6. Riverside Race

This level finds the best balance ’tween simple ’nough to not be a miasma as you try racing thru it, but having just ’nough twists to keep it from getting as monotonous as, say, “Ripsaw Rage”. Also, unlike that level, this level’s gimmick o’ having you race ’gain a swarm o’ red-hot wasps ( as well as the time for an o’erworld sidequest, which was a nice touch ) actually encourages you to go fast, acting as a horizontal version o’ DKC2’s “rise to the challenge”.

This level also has the distinction o’ making use o’ Kiddy’s underused water bounce mechanic, which is not only useful for reaching high cliffs with secrets, but also for go ’cross the water mo’ quickly than swimming or helicopter-hair hovering. Granted, it is hurt by this mechanic being way too finicky ’bout when it works or when Kiddy just does a normal jump right before hitting the water & the collision on the terrain is weird, causing you to slide down if you’re not fully onto a cliff, e’en after completing a water bounce & the placement o’ red Zingers @ 1 point screws you o’er if you try to water bounce on that lake.

While the wasps chasing you act as a threat to keep you moving forward, they’re a lenient threat, which the developers exploited to allow this level to have twists & turns, making the player alternate ’tween going up on land & swimming down in underwater tunnels. There are 2 times you can go both high up on the cliffs & low down in the tunnels, both o’ which have a bonus barrel on the top cliff. I kind o’ wish they had a’least 1 other place where you could go both high & low with neither being the necessarily better option, but that’s a minor qualm.

O’erall, I like the bonuses in this level. The level has a book-end quality in that the 1st bonus barrel is after the 1st lake, up on a cliff, requiring Kiddy’s water bounce, while Koin is hidden on a high cliff just before the last lake, forcing players to turn back & water bounce up there. Players can either jump o’er the wasps & quickly water bounce before the wasps turn back to hit them or go to the ending flagpole & wait for the wasps to fly ’way, giving players a rather long pause during which they can run back & water bounce. The developers programmed the wasps so that they don’t chase you up on the cliff, which does show a close level o’ detail to this level; but part o’ me wonders if this challenge could’ve been mo’ interesting with the added urgency o’ having to hurry & defeat Koin before the wasps hit you without feeling unfair & frustrating. This is an early-game level, after all.

I do feel the 2nd bonus is a li’l weaker. It’s found by just finding an invincibility barrel in the bottom-left corner o’ a lake & then using that to hop up invincible red Zingers to a tall cliff with the bonus barrel. I guess there is a reason for players to wonder why there are red Zingers hanging ’bout too far out o’ the way to be a threat. Still, I feel an earlier puzzle wherein you have to notice the Knik-Knaks going backward & turn back & bounce up them to a high cliff was a better puzzle, & that just gave you a useless 1-up balloon. Part o’ me thinks that they should’ve put the bonus barrel there, specially since it acts as a connection to Koin’s hiding place, as you have to go back up a cliff on the left there, too.

Both the bonus challenges are simple but subtly challenging, specially for this point in the game. The 1st has you collect presents that appear & disappear up & down, left & right o’er a lake with a single Koco in the center to act as a threat & a way to force players to move carefully. The 2nd bonus is just a short area o’er flat land full o’ Re-Koils you have to defeat, but who are surprisingly tricky to hit quickly without accidentally running into ’nother.

The riverside is a sadly underutilized theme, appearing in only 3 levels — tho, this being the 1st we’ve encountered, all o’ them are great. Tho it’s arguably yet ’nother forest theme, since it involves you outside o’ trees instead o’ inside, it still stands out. Tho I don’t think it’s quite as impressive as the inside-tree theme, like the jungle theme, there is a ton o’ detail to all the trees in the background, including the chopped-down trees & the logs laid out in X shapes, as well as the seaweed & flowers underwater. The mushrooms in the background look kind o’ blobby — to the point that I’m still not entirely sure if they’re s’posed to be mushrooms or flowers.

5. Koindozer Klamber

For the longest time I remembered this as the final level & not that travesty “Poisonous Pipeline”, & this would’ve made a much better final level, too. After level after level o’ attacking the harmless Koin to steal his hero coin, you run into his mo’ dangerous cousin, who tries to shove you into a pit if you’re to his side. Early on you can just jump round them, but later on they’re so high up that you have to jump on their coins to get ’nough height to reach the next cliff, a coin that has a precise hitbox: go too far on either edge & you’ll tip off it & the Koindozer will start ramming your ass into the pit before you know what’s happening. & then e’en later you get cliffs so small that you have li’l space to jump round them, forcing you to jump from coin to coin.

Like most DKC3 gimmick levels, that’s basically the entire gimmick, with a minor gimmick o’ having to jump ’cross barrels shot by Bazuka, which would be mo’ impressive if not already done before in both this game & DKC2 & wasn’t so basic both time it’s used, & basic Krimps thrown in… for some reason. You’d think they’d use harder enemies, or a’least a greater variety o’ enemies, for such an otherwise challenging penultimate level. Contrast with “Platform Peril”, the last level o’ the 1st DKC, which had all kinds o’ dangerous enemies being thrown @ you in addition to its unique extra-difficult enemy. Still, this level is so short & thrilling that it’s not too noticeable & I wouldn’t say the gimmick begins to feel stale or anything. While there may seem to be repeated setpieces, there are subtle differences ’tween their repetitions, such as the stairs o’ Koindozers on short platforms going upward: the 1st instance they’re close together so you can jump from coin to coin, while the latter instance @ the end o’ the level has them spaced out mo’ so you have to land on the ground next to the Koindozers, requiring quick jumping immediately after landing to avoid being bumped off by the Koindozer coming @ you.

The bonus locations are meh. The 1st bonus location repeats “Konveyor Rope Klash”’s obscure bonus hidden ’hind foreground leaves just before a rope, forcing players to jump left from the start. I guess you could argue that it rewards players who remember the secret from the last jungle level… The 2nd bonus, in contrast, is in plain sight, requiring you to time a jump off a Re-Koil. Koindozer only factors in as a platform you stand on before jumping off Re-Koil — a very forced involvement. What annoys me is that this level has 2 places where there’s land below ropes with Koindozers you can easily skip that you would think would reward you with a bonus if you ventured there; but all you get are lousy bear coins. If this level was going to copy “Konveyor Rope Klash”’s bonuses, ¿couldn’t it a’least copy the better bonuses?

The bonuses themselves are much better. Yeah, they’re just collecting ornaments & appearing & disappearing presents like many other levels, but the Koindozers make them much trickier, specially the 2nd bonus with the appearing & disappearing presents, as you need to go fast to get them in time while still being precise with your jumps to not get knocked off & lose the bonus.

Koin is also in plain sight, but requires carrying out a puzzle wherein you bounce on barrels shot by Bazuka, hit a semihidden switch to change the barrels into steel barrels, & then bounce back & stand to the side so that Koin gets hit by steel barrels. O’ all level gimmicks to not integrate with Koin, this is the most disappointing. They could’ve a’least put Koin on a small platform so there’s the risk that Koin bumps you into the pit like his mo’ competent bretheren.

This level has a best palette for the jungle levels, with its dim autumnal brown leaves all o’er, the pink skies, & the slight purple cast on the stones in the background.

4. Fish Food Frenzy

This level gets the award for the most exotic gimmick perhaps in the whole trilogy. When I think o’ strange gimmicks that DKC games did, “Fish Food Frenzy”’s gimmick o’ having a hungry fish chase you & extort you into leading it into non-spiky food to keep it from biting you is always topmost in my mind, & this level is, hands-down, the most memorable level in DKC3. Despite this, this gimmick still manages to feel like you’re playing DKC3, thanks to the fact that your controls aren’t changed @ all, only an extra sprite is following you. & yet this level is commonly hated ’cause players have trouble aiming Nibbla @ Kocos and keeping Nibbla ’way from Lurchins. Howe’er, Nibbla rarely strays from where they swim relative to you, so if you practice it, you’ll find you can control Nibbla with maybe 1 or 2 Lurchins eaten on accident; & this game gives you so much leeway that 1 or 2 Lurchins is harmless. I think the negligible jankiness to this gimmick is worth the novelty this time, in contrast to gimmicks like Rocket Rush’s rocket, which was less original & much mo’ broken. There are levels in DKC2 that get much less criticism, like “Windy Well”, which are far jankier than this & far less creative.

I also like how this level allows for both fast & slow gameplay: you can take your time trying to eat all the edible fish to make sure your Nibbla is kept blue or try to rush thru, only feeding Nibbla when mandatory, making figuring out how to optimize the path to the end an interesting puzzle in itself.

Tho this game is full o’ water levels full o’ Kocos & Lurchins, this level is better @ fostering a variety o’ layouts o’ these enemies & only has a few repeated formations, like the holes with a Lurchin blocking its path, & e’en these evolve in challenge thru the level, with the versions near the beginning & middle leaving space round the Lurchin while the latter versions have a path just narrow ’nough to fit the Lurchin & nothing else, as well as passageways blocked with Kocos, forcing you to turn round & use your Nibbla to eat them to get out o’ the way.

This level’s main weaknesses are its bonuses. Like e’ery water level, the hero coin is in an obvious spot with no attempt @ a puzzle: since Koin can only be out o’ water, obviously Koin is in the ’bove-water cave area @ the end o’ the level. The “twist” to this level’s version is that you need to have both Kongs & throw 1 up a conspicuous cliff where there’s a steel barrel & an easy wall to bounce it off.

The bonuses are no better. The 1st bonus barrel’s location is all right, just in a li’l alcove wherein you have to swim round a Lurchin, but the bonus challenge is the most laughably easy bonus in the game — way too easy for world 3: you just collect presents that appear in an open water area. There is no way to get hurt. You have to be trying to fail. E’en “Kreeping Klasps” had the ( very low ) risk o’ slipping your fingers & falling into the water.

The 2nd bonus challenge itself is all right, tho not particularly inspired: just make Nibbla eat all the Kocos before time runs out. ¿Isn’t that basically this level in a nutshell already? I find the hiding place for it unfair, tho: you have to intentionally make Nibbla eat a Lurchin to get past it, which goes completely gainst the main point o’ the level. Worse, this is 1 o’ many niches guarded by Lurchins, so you have to make Nibbla eat all o’ them to be sure which has the bonus, which is almost guaranteed to make you get bit by Nibbla for feeding them too much bad food. That is particularly rude when you remember that Koin requires both Kongs to get.

Also, unfortunately the GBA version o’ this game absolutely butchers this level, making it frustratingly unfair thanks to its shrunken camera, making it very hard to get Nibbla to eat some o’ the fish you want Nibbla to eat, while on the other hand Nibbla’s mo’ likely to eat Lurchins ( I think you swim mo’ slowly in this version, forcing you to linger round Lurchins for long ’nough for Nibbla to eat them ).

Finally, this level is the most beautiful o’ the water levels with its bright blue & green background perfectly complementing the pink coral foreground. Sadly, the GBA version ruins this, turning the palette into a flatter blue gradient that changes so li’l, it’s barely a gradient.

3. Bobbing Barrel Brawl

It’s shocking to see an Ellie level so high up, but for once we have a level that focuses on her abilities ( & not just the ability to throw barrels, which the Kongs can already do themselves ) & not her weaknesses. & while this level does focus almost entirely on just Ellie & her sucking & spitting mechanics, with only a few thrown in Krimps to break this up, since these are multiple mechanics, this doesn’t lead to the monotony problem that other levels do, while avoiding going too far & making the level feel incoherent. Indeed, I like how they integrate the before-Ellie section by having a setpiece wherein you throw a barrel up @ a Zinger with the regular Kongs before having you do the same with Ellie later.

A worst flaw is that this level does have a lot o’ stopping & waiting: Ellie’s shooting ability is just a weaker version o’ Squitter’s, since it requires you to stop & suck up water for fuel, which doesn’t add much to gameplay other than slowing you down.

This also applies to grabbing & dropping barrels in the water, but a’least there’s a precision to that, as you need to be far ’nough to give the barrel some distance, but not so far that you drop into the water & get bit by the Nibblas, & the precise jumps o’er the barrels do encourage speed.

1 minor complaint I have ’bout this level is that the camera is too high round the 1st lake, making the Nibbla impossible to see, making it easy to think ’twould be safe to go into the water — which players curious to find bonuses would likely do — only to run into an unhappy surprise if they try.

The bonus locations in this level are the cleverest in the game: the 1st has an elaborate setup wherein you have to shoot a Booty Bird to drop a TNT barrel onto a Zinger to get it out o’ the way o’ a bonus barrel, while the 2nd teases you with a bonus barrel too low in the water for Ellie, who can only paddle on the surface, to reach, & then afterward has Knik-Knaks flutter in from the right, forming a convenient staircase for you to bounce up & fall into the water from a much greater height, giving just the force necessary to plunge far ’nough into the water to reach the bonus barrel.

The bonus challenges are mo’ mediocre: the 1st is just a basic challenge dropping barrels into the water to cross to the bonus coin, which I guess is mo’ challenging ’cause you have a time limit, but still feels a bit redundant gainst the level itself. The 2nd challenge requires you to cross barrels o’er water while collecting ornaments, which are laid out in an arc, which is not a huge challenge, but does feel mo’ different from what the main level offers while still fitting the level’s theme & does offer something o’ a challenge, specially for a rather early level, in that you have to make sure you grab the ornaments.

The Koin is mo’ involved than most: in addition to needing to suck up a steel barrel from under a pair o’ red Zingers, you have a rather narrow hole thru which to fling it.

I am also unfairly biased in favor o’ this level due to its autumnal bright orange leaf palette that works so well with this game’s general late-autumn / early-winter northwest tone. “Enchanted Riverbank” is 1 o’ the many songs in DKC3 that is criminally underrated, — as well as underutilized, appearing in only 2 levels, this & “Lightning Look-Out” — to a large part due to its amazing instrumentation, specially the bell-like notes & whate’er those sparkly sounds near the beginning are, tho the melody that comes in round the minute mark is catchy, too. The GBA version is not nearly as good &, in fact, is 1 o’ the weakest songs in the GBA soundtrack: it’s just nearly 10 seconds o’ animal noises, & then generic jungle drums, ’cept when in the water, in which case you get slightly better, but still repetitive, echoing notes with twinkly sounds in the background.

2. Krack-Shot Kroc

This level finds the best balance DKC3 e’er has ’tween a gimmick that feels fresh, but doesn’t feel like it puts you into a different game or have unpolished controls, like, say, “Rocket Rush”. On the surface, this is just a normal, somewhat repetitve level where you play as Squitter & use web platforms to cross o’er boiling pots o’… ¿Pepto-Bismol? while dodging Zingers & Re-Koils. Howe’er, thruout this level there is a reticle chasing you, which stops e’ery few seconds to charge up & then shoots 1 o’ the fireballs that the owls in “Fire-Ball Frenzy” shoot where its reticle has stopped. These shots are so telegraphed, with such a delay after they stop to shoot, that it’s easy to dodge the shots, but the player will still likely want to stay ’head o’ the reticle, giving the player something o’ an urgency to keep moving forward, which thankfully, for once, DKC3 obliged with a level layout that ne’er forces the player to wait. Also, this isn’t an autoscroller, so there’s ne’er a time when you’re forced to wait round.

This level’s shape is similar to a lot o’ other levels’ in that it snakes in 1 direction, with only 1 small branch where there’s a bonus barrel. Howe’er, this being a level that encourages you the keep going, making you explore branching paths would only slow you down & be annoying while constantly dodging shots fired @ you, so it works better here than in other, mo’ slow-paced levels. Also, while this level is as long as most levels, the fact that you’ll be usually trying to keep moving makes it feel like it goes by faster than most, the reverse o’ the problem e’en DKC2 levels had ( “Castle Crush” being a prime offender ) o’ having levels feel too long ’cause they were slow & didn’t have their length readjusted. Since DKC levels tend to be on the long side, anyway, here it feels like a +.

The bonuses are ’bove average, too. The 1st bonus barrel is in a surprisingly hard to find thin niche in the ceiling o’ some seemingly random part in the middle o’ the level. But while it’s hard to find, it’s perfectly fair, without resorting to using move-thru walls, which DKC3’s otherwise superior predecessor succumbed to, including in 1 o’ its strongest levels, “Bramble Scramble”. The 2nd bonus barrel isn’t nearly as well hidden, but it does require somewhat tricky maneuvering round a red Zinger while still dodging the reticle’s bullets.

The 1st barrel’s challenge is all right: you have to collect appearing & disappearing presents using Squitter & use Squitter’s web platforms the reach the higher presents — tho a clever player will realize they can just put a web in the middle o’ the area & always be able to reach a present no matter where it appears. Part o’ me’s kind o’ disappointed they didn’t have you collect presents while dodging the reticle’s shots, like they did with the owl shots in “Fire-Ball Frenzy”, which would’ve been mo’ challenging than just using Squitter’s web, but it also would’ve been mo’ predictable, & maybe it’s good to give the reticle gimmick a break.

But the 2nd bonus’s challenge is the best challenge in the entire game: in an entirely new mechanic, you control the reticle & shoot fireballs @ enemies, desroying them all to reveal the bonus coin, which you also have to shoot a fireball @ to collect. In a game where bonuses fall into either extreme o’ having a bonus that has no relevance to the level or is just the predictable level’s gimmick, but also collecting presents or ornaments, this twist on the gimmick both feels like it fits this level perfectly & feels fresh.

That said, Koin’s placement & “puzzle” is lame: he’s right in plain sight, just on the other side o’ the Squitter end sign, & he has a wall right ’hind him. The only “challenge” is that you only get 1 steel keg, so if you somehow mess it up, you have to replay the whole level, which is mo’ an annoyance than an interesting challenge. This is specially disappointing as there’s an obvious better puzzle: make Koin die to fireballs & make it so you have to lead the reticle to aim @ Koin & shoot him.

The other quibble I have with this level is that it is a bit too repetitive & generic, what with all the verticle sections with Zingers, horizontal sections with Re-Koils & Bristles, & the multiple vats o’ boiling bubble gum you have to cross, with a red Zinger here or there to block your way — specially when most o’ the time they weren’t blocking your way, allowing you to just create platforms way ’bove them & cross without any true danger. I’m sure they could’ve come up with a few mo’ variations, such as having Re-Koils o’er the vat sections. I don’t know if they couldn’t handle having mo’ enemy types than these, but it seems like other levels have a greater variety o’ enemies. If ’twas technically feasible, it would’ve been interesting to see how this level’s gimmick might play while battling gainst, say, Bazukas, or, hell, have you dodge fireballs from the reticle while also dodging fireballs from the owls.

Also, if it wasn’t clear ’nough yet, I like this level’s weird palette. While the previous 2 factory levels have predictable vats o’ red lava & green acid, I love seeing vats o’ mysterious pink substances in this level, bordered by purple walls, which hopefully does some work toward rehabilitating that color after Quawks & “Poisonous Pipeline” has made it look so bad.

1. Lightning Look-Out

♪ & your pasttimes

consisted o’ the strange

& twisted & deranged,

& I hate that li’l game you had called,

“Crying Lightning”,

& how you liked to aggravate the icky man on a rainy afternoon.


But not as is impossible as e’eryone assumes you are…

Crying lightning…


– “Crying Lightning”, Arctic Monkeys

I don’t know if this level is quite as infamous as levels like “Snow Barrel Blast” or “Animal Antics”, but I remember when I 1st encountered this level while 1st 103%ing this game in college it infuriated me. Which is a weird memory, since I’ve since been able to beat this level on “TUFST” mode without too much hassle & my recent playthru was much smoother than “Snow Barrel Blast”. Not only are lightning bolts constantly striking, harming you if you manage to get hit by them, but they don’t just follow you: they sometimes anticipate your movements & begin to appear before you. Luckily, they give warnings before striking, allowing players to make last-second reversals. Back when I 1st played this level, I found it unfair, & there is 1 setpiece where you have to jump into water & jump out where if the lightning happens to strike the barrel & water it can be virtually impossible to avoid hitting it.

Howe’er, I’ve found that if I pay close attention & move quickly I can anticipate the bolts, with special leeway with Dixie’s ponytail hover, as well as Zingers up ’bove, who can act as shelter, taking the bolts for you. The constant paranoia o’ the bolts falling adds excitement, while still opening up the level to puzzles, such as walls o’ green Zingers blocking your way that can be dispatched by waiting under them & letting the lightning do your work for you, turning this danger into an asset.

’Cause o’ the nature o’ this gimmick as constantly distracting the player, DKC3’s simplicity & repetition — & it helps that this is 1 o’ the least repetitious levels, repeating only the setpiece where you have a wall o’ red Zingers moving up & down — work better here than in other levels; & since the gimmick is an addition to setpieces, rather than being a part o’ setpieces, the developers couldn’t rely too much on it, having to create other platforming challenges to mix with it.

This level also might have the best Koin in the game: in a game that oft just plopped Koin in the middle o’ levels without any care for integrating him into the level’s mechanics, here we have a fetch quest o’ sorts where you have to use the lightning to defeat a high-up Booty Bird to drop a barrel & use that to defeat ’nother Booty Bird guarded from ’bove by an invincible red Zinger to get a steel barrel to throw @ Koin, all while trying to avoid getting hit by the lightning yourself.

The bonuses are interesting. The 1st is in a small pond o’ water — in a level where you usually don’t want to go into water, since it’ll hurt you if any part o’ it gets struck by lightning. Tho they put a single banana in the water, it probably wasn’t necessary, as a pond so small that could easily be jumped o’er ought to be suspicious by itself. The 2nd bonus is in plain sight, ’bove the middle barrel in a larger pond, so high that you need to throw a partner up to reach it. By itself, this would be lame; but with the lightning mechanic, the need to stop & team up & then throw your partner while avoiding the lightning strikes, specially on the precariously small barrel platforms o’er the dangerous waters, makes this a thrilling challenge.

The 2nd bonus, as one would expect, is collecting appearing & disappearing presents while avoiding the lightning. The 1st bonus, howe’er, is just defeating a bunch o’ Knik-Knaks & is the only part o’ this level that doesn’t feature the lightning. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to challenge players to defeat all enemies with lightning. Yes, you do have a few places where it’s useful to use the lightning to defeat enemies — tho nothing required for just beating the level — those a few & a bonus could offer mo’ complex arrangements o’ Zingers.

With its dim evening palette, brightened with neon flashes e’ery time lightning strikes, this level’s visuals are a tough competition for “Bobbing Barrel Brawl”’s autumnal orange palette.

Worlds Worst to Best

9. World 6: Razor Ridge

A potent mix o’ having the most boring theme in the game, dry cliffs; having a lack o’ coherency to its theme by throwing in water levels & e’en a water boss that fit so poorly the GBA version moved it to Pacifica, where it fit better, & gave this world a new boss; — 1 that still doesn’t fit all that well — & having in general the worst levels in the game make this an easy loss. With such yawnfests as “Floodlit Fish”, “Buzzer Barrage”, & “Pot Hole Panic”, levels so forgettable that e’en after having spent months obsessing o’er this game & writing a novel ’bout it I still had to jog my memory o’ what “Buzzer Barrage” was. Part o’ this is the bland monochromatic caves & empty cliffsides that languish in this world like deserts. The level that probably does stand out the most is “Kong-Fused Cliffs”, & not for good reasons.

8. GBA Bonus: Pacifica

Sad to say, but “Pacifica” was wasted potential. They had the opportunity to make new levels & wasted this opportunity on a 2nd water world so they could have you dodge Lurchins & Kocos a few mo’ dozen times — I’ll be happy when I ne’er have to type “Lurchin” or “Koco” ’gain — or stretch out gimmicks that didn’t need any mo’ uses, like the amazing Bazzas. Just think o’ the cool gimmicks that could’ve been done ’gain, specially mixed with other mechanics: “Krac-Shot Krock”’s chasing reticle, but with Squawks or just the Kongs ’lone; dodging lightning with Squitter; ’nother race gainst the bees from “Riverside Race” — all to stand aside to make way for fish that move in a line. The only things interesting ’bout this world are the aesthetic tricks they did in “Sunken Spruce” & “Stormy Seas” & them brining back barrel cannons for “Cliffside Blast” — & e’en that level wasn’t the best barrel cannon level out there.

The jarring twist ’way from this game’s normal monomania regarding each level’s mechanic to just throwing a bunch o’ different elements together, which arguable an improvement in itself, — I don’t think so: a’least the monomania sometimes works if you have a really good gimmick, like “Fish Food Frenzy” — throwing into a game that does the former makes these levels fail to fit in & almost feel like you’re playing a different game.

Hell, this world didn’t e’en do a good job o’ being a water world, as “Cliffside Blast” & “Surf’s Up” — it’s nonindicative name notwithstanding — have nothing to do with water.

7. World 1: Lake Orangatanga

Other than the mill levels — & 1 o’ those, “Murky Mill”, is memorable for bad reasons & is too challenging to fit here, specially with how baby-simple the 1st level is, leading this world to have weird difficulty imbalance — there’s not much memorable ’bout this world, not helped by its utter lack o’ any coherent theme to it. You have lakeside levels, mill levels, & a snowy level. Perhaps they felt they were being fresh & clever by having a snow level so early in the game, but unfortunately the level was so basic it didn’t stick, & the fact that it was snowy didn’t feel meaningful. This world does a’least have a fun boss; but when the boss is arguably the highlight, that’s a problem. Much mo’ than DKC1, which a’least had a great 1st & last level in its 1st world, & unlike DKC2’s 1st world with its memorable pirate theme, DKC3’s 1st world just feels like a stepping stone to better content.

6. World 5: K3

World 5 actually had some pretty good levels, most notably “Krak-Shot Krock”. It’s too bad this factory level revolving round a reticle that shoots fireballs has nothing to do with this snow world’s theme. In fact, only 2 out o’ the 5 levels in this world revolve round snow, & 1 o’ those levels is just a mine cart level, where the snow is just aesthetics. “Krevice Keepers” & “Barrel Drop Bounce”, which were not great levels, had nothing to do with this world’s theme other than there’s a slight frosty tint to the cliffs’ palettes in “Krevice Keepers”; but that’s just reading into things & this level could’ve fit in anywhere & it would’ve made as much sense. Like “Razor Ridge”, it’s just a very easy-to-forget world.

Also, ¿is it me or does the snow on the o’erworld map look very cheap? Like, mo’ like globs o’ clay than snow. The 1st DKC had better-looking snow than this.

5. Secret World: Krematoa

Tho this world also has some very good levels, — as well as 1 atrocious level — as a whole it’s not very memorable, ’gain ’cause it lacks thematic coherency — not e’en as much as DKC2’s bonus world, which has ⅗ o’ its levels have the jungle theme unique to its bonus world. Here you just have other themes reused, & not e’en the most interesting. While I can understand wanting to give the forest theme an extra 4th level, given how gorgeous it is, ¿why would they go out o’ their way to give the cave & cliffside themes, the least interesting themes, extra 4th levels, specially since the cave theme is also used @ the end o’ e’ery water level? Think o’ the actually rare, mo’ iconic themes like the “stilt” or waterfall themes they could’ve used ’stead. It doesn’t help that this world’s map itself is just rocky cliffs o’er water, making it feel similar to “Razor Ridge”, which didn’t need 2nd-helpings.

I came close to ranking this below “K3”, but this world tries a bit better to integrate its disparate levels into its map theme, e’en if that’s just by throwing some trees round the tree level, & the memorable way you unlock this world does make it merit some points. While it’s very easy to forget “K3”, it’s harder to forget the special bonus world.

4. World 4: Mekanos

This is as high as it is purely due to aesthetics & its perfect balance o’ having variety without sacrificing thematic coherency. When I tallied up points for levels I was surprised by how much this was beaten by world 3, the water world, which almost e’eryone says is worse; but think o’ how weak this world’s levels are: you have “Low-G Labyrinth”, the 2nd worst level in the game, the weakest cart level in the trilogy, levels where you dodge projectiles, & a repetitve autoscroller.

That said, this level does do a great job o’ making these levels a’least feel like they belong together, ne’er straying from its mechanical theme without being repetitive: in addition to the 2 standard factory levels you have 2 pipe levels & e’en a forest made mechanical with a saw chasing you, which, if hindered by the terrible decision to make it an autoscroller & fill it mostly with basic Sneeks, is a’least a memorable concept.

3. World 3: Cotton Top Cove

It’s surprising that this world is so high up, but people forget that e’en tho this is the “water” world, only 2 o’ its levels are traditional water levels — & 1 o’ those levels, “Fish Food Frenzy”, had such a strange gimmick tied to it that it could hardly be called a “traditional” water level, either. & yet, like “Mekanos”, the other levels in this world still tie to the water theme, whether it be the cascade levels or the pier level, “Kreeping Klasps”, where falling in the water means harm. Said cascade & pier levels may not be the greatest, but they’re decent. Moreo’er, they’re all gorgeous & the cascade & underwater levels have some o’ the best songs in the game.

This world was both mo’ cohesive than the aforementioned other water world, “Pacifica”, but @ the same time also felt like it had much mo’ variety & focused more on different types o’ gameplay than just swimming & avoiding fish.

2. World 2: Kremwood Forest

This world does a good job o’ staying coherent to its theme, but not as well as “Cotton Top Cove” or “Mekanos”, with less variety & less coherence: there’s 4 forest levels, 2 in trees & 2 by the riverside, & then 1 mill level that arguably doesn’t fit all that well — tho it probably fits better than in most worlds with its wooden walls & the fact that it’s probably a sawmill. Still, they do mix it up with 2 different forest themes & some water elements that feel like they fit in forests, so it’s not much worse.

“Kremwood Forest” does have better levels on average, howe’er, much mo’ so to make up the difference. While the tree levels aren’t great, the riverside levels are top-tier — in fact, weirdly ’nough, all the riverside levels in this game ended up in my top 10. & as gorgeous as “Cotton Top Cove”’s levels were, “Kremwood Forest”’s are e’en moreso, with the tree levels being the highlight both in terms o’ visuals & music for the entire game.

1. World 7: Kaos Kore

I was surprised by how good o’erall the final main world’s levels were. Yes, it ends with the disappointment that is “Poisonous Pipeline”, but the rest o’ the world is an explosion o’ creative gimmicks, with the conveyor-belt rope level being the weakest, but still feeling fast-paced & having somewhat intricate layouts: you have the cousins o’ Koin, Koindozers, who try to push you into pits; ghostly barrels that appear & disappear; & lightning that chases you thruout the whole level, & e’en anticipates your moves. Hell, e’en as lame as “Poisonous Pipeline”’s gimmick o’ reversing your controls was, ’twas so bad ’twas memorably bad, which is better than some o’ the blander levels.

While “Kaos Kore” may seem to be incoherent thematically on the surface, I would argue that not only does it have something o’ a consistent theme ’cross most its levels, its theme also coheres with the general theme o’ the game: the mix o’ nature & technology. DKC3 gives a greater focus to technology & science, making K. Rool into a mad scientist & replacing the realistic Zingers with robotized versions ( the common fan theory being that the real Zingers went extinct after the queen was slain in the 1st DKC & the king was slain in DKC2 ), while @ the same time keeping a major focus on naturalism, with most o’ this games’ themes being natural environments, like waterfalls & cliffsides — maybe not mo’ than the 1st game, which mixed mo’ industrial themes with natural themes, but certainly mo’ than the mo’ fantastical DKC2; so it makes sense that the final main world starts in a jungle — a clever twist on how the 1st game starts in a jungle, not unlike how DKC2 based its secret world on jungle levels — & ends in a poisoned sewer. Many o’ the natural levels feel like they’ve been twisted or tampered with, whether it be technological conveyor belts in the jungle, spectral barrels in caves, or lightning that seems to have a mind o’ its own in the riverside. This was, ’course, precisely what made these levels stand out in the 1st place: these were levels that for the most part combined compelling gameplay & aesthetics.