Retro Review: Donkey Kong Land

The idea of translating Donkey Kong Country to Gameboy seems completely crazy, but Donkey Kong Land manages to pull it off. While not nearly as visually stunning as the original, at least not in a positive way, Donkey Kong Land brings a decent approximation to the small screen.

Donkey Kong Land’s graphics are far too busy for the Gameboy screen. Most of the sprites are taken directly from the SNES version, scaled down and made monochromatic. The same is true for the backgrounds, to the point that the game is a blurry mishmash on an actual Gameboy screen. The game was clearly designed for Super Game Boy, and in that context it works rather well. Stages have appropriate palettes, e.g. ice stages with a blue-white color scheme and jungles in shades of green. Gameboy Advance emulation also works well since it can apply different palettes to sprites and backgrounds.

The gameplay of the Donkey Kong Country series translates relatively well here, though pulling off some moves is inexplicably hard. For instance, rolling off an edge to get more distance on a jump is still possible, but not as intuitive. The problem is that Donkey Kong Country wasn’t really notable for its gameplay, particularly in the first game, which Donkey Kong Land roughly emulates. It’s a competent platformer with a lot of secrets, but with the graphical downgrade it doesn’t stand out except as a tech demo for the Gameboy.

It’s hard to recommend Donkey Kong Land unless you’re a huge fan of the Donkey Kong Country series and just want more. That said, it’s not bad, either. It’s an entirely middling game that makes impressive use of limited technology, but does so without really improving the final product.

Review Score: C

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