solaar’s French rap from the series finale of Sex and the City, Yves Montand’s French folk song from an episode of South Park, and several French, Spanish, and Italian songs by Karl Zéro in an episode of X-Files. I even got a copy of the Japanese theme song to the Sega Saturn commercials featuring the character Segat Sanshiro (that’s such a great jingle!)

Soon after, I was so hooked on foreign music that I pretty much forsook North American music altogether; how could I listen to the regular garbage when European music offered me what I could no longer find here?

Unfortunately—or rather very, very fortunately—I was still not satisfied. Now being fully immersed in foreign music, I felt removed from my North American home. To further compound the situation, I became even closer to other countries in the form of the Internet. There is a well known website The Pirate Bay which provides torrent files which may or may not be used to violate copy-protection. Unlike most other sites of this nature however, TPB has not folded to American corporate pressure and to the contrary derides their efforts to shut them down. When I first saw their page with their insulting responses to the many cease and desist letters they receive, I could not help but enjoy their attitude and wanted to see this Sweden in which they felt so protected. Adding yet more fuel to the fire was my increased viewing of British shows on BBC. Watching the new seasons of Doctor Who and other shows has given me a taste of what life in England is like, which is very different from life in North America.

I now have extreme wanderlust rushing through my veins. I never imagined myself as the type to go “backpacking around Europe” and have in fact despised the very notion of skipping college to do so. Now however I want nothing more than to see all those little countries that hold such a fascination for me. I fully intend to move to Europe in the future for a protracted period of time, but for now there is much work to be done in North America.

I soon found myself longing to understand these wonderful foreign songs. I have always wanted to learn many languages but now had a stronger incentive than ever. I decided to start with German and before I knew what was happening, I had placed holds on a bunch of German learning books from the library and soon was learning a new language. In just a couple of days I had placed holds on Latin learning books as well because I had apparently thought that I could become fluent in German in one week and could then move on to Latin and so on. I accept that I am clearly a little too ambitious, but that is probably a good thing. I cancelled the holds on the latin books and got some more German. To seal the fact that this is not a transient phase, that I am serious, I even bought a great German dictionary from the used book store a couple of days ago.

I am now three weeks into learning German and despite not having made as much progress as I would have liked—which was ridiculous anyway—I am certain that objectively, I have made terrific progress and am on the right track and probably ahead of schedule. I am using both audio and text to learn. I am not only learning the language, but also the culture, and I find it to be absolutely gripping. One problem is to know when I am done learning. When can I consider the learning complete and move on to another language? I decided that this self-taught course I am going through will have as it’s final exam a movie. I will consider myself fluent in German and done with learning when I am able to watch and completely understand the film Das Boot in the original German. Wouldn’t you like a teacher like me? 🙂 I will not watch it until then. I got a copy of the movie this weekend and am really looking forward to watching it.