Donkey Kong Country 3 is considered the weak point o’ the original trilogy, & that’s not entirely unwarranted: coming @ the very end o’ the SNES’s lifetime — to the point that this game was released after Super Mario 64 — Rare was shifting development toward the N64, with much o’ the core DKC staff, including the main game designer, Gregg Mayles, & 1 o’ the main composers, David Wise ( tho he did compose a few songs, & this was balanced out by the other main composer, Eveline Novakovic, not composing anything for DKC2 ). While I’d argue that Novakovic did a great job with this game’s soundtrack, which I only appreciate mo’ & mo’ with each listen, the loss o’ Mayles lost this game many level design touches that made the other DKC levels, specially those in DKC2, great, most notably the careful positioning o’ elements, such as Zingers, to always allow players a way to get thru obstacles without stopping & waiting, & the the lack o’ variety & balance in levels, with levels in this game focusing too monotonously on their gimmicks.
That said, I would argue that this game is still better than the original DKC, & in some ways e’en better than DKC2. While DKC1’s level design was better in terms o’ speed, they were rather basic, mostly focusing on basic platforming, with a few gimmicks, some o’ which were pretty terrible, like the slow-moving platform in “Trick Track Trek” or the level that constantly made it impossible to see, “Blackout Basement”. While DKC3 had some lame gimmicks like e’ery game, it also has some o’ the most creative gimmicks in the entire trilogy. & while DKC3 is worse than DKC2 in terms o’ speed & variety, it’s better in terms o’ secrets. Those who have read my ranking o’ DKC2’s bonus location will have read me many times complaining ’bout magical move-thru walls & how DKC2 oft relied on this trick, e’en in some o’ the otherwise best levels, to hide bonuses or hero coins. I am happy to say that DKC3 ne’er uses magical move-thru walls @ all, nor does it rely on having you fall into pits to find bonus barrels, like the 1st game. Without a doubt DKC3 has the fairest bonus locations. It also has slightly better bonuses than DKC2, adding an extra bonus type to add a bit o’ much-needed variety, doing a better job o’ integrating level gimmicks into bonuses, & adding a cheat code to make them holiday-themed. DKC3 also has the best save system o’ the trilogy: after DKC1 put its save points in the middle o’ worlds as a weird way to force you to play a few levels in a row without getting game o’er to save & DKC2 charges you for saves after the 1st save in a world, DKC3 just has save caves spread out that you can access @ any time for free. E’en better, with the cheat code “ASAVE” players can have the game automatically save after e’ery level. Contrast that with Mario games, which wouldn’t have autosave till 2017, mo’ than 20 years after this game.
This game also provides a mo’ interactive map strewn with bears with fetch quests & other activities, like Simon Says games to get banana birds required for 100%. Most o’ these aren’t that interesting, tho I do like how “Riverside Race” has a best time to beat to open a path to a secret bird cave. The ball-throwing minigames are also fun, not only ’cause they provide a stealthy tutorial for the boss Bleak, but also ’cause it’s entertaining to watch Cranky Kong get pissed when you beat him. Sadly these minigames were replaced by a crappy shield game & a ripoff o’ the Sonic 2 bonus that was somehow worse than Sonic 2’s bonus in the GBA version.
Like DKC2, KONG letters don’t contribute to 100% on any version o’ this game, so I won’t be wasting time writing ’bout them, since nobody e’er has any reason to bother collecting them. This post is long ’nough without them. Unlike any o’ the previous games, there were new levels added to the GBA version in the form o’ a new world, “Pacifica”, which I will be including in this list.
46. Floodlit Fish
Yes, e’en tho I said that “Poisonous Pipeline” “let’s make your controls backward” ’scuse for a final level was the worst level in the whole trilogy before, I’ve now decided that this level’s worse. A’least making your controls backward was somewhat novel: this is just a repeat o’ DKC2’s worst level, “Glimmer’s Galleon”, but mo’ linear & repetitive. They make the slightest twist by having you go round bonking Gleamin’ Breams to keep the lights on, but since it ne’er gets too dark to see, you don’t really have to do this, making the gimmick superfluous to the level itself. ’Course, e’en if you do bother, there’s no actual challenge to this level’s main mechanic, — later on the Gleamin’ Breams slowly move a bit, but they’re just as easy to hit — despite this level being in the penultimate world ( contrast “Glimmer’s Galleon”, which was only in world 3 & didn’t feel too much easier than its closest relatives ), making hitting the Gleamin’ Breams mo’ busiwork than challenges. On the +, this level doesn’t blind you with flashes e’ery time you turn &, thanks to its gimmick o’ pokerizing all the Gleamin’ Breams, lets you use Enguarde to make the swimming a bit mo’ tolerable. Also, 1 thing DKC3’s water levels do do better than DKC2 is that they completely avoid the move-thru solid walls bullshit that are endemic to DKC2’s water levels.
There’s 1 place where you have to go upward & back down in a curve, but otherwise it’s just a straight line downward with a few branches for bonus barrels & alternate paths with the same setpieces. Speaking o’ which, this level has 3 major setpieces: dodging or plowing thru Kocos, weaving round pairs o’ Lurchins going up & down in thin vertical shafts, & maneuvering thru spread-out swarms o’ Lurchins.
E’en the bonuses use these setpieces: the 1st bonus is just in a secret rightward passage @ the end o’ a vertical shaft o’ Kocos. I do want to praise this level for not relying on move-thru solid-looking terrain for hiding it ( it really complicates my job when the worst level in DKC3, which had generally worse levels than DKC2, did a better job o’ hiding bonuses than the 2nd-best level in DKC2 ), but I do think it’s lame that there is an opening a li’l before the opening to the bonus that doesn’t go anywhere, having you smack right into the right edge o’ the camera, which here refuses to move right, tho it does move right in the lower passageway. ¿Why e’en have this passageway here? It feels glitchy.
Then you have the bonus hidden under a pair o’ Lurchins going up & down, only these don’t go high ’nough for you to slip under them, forcing you to defeat them, which can be iffy without getting hurt, since you’re likely to ram into the 2nd 1 while it’s going back into its shell after defeating the 1st. Granted, this is probably the only place you’re @ risk o’ getting hurt & there’s plenty o’ DK barrels, so whate’er. There are certainly worse bonus barrel locations than this level gives.
As for the bonuses themselves, they are, remarkably, both focused on ornament collection. ¿& would you believe me if I told you they were uninspired & had li’l to make them specific to this level? The 1st is just a wide open area full of ornmanets with plenty o’ time to get them, while the 2nd is a simple serpentine curve. I guess these are breathers… in a level that is already much easier than the ridiculously tight & cheap 2 levels that come before it. I would defend the 2nd… ¿but both with ornaments? Granted, this level’s gimmick doesn’t offer any interesting ideas for bonuses… or regular gameplay @ all.
On the other hand, there’s Koin… Water levels reveal a major handicap to this game’s insistence on having e’ery hero coin be held by Koin: since Koin can’t swim, obviously Koin is going to be in the small land area @ the end, nullifying what challenge or puzzle element there might have been to collecting it. I can see this being a clever reward for players who notice the unlikelihood o’ Koin being underwater using that as a hint to his where’bouts in a few levels, but after the 1st few water levels it gets repetitive. What’s funny is that e’en if they did take a break from having Koin hold the hero coin, like Donkey Kong Land 3 does, or just let Koin swim, they could’ve avoided this problem by not having 100% water levels, as DKC2 mostly avoids; but 1 o’ the many ways this game is inferior to DKC2 is returning to having many 100% water levels.
While the water levels in DKC3 look vibrant & colorful, they do feel mo’ like typical water levels than the piratical crates bursting so much with bananas that they’re spilling out that form the walls in DKC2. I do think the “Water World” song from the SNES version is very underrated — in fact, I’ll be blasphemous ’nough to proclaim it as superior to “Aquatic Ambience” from the original Donkey Kong Country. “Aquatic Ambience” is a great, light song, but I like “Water World”’s deeper, gloomier notes &, mo’ importantly, its strings have mo’ urgency to them. Speaking o’ “Aquatic Ambience”, the GBA “Water World” is basically that. This strikes me as a bizarre, countradictory decision: as I understand it, the whole point o’ this new GBA soundtrack is the ( correct ) belief that the GBA’s weak soundchip couldn’t do the SNES soundtrack justice. ¿Why would the original Donkey Kong Country’s soundtrack be any different? ’Cause, yeah, this just sounds like a poor rendition o’ “Aquatic Ambience” with absolutely stinky instrumentation, including drums that sound like hitting soda cans & 1 point where it sounds like a cat is dying @ round the 2:42 mark. E’en if I preferred the original SNES “Aquatic Ambience” to the SNES “Water World”, I think I’d like this rendition less.
45. Low-G Labyrinth
Nope, “Poisonous Pipeline” isn’t e’en the 2nd worst level, either. That’s ’cause “Low-G Labyrinth”’s gimmick is also just screwing with your controls, but it’s far worse: whereas “Poisonous Pipeline” messes with your mind the slightest bit for a moment, “Low-G Labyrinth” just slows you down & makes your jumps a bit higher. While a skilled player can play thru “Poisonous Pipeline” quickly if they can internalize the reversed controls, here the game forces you to go slow by literally slowing you down. But the e’en mo’ laughable part ’bout this level is that they butcher the gimmick halfway thru the level by giving you yet ’nother Quawks section — Quawks being able to fly, & therefore not affected by the moon jumps — where you dodge moving Zinger formations & slowly grab barrels & try hitting Zingers with them, which is just a worse version o’ being able to just spit nuts @ them with the superior Squawks. The slightest difference they give to this o’erused mechnaic is that you move mo’ slowly, which is s’posed to be harder, but just feels less fun. You should ne’er create difficulty by handicapping the player: it’s cheap & not fun.
Some parts o’ this level are cheap, too. The vertical sections oft lead to blind hits if you’re playing as Kiddy or not using Dixie’s helicopter twirl ’cause the camera was clearly not programmed with downward movement in mind, oft leaving you @ the bottom o’ the screen with li’l space to see Zingers coming as you slowly drift down vertical shafts.
& getting past the 2 red Zingers after the midway point is ridiculous: the space is so small that your character’s graphics absolutely cannot fit ’tween it; you have to rely on you & the Zingers’ generous hit boxes to just squeeze thru — which means you have to know Squawks & the Zingers’ inner hit box, despite not being able to see them ( ’cause they don’t line up with their graphics ). It’s good game design to make your character & enemies’ hurt hit boxes smaller than their graphics to leave leeway for the player; but that’s s’posed to be leeway; it is a sin — a no-Reeces-ghost ( since Twinkies are gross ) offense — to make players play based on this invisible hit box. The player should always be able to squeeze their whole graphic thru a danger, not just the smaller invisible hit box.
There are some tight sequences o’ Zingers that are fun to weave thru… it’s just that it’d be much funner if your character didn’t go @ the speed o’ slug. ¿What does slowing down my characters add to any o’ these setpieces? It’s not as if these setpieces would be much harder than earlier parts o’ this game without it. “Tracker Barrel Trek” has a part where you have to weave ’tween tightly-packed Zingers while constantly shooing up & down & it moves much faster than this.
The bonus positions are somewhat clever, too: 1 challenges you to go back after getting Quawks to go up the suspicious banana trail ’bove the line o’ Zingers, which you couldn’t reach before, while the other is in a fork hidden under a Zinger, rather than just out in the open like in “Poisonous Pipeline”.
Tho the bonus challenges themselves are lame: the 1st is a bonus where you have to collect stars without any impediments — it’s just a rectangular room full o’ stars. Yeah, you move mo’ slowly, but you still have plenty o’ time to spare. This is halfway thru the game & yet this feels like the easiest bonus in the game. The 2nd is yet ’nother “defeat all enemies with Squawks” where the enemies are copy-pasted in the same places in 2 vertical shafts. There are e’en 2 places where there are just 2 Zingers right next to each other. ¿How does the extra Zinger add any challenge here?
I do appreciate that this level tries to implement branching paths, but some o’ them are weird. The best was the aforementioned 2nd bonus, but there are also a few dead ends that serve li’l purpose, such as an alcove with bananas that are not worth dodging the Zingers to get or the invincibility barrel on the far top-left. You might think the latter sounds useful, but you have to do some rather precise maneuvers — either getting the steel keg o’er the gap with the 2 moving Zingers to throw it @ the line o’ Zingers in your way to the left, & still probably have to jump o’er the last 1, since your character accelerates so slowly that the barrel will despawn before you get to that last Zingers, or just jump o’er the 3 Zingers. & ’cause you move so slowly, the invincibility will run off before you get to the actually challenging part @ the end with the red Zingers clumped together. You’d be better off not bothering.
There’s also this weird split with 2 “No Quawks” signs, but the left side has Koin & trades you a steel barrel for Squawks. That would be a rude way to punish players who didn’t pick the right choice if they didn’t also put an infinite-spawning steel barrel up ’bove Koin, where players can drop down from ’bove. Unlike the dead ends, which are pointless, this is kind o’ interesting, tho. @ the very least it adds the li’lest o’ spice to Koin, who most o’ the time is very repetitive in this game.
This level uses the pipe theme, which has some o’ the weakest aesthetics. Granted, I’d still prefer it to the aesthetics o’ most the levels in “Chimp Caverns” from DKC1 or the cliff levels in this game. The SNES song “Pokey Pipes” is 1 o’ the weaker tracks in this game, but better than the dreary tracks in the original DKC, like “Misty Menace” or “Life in the Mines”. The same can be said for the GBA version, which trades the deep, slow beats with a faster song with mo’ robotic instruments & drums that sound like tin cans — which, as we will see, is in quite a lot o’ the GBA soundtrack. Here it works better & I like how this song was still able to keep the gloomy atmosphere o’ this level. In fact, I think I prefer the GBA song.
44. Rocket Rush
Probably the most infamously bad level in the entire trilogy — possibly e’en mo’ than “Poisonous Pipeline”. While most other levels in this game mainly commit the vice o’ being repetitive & boring, this level does attempt an exotic new mechanic with its falling, & then rising rocket, & is too short & simple to get tedious. Granted, that’s a big disappointment for the final bonus level o’ both this game & the trilogy, — for as down as I was on “Animal Antics”, I could still appreciate what ’twas going for, & ’twas still a much better level than this — but a’least it’s not a slog like a lot o’ the water levels or “Low-G Labyrinth”. & as mentioned, the level doesn’t bother trying to challenge you much. Anyone’s likely to eventually beat the 1st half when the controls decide to work & likely to eventually beat the 2nd half after they memorize the right paths.
Howe’er, what this level does do to a greater intensity than e’ery other level is its sheer volume o’ bafflingly bad design decisions, &, unfortunately, this level’s rocket gimmick just isn’t interesting ’nough to make up for that — specially since it’s really just falling & rising with convolution. This rocket is the buggiest & jankiest mechanic in the entire trilogy & just isn’t fun to control, owing to its backward controls making left go right & right go left ( just copying “Poisonous Pipeline” ) & its lack o’ consistency or unintuitive physics. ¿Why do you sometimes — & only somtimes — explode if you let the bottom o’ the rocket touch ground when slowly falling down, but if you ram face-1st into solid rock when charging forward as quickly as you can, you just bounce back? ¿Why does the rocket randomly stop falling & float for a while during the downward path? ¿Why do you sometimes destroy Zingers when you run into them & other times get stuck on them?
This level’s arrangement only makes things worse. The 2nd half starts by helping lead you with trails o’ bananas, which is necessary for making turns in time, as the screen’s too small & you’re going too fast to react to an incoming wall when you 1st see it; but then they stop showing bananas till after you can already see the branches & it’s too late, so you just have to waver round blind & hope you pick the right path, & if you get it wrong too many times, well, make sure you memorize the right paths for next time.
Other level design decisions are less terrible & mo’ baffling. The level starts with an upward arrow o’ bananas, e’en tho you’re falling, so it’s impossible to go up there. The 1st half is also scattered with red Zingers who are not so invincible now, since your rockets just blow thru them. But if they’re not a danger, ¿why are they there? ¿What do they accomplish? Maybe they slow you down the slightest nanosecond, but not ’nough to bother trying to dodge them — which is good, since the rocket’s floaty controls would make that annoying.
’Course, ’cause you spend almost all your time as a rocket, Koin is obviously right there @ the end, & the developers didn’t e’en try to hide him. Aiming the steel barrel up @ the right angle so that it clears him & doesn’t bonk off & get destroyed by his helmet or shield is mildly challenging, specially for Koin, but they offer an infinite-spawning steel barrel — which is a blessing, since e’en if this level is mercifully short, having to do e’en just the 2nd half ’gain & ’gain to keep trying gainst Koin would be unbearable. When Koin is the best part o’ a level, you know that level screwed up hard.
Ne’ertheless, this level is still better than “Floodlit Fish”, since this level is a’least worth remembering, & “Low-G Labyrinth”, since a’least I get the sense that this level sabotaged its main gimmick on accident rather than by design, & as lame as this level’s gimmick would be e’en if it did work, it’s less lame than those 2 levels’ gimmicks.
This level theme is 1 o’ the weaker ones, not the least ’cause it just seems like an inferior version o’ the cascade theme, which also focuses on cliffs, but also ’cause it’s visuals are surprisingly sparse & barren-looking for a game that was mostly lush & full o’ detail. This level has a unique music track, “Rocket Run”, which is much better than the level itself. O’ all the songs in this game, it sounds the most like a DKC1 song, with its jazzy, dancing notes reminding me in particular o’ “Treetop Rock”, which was a highlight o’ DKC1. The GBA version just uses “Hot Pursuit”, which I’ll write ’bout when we get to a level that uses that song in the SNES version, too.
43. Kong-Fused Cliffs
Ugh, yeah, I hated this level e’en worse than “Poisonous Pipeline”, too. ’Gain, its gimmick, while terrible, is somewhat memorable & novel, while this is just the worst autoscroller o’ any DKC game in a genre full o’ way too many autoscrollers. It’s like “Castle Crash”, but you can’t e’en fight enemies & space is so cramped that you have li’l time to react to anything & have to pretty much rely on generous hitboxes to avoid getting hit — which means you have to be lucky or know in the back o’ your head just how much o’ Kiddy’s hand can get smacked by Kopter’s blades before he feels anything.
I have to give them some props for giving something o’ a twist to the average autoscroller & making it mo’ than just the god camera devouring the player if they fall ’hind, but autoscrollers are still terrible, no matter how much mo’ creative they are, & this gimmick just makes it e’en less fun. I also want to give them credit for trying a few tricky layouts forcing players to jump into side barrels to go round Kopters or weave ’mong swarms o’ Zingers or e’en having the player move to different ropes, to spice up this gimmick; but they still have too many sections where you just flip back & forth to make way for the same Kopters coming straight down toward you. Plus, most o’ the barrel side areas are useless & can be poorly timed so that the blast barrels sometimes just shoot you into the flame or into Kopters.
With such a linear level, there’s no room for good bonus placements. Both involve making leaps o’ faith after stray bananas, 1 toward a cliff to the side, the other to empty air that hides a blast barrel that shoots to a bonus barrel offscreen.
The 1st bonus is a clever idea using upward barrels to weave ’tween Zingers while keeping ’head o’ the flame, revealing that this level would’ve worked better as a short bonus, rather than a long slog. It’s too bad they messed it up by having the camera move so slowly & fail to spawn the rope ’bove the camera so that if you go too quickly you’ll fail to grab the rope & land on a Zinger. The 2nd bonus is mo’ the same flipping left & right to dodge Kopters you do in the level proper. I don’t know why they didn’t have a collect stars/ornaments bonus: they could’ve just replaced the Kopters in this bonus with stars & it would’ve been ’bout the same, but would’ve given the appearance o’ mo’ variety.
Koin, like in all too many levels, is just @ the end, with the only twists being that, if you don’t have both Kongs, you need to use the rope to reach the top cliff where the steel barrel is before it all burns up & that Koin is hidden in the tunnel just below the steel barrel.
While I mentioned that these cliff levels have some o’ the most mid graphics in the trilogy, the SNES music, “Rockface Rumble”, with its brash drums, western whistles, & screeching electric guitars, is the most popular song in this game. I like it a lot, but I can think o’ a few songs I’d prefer. The GBA version keeps the southern style in a different way with harmonicas, twanging bass, & the tin-can drums in many o’ the GBA songs. Perhaps it’s too southern, feeling a bit too hokey. I prefer the SNES version’s mo’ quiet, laidback whistles to the hillbilly harmonicathon o’ the GBA version.
42. Dingy Drain-Pipe ( GBA only )
While the original SNES levels have a common vice o’ focusing too heavily on their respective gimmicks, the GBA levels tended to go in the opposite direction, throwing together a variety o’ elements, creating levels that lack coherence or discernible gimmicks, & “Dingy Drain-Pipe”, the 1st level in the GBA version’s new world, “Pacifica”, is the best example. Unfortunately, while these levels tend to have a variety o’ elements, they don’t tend to be new elements, giving these levels the sense o’ being rom hack levels that just use whate’er elements had already been programmed in, rather than new levels whose creation were integrated into the process o’ making the game itself. & the new elements they do have aren’t that much to talk ’bout: here we have water that falls when the player reaches certain invisible triggers. It doesn’t amount to much beyond making it harder to collect all the stars in a bonus — which is to say, it’s not much mo’ than a mo’ exotic time limit. Which is to say that its use o’ water is e’en lamer than “Poisonous Pipeline”’s, which is why, yes, it, too, is a worse level.
Unfortunately, most o’ the other elements are elements used too much in this game already, & specially “Pacifica”. If this level has any dominant element, it’s having to maneuver round Lurchins, which are already the focal point for most other “Pacifica” levels. There are also the ubiquitous Kocos, including 1 halfhearted section where they give you Enguarde to plow thru a bunch o’ Kocos, only to take Enguarde ’way just after. & then we also have Bristles, whom you have to roll into, but now there are mo’ are them. Hell, e’en this level’s name is just a reuse o’ elements: there’s already a level that uses the word “Drain-Pipe” in the original SNES levels.
To be fair, there is 1 area that uses Bristles in a somewhat clever way: they’re placed in a short area bordered by a jutting pipe & a pit on either side & they’re positioned in a way so that they’re almost always walking in opposite directions, making it virtually impossible to roll thru them both @ once. If you don’t just hair-helicopter o’er them or perhaps make a roll-jump o’er them, you have to either jump round them in the small space they give you ’tween them or roll into 1, but stop yourself from rolling into likely the back o’ the other. There is also a somewhat interesting & tricky arrangement o’ Kocos where you have to weave in the middle & follow the middle Kocos going right to get past the 2 Kocos ’bove & below.
In addition to these enemies, there’s a couple rare mechanics thrown in for nothing, like a small lower alcove with an elevator from the factory levels going up & down, which only has banana bunches, & a rocket barrel from “Rocket Barrel Ride” @ the end, as well as just pointless setpieces, like an alcove in the Lurchin swarm that has absolutely nothing in it.
The worst example o’ the latter is @ the end you have this pit that leads to the end goal, but there’s something to the right o’ that pit, but there’s a Zinger going back & forth in a parabola o’er the pit. In order to get past you have to make a roll jump under the Zinger. It’s a cool setpiece. ¿But what is on the other side? ¿A bonus? No: banana bunches. ¡Wacky joke, Rare!
The bonuses aren’t that clever — both the locations & the bonuses themselves. The 1st is in an alcove in plain sight swarming with Lurchins, making it a lamer version o’ the 1st bonus location for “Ripcurl Reef”; the 2nd bonus just requires throwing a Kong up from a pipe platform, which you also do to find Koin — tho it is nice that they didn’t put Koin @ the end o’ a pipe level for once, as he’s actually hidden near the start.
The 1st bonus has nothing to do with this level & involves barrel cannons o’ all things to collect stars. The 2nd bonus challenges you to collect all the stars ’gain, but you have to do so before the water gets too low to grab them — as I said, the only place where the falling water mechanic means anything.
41. Lakeside Limbo
A level that is both bland & lacks coherency or any kind o’ theme, a bad combination. E’en mo’ than DKC2’s “Pirate Panic”, this level is mostly just a straight path full o’ enemies, unlike the 1st DKC’s multilayered “Jungle Hijinx”. This level does try to add a bit o’ an upper layer with the rooftops you can throw a Kong up to get 1-ups & coins, but none o’ them connect to create any alternate path & just require doing a basic technique, rather than requiring any real platforming. There are also some rope, but they’re completely pointless, other than skipping 2 Kobbles after you’ve already fought 1, as there’s ground below them both.
Like the other games’ 1st level, this level introduces an animal buddy halfway thru. Howe’er, unlike those games, you get Ellie ’stead o’ Rambi; & the level immediately demonstrates how much inferior this lame replacement is. Whereas Rambi was useful in the 1st 2 games by letting you plow thru the rest o’ the stage’s enemies with wanton abandon, Ellie isn’t so strong. ’Stead, all she can do in this level is pick up a barrel to use gainst a Booty Bird, something the Kongs could already do themselves, & act as a 3rd hit, which is useless, since there’s only 1 mandatory enemy afterward. Later on she will become far mo’ useful when she can shoot water @ enemies, but for some reason they didn’t introduce that feature here, leaving this the only time an animal buddy is introduced in a halfway state. Then ’gain, you only get to use Ellie for a couple o’ screens before you reach a “No Ellies” sign, making her inclusion in this level feel e’en mo’ pointless.
Just after the midpoint, this level introduces water, where you drop down, swim a bit, & then… jump back out & continue on land. By itself, this is comically pointless; but to be fair, they do add a subtle small hole in the boardwalk decks where you can drop into the water & swim under the boardwalks to find a secret bonus barrel. Still, this would’ve been mo’ effective if water played a mo’ meaningful role in this level.
The other bonus just requires picking up Kiddy & dropping him onto cracked floor, which has no challenge other than that you may lose time trying it multiple times due to how finicky the crack’s hit box is ( which makes no sense, since Kiddy is big ’nough to cover the crack with wide margins on either side ). This is 1 o’ those obscure mechanics like the water-roll jump that’s barely used anywhere. In fact, this is the only place that requires it 103%. It’s a tutorial for a mechanic you’ll ne’er need to use ’gain.
The bonuses themselves are just basic “collect all the ornaments” & “collect 10 presents”. The latter makes sense, since this level introduces this new bonus type; but the former was in DKC2, & feels too similar to the latter to be in the same level in such a basic way. ¿Why not a “destroy them all” bonus or a simple challenge to get the coin before time runs out? ¿Or perhaps just ’nother new bonus type, since the appearing & disappearing green bananas bonus is the only new bonus type in this game, after DKC2 has already done just ’bout anything interesting that could be done with the other bonus types?
I can tell that the designers wanted this level to be easy, since it’s the 1st level, but they went way too far. “Pirate Panic” was already baby-easy, & e’en it had mo’ to say ’bout it. Meanwhile, “Jungle Hijinx”, was both easy & had many interesting things going for it. This level goes so far that it genuinely feels unfinished, what with the empty water section & the trivial Ellie section, which didn’t e’en bother to fully introduce e’erything Ellie can do.
If there’s 1 thing I can praise this level for, it’s that it’s gorgeous. It’s probably e’en better-looking than DKC2’s “Pirate Panic”, with its mo’ detailed, realistic sea horizon with a reflection, mountains & in the far background, & the mo’ colorful deck with sunlit highlights, compared to the flatter, duller pirate ship. On the other hand, a pirate ship as a theme itself feels mo’ forceful an opening than just lakeside piers, & also offered mo’ to inspire for level design, with barrels as platforms & a cannon-shooting bonus location. Neither the SNES nor GBA versions o’ “Stilt Village” ( both by David Wise ) are nearly as good as “Klomp’s Romp”. In fact, I’d say the GBA version is better than the SNES version: the SNES version sounds hokey & childish. In contrast to most GBA songs, the GBA version o’ “Stilt Village” actually sounds mo’ atmospheric & darker. I’m not fond o’ its instruments, tho, specially the digital-sounding instruments, which don’t fit well with the natural environment. Also, this song takes too long to actually get started, to the point that you’ll probably finish this level before a single loop.
40. Poisonous Pipeline
All right, here it finally is, the 1, the only, the notorious. While the original DKC ended with some o’ the trickiest platform jumps that game had to offer & DKC2 offered the ultimate challenge for Squawks, ¿what does this game offer as its grand finale to cap off the trilogy? Water that reverses your controls when you’re in it. They were clearly going for an ultimate challenge here, not only screwing with the controls you’ve used to play the whole game, but also making you do so in a water level with their already worse controls. & while I can see they tried to add some tightly-packed obstacles to make it challenging… it’s still just the same Kocos & Lurchins you’ve went up gainst in all the other water levels. Hell, they couldn’t e’en be hardcore ’nough to not give you Enguarde, who lets you plow thru most enemies, & controls finer than e’en platforming controls. While I guess the controls can kinda make it harder to make quick reactions to the moving elements, it’s not by much, &, mo’ importantly, it’s not a variety o’ difficulty that’s fun, specially since the best solution is to just slow down & be methodical with your movements. Contrast that with DKC2’s final level, where you were forced to go fast.
They didn’t e’en try to add variety to their arrangements: get ready to weave thru Lurchins going up & down in alternating directions & dodge Kocos going right & left ’tween 2 Lurchins ’bove & below 4 or 5 times — but the last time they totally switch things up & add a 2nd Koco. ¡Woah!
If they were going to repeat setpieces, ¿why couldn’t they make this level a full-on maze with dead ends & confusing loops back? I mean, that would be infuriating, so I’m sure most readers are telling me to shut my mouth right now on e’en the 0.0001% chances o’ some time rift causing my wish to go back & change this game, but a’least it would’ve fulfilled what seemed to be the goal o’ this level. As it stands, the level does wind & snake like a lot o’ other levels that aren’t just going left to right, with a few branching paths for bonus barrels. These are hardly great hiding places, specially since they’re blocked off by the same setpieces round the rest o’ the level, — which granted, does make it harder to decide which path is the main path & which the bonus — but, ’gain, it’s better than hiding bonuses ’hind solid walls. But a mo’ complicated, winding maze o’ a level would’ve made these detours less obvious.
I have to laugh @ how the bonuses in this level undermine its gimmick: the 1st bonus has you going round collecting ornaments, which does require some precise movement to keep ’long the thin line; but it’s a circle going all round, so if you mess up @ the start & go the wrong direction, it’s still a valid direction, so it doesn’t matter. The 2nd bonus, meanwhile, challenges you to hit Kocos with Enguarde; but they’re so close that Enguarde’s charge forward as he hits a Koco will likely drag him to the next Koco & the next, allowing you to go thru entire halls without touching either direction.
& then you have Koin, just chilling on the left side o’ the weird hall just before the end without any enemies, right after the branch to the 2nd bonus. You would think that with how many water levels have Koin @ the end they’d put him in a different place this time. Koin shows the major downside to having the gimmick apply to water: it means the gimmick can’t apply to Koin, so this is just a normal Koin challenge, with the slight extra “puzzle” o’ having to bounce the steel barrel off a wall a bit higher up so it doesn’t fall in the holes on either side. Considering how many Koin “puzzles” are just Koin in plain sight with just a basic wall & steel barrel, it’s fitting that his final appearance in the main game is similarly anticlimactic.
I have to admit, for as much as I’ve always thought this made a lame last level in terms o’ gameplay, thematically & aesthetically it works well: for a game that focuses on the contrast o’ nature & technology, it makes sense as a contrast to the very naturalistic 1st level that the last level be a polluted sewer, the runoff chemicals o’ Baron K. Roolenstein’s castle, which you would go to just after this level.
39. Bazza’s Blockade
While DKC3 had some gimmicks mo’ imaginative than DKC2 ( tho most oft less well-implemented ), sometimes you have a water level with a gimmick mo’ basic than the main mechanics o’ the water levels in the 1st DKC. It doesn’t help that other levels like “Barrel Shield Bust-Up” & “Swoopy Salvo” already have you timing your movement ’tween horizontal projectiles, but have much weirder paintjobs o’er their mechanics than just very long fish coming out o’ tunnels. It also doesn’t help that they keep repeating this same gimmick, with only few variations — mainly having you go up or down ’tween them, having multiple Bazzas, & having them in a mo’ cramped space, non o’ which actually make these setpieces any harder, since they’re set up so that if you wait & dodge 1 you dodge the others, as well, & there’s still so much space that the tighter space doesn’t matter. In fact, I’d argue that later setpieces are easier since they fit entirely on screen, whereas the earlier sections can sneak attack you by having a Bazza zoom in from offscreen.
To be fair to this level, there are some somewhat cool arrangements from a visual perspective, like this part where you follow a banana trail curve going up ’tween Bazzas & then back down thru a hole in the same line. That’s ’bout the best thing I can say ’bout this level.
The bonus locations aren’t too inspired, but could be worse. The 1st is right in plain sight & just requires going down into its cubby hole thru mo’ Bazzas. It’s mo’ like the later sections & is a tighter space, but as I mentioned, that doesn’t change much, difficultywise.
The 2nd location is a bit better, hidden ’hind a line o’ Buzzas coming in from that side, making it very hard to squeeze thru without getting hit, ’less you find the conveniently-placed Enguarde barrel just after this section, hidden in a cubbyhole accessible by a thin hole guarded by a fast-moving red Koco.
& like all water levels, Koin, who can’t swim, is just @ the dry-land end, which is where all players will expect him to be, offering no surprise or puzzle. This being the 1st water level, it’s just past the level goal, without requiring players to throw a Kong up anywhere or really look for it. Since this is an early level, I guess it works all right here. The problem is they do the same thing in “Terraway Toboggan”. As I said with “Floodlit Fish”, I wouldn’t mind if they had fewer all-water levels, offering fewer uses o’ this “puzzle”.
The bonus challenges themselves are lame: the 1st is just mo’ weaving ’tween enemies — the same as you do thruout the level proper — & the 2nd bonus has you attack 8 Kocos with Enguarde, all lined up, so that this bonus feels mo’ like busy work than any true challenge.