Donkey Kong Classics is a collection of the first two great Donkey Kong games. The first Donkey Kong is a bare bones 2D platformer, while Donkey Kong Jr. advances what a platformer should be. As Donkey Kong Jr. you can still jump over enemies, but now you can climb vines and poles. Both are classics that are fun to play today as they were back then. The only real issue is that both of these two games can be complete in under ten minutes. They’re easy and simple, yet fun and timeless.
The original Donkey Kong has you playing as Mario or back then, he was known as Jump Man. The first level is iconic and almost says video games like a level of Pac-Man or a Tetris column says video games. You start at the bottom and need to climb your way up to Donkey Kong and rescue Pauline. At the top, Donkey Kong will roll barrels at you that not just fall to lower platforms as you’re on the way up, but they’ll roll down ladders too. You’ve got the ability to jump over them, climb ladders, unless they’re broken and you can even jump up to get a barrel smashing hammer.
The hammer is a brief power up and while it destroys barrels, you can’t climb a ladder while carrying it. So you can complete the level before the hammer expires. When barrels get to the bottom, they hit an oil drum that forms a fiery creature that slowly begins its ascent after you. This makes you push the pace to complete the level.
Everyone knows that level, but then there are two others. The original arcade classic had four levels, but I suppose due to the constraints of a NES cartridge, there are only three levels here. The second level is more platforming. Jumping from platform to platform, all while avoiding fiery creatures and collecting items for bonus points. This is an arcade game after all, you need those points! This time Donkey Kong has hopping jacks at the top to guard Pauline and you need to time things just right.
The final level of the original Donkey Kong feels a bit more linear. The object is to walk over all of the supports to in a multi teired tower with Donkey Kong on top. Walking over the supports creates create gaps in the floor. Once all of the supports have gaps, the tower’s floors fall in with Donkey Kong crashing to the ground! Then you start all over again! As an arcade game, the point isn’t to complete the game, but its your high score. Playing over and over again in the same three lives.
Donkey Kong Jr. puts a different spin on things. Mario has captured Donkey Kong, and as Jr, you must go from vine to vine to rescue him. The vine climbing technique is a total change from the original Donkey Kong gameplay. Its a very nice sequel.
The gameplay is simple, but a lot deeper than the original classic. You can still walk and jump around, but now you can climb poles. If you have all four of Donkey Kong Jr’s limbs on two poles, you can climb up quickly, but if you only have his body on one pole its a very slow climb. Going down a pole its faster to just be on one, but slower to be crossed between two poles or vines.
There’s a wealth of new enemies, most of which climb along vines with you. There are fruit objects that you can touch and they’ll fall to take out an enemy for points. You’ll even have to cross onto moving ropes to make it across gaps. There’s a lot of dynamics even in such a brief game.
Donkey Kong Jr has all four levels. Two are similar jungles, the third is some sort of techno level with sparks going across wires and a sleek look. The final level has Donkey Kong Jr moving keys up chains that will unlock his dad’s cage.
With all of this said, how do we know Donkey Kong Jr isn’t a prequel? The games could be the chicken or the egg. You go through one, only to go through the other again and again. One frees Donkey Kong and the other stops the big ape. Its all just something extra to talk about in a game that doesn’t last more than twenty minutes outside of players hunting for high scores.
Both games are great, G-rated fun for any age. While I can’t recommend the games for extended periods of play, they’re both still a lot of fun. Short and sweet, before the enjoyment wears thin. Thankfully, both games are in this collection, even if slightly abridged.