Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast (Wii)
Nintendo has snuck plenty of odd effluvia into our lives over the years -- Power Gloves, Zappers, R.O.B.s, etc. -- but nothing rivals the crap-factor of the Donkey Konga Bongo Drums. At press time, the Bongo Drums were available in the "Used & New" category on Amazon for $3.99 and up.
Get them while they're hot, people.
Donkey Kong Barrel Blast was clearly designed for the GameCube and those bongo drums. But when the GameCube sank, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast was bumped to the Wii, and reconfigured to work with the Wii's motion-sensitive controllers instead of the bongo drums.
The results: Not good.
This is a kart-racing game that doesn't involve karts. Instead of karts, various characters from the Donkey Kong universe -- in general, monkeys and lizards -- wear what appears to be a pair of rocket-propelled bongo drums around their waists.
Kranky's Flight School, the game's 20-minute-long tutorial, taught us the basics of bongo-flying. Using the Wii remote and nunchuck attachment, Kranky showed us how to gain speed (mimic a drumming motion), turn (shake the nunchuck to turn left; shake the Wii remote to turn right) and jump (snap both controllers upward at the same time).
Kranky Kong also taught us how to attack by pressing the A button, gather bananas, and pull off the unfortunately named Wild Moves, which give your Kong a speed-boost and make him (or her) temporarily invulnerable.
Gameplay is divided between a traditional Jungle Grand Prix mode and Candy Kong's Challenges mode.
Grand Prix is fairly standard-issue: We drummed our way through a series of races, earning points for finishing first, second or third in each race. Points are tallied at the end of the series. Finishing in first place with the most points unlocks further Cups.
Candy's Challenges gave us specific goals to complete, like collect X amount of bananas in one minute, or attack X amount of bees before time runs out.
Of course, no kart-racing game is ever complete without weapons and power-ups. In Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, weapons/power-ups are obtained by flying through balloons floating about the tracks.
None of these weapons/power-ups are terribly creative. Telling the difference between Squawks, Quawks and Mini-Neckys -- and their various attack powers -- is nearly impossible. We rarely had any clear sense of the damage they were (or more likely, weren't) causing. On the receiving end, we often felt like things attacked us out of nowhere. We'd be cruising along, gathering bananas, when suddenly some sort of bird thing would swarm us, slowing us down, leaving us with no idea where it came from, or why it was pestering us.
Such frustrating moments made us long for the crisp, clean decisiveness of a red homing-missile shell.
The game's tracks are of the typical lava-ice-desert variety. Despite an inspired moment or two -- jumping into boost barrels sent us somersaulting ahead on some courses; Salty Sea has a novel underwater segment -- the tracks are generally bland.
The game also suffers from some fairly serious control issues. The most egregious: Drumming and jumping are easily confused, which resulted in a jump and/or drum when we intended the opposite action.
Gathering 50 bananas during races earns a Wild Move. Pull back on the nunchuck's control stick until your Kong begins to glow red-hot. Let the stick go, and your Kong will enjoy a brief moment of speed and invulnerability (but not total invulnerability; iron barrels, for example, will still stop him cold).
The Wild Moves can be comboed, and therefore extended, by bursting through any nearby breakable objects. Unfortunately, the window to combo Wild Moves feels far too brief. All too often we found ourselves glowing red, spinning towards another breakable barrel in the distance, only to have our Wild Move peter out long before we ever got there.
The final nail in this game's coffin comes in the form of the bane of all racing games: low-down, dirty, cheating A.I. There were countless times when we enjoyed a comfortable lead, only to watch a Kremling pull up alongside us, toot his horn, and then zip across the finish line, stealing first place at the last possible moment.
Overall, the game fails to distinguish itself in any tangible way. It's dull. It's frustrating. It adds absolutely nothing to the genre.
Ultimately, there's only one thing more lame than pounding on cheap, plastic bongo drums. And that's pretending to be pounding on cheap, plastic bongo drums.
Forget Kranky, Krabby, Klumsy, etc. This game is 100-percent Krappy.
Verdict: Dump it. In some very deep hole. Never to be seen again.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.