Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Nintendo (ARC/NES/FDS)
    • Coleco (2600/ColecoVision/Intellivision)
    • Atari (8-bit family/BBC/7800)
  • Publishers:
    • Nintendo (ARC/NES/FDS)
    • UK Atari (2600/BBC)
    • US Coleco (2600/ColecoVision/Intellivision)
    • US Atari (7800/8-bit family)
  • Released:
    ARC
    • JP 08/01/1982
    • US 08/20/1982
    2600
    • UK 1982
    • US 1983
    ColecoVision
    • US 1983
    Intellivision
    • US 1983
    NES
    • JP 07/15/1983
    • US June 1986
    • UK 06/15/1987
    Atari 8-bit family
    • US 06/01/1984
    BBC Micro
    • UK 1984
    FDS
    • JP 07/19/1988
    7800
    • US 1988
Score: 70%

This review was published on 01/04/2017.

Donkey Kong Jr., sometimes known as Donkey Kong Junior, is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the arcades and various other platforms. This is the sequel to the highly successful and influential arcade game called Donkey Kong, which came out in 1981. The original arcade version of Donkey Kong Jr. was released in Japan on August 1, 1982, and North America on August 20, 1982. Then in 1983, the game was ported to the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and Intellivision in North America. Later on, the game made its way to the Atari 8-bit family of computers in North America on June 1, 1984, and the BBC Micro in Europe also sometime in 1984. In 1988, the game was also ported to the Atari 7800 in North America. However, the most popular port was the one for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out in Japan on July 15, 1983, North America in June 1986, and Europe on June 15, 1987. Finally, the game was also ported to the Famicom Disk System in Japan on July 19, 1988. In other words, this game was basically everywhere in the 1980s.

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In the previous game, a nasty gorilla known as Donkey Kong kidnapped Pauline, the girlfriend of a carpenter named Mario, and took her to a construction site. Mario had to risk life and limb, but he ultimately succeeded in his daring rescue mission, defeating Donkey Kong and reuniting with the sweet Pauline. In Donkey Kong Jr., however, Mario is actually the villain. Going from protagonist to antagonist, Mario exacts his revenge on Donkey Kong by putting him in a big cage, like some kind of sadistic circus tamer. The new protagonist of this game is the eponymous Donkey Kong Jr., son of Donkey Kong, who takes on the tenuous task of rescuing his father. The rescue mission won't be easy, because Mario will place plenty of obstacles in Junior's path. By the way, here's a fun fact: this is currently the only video game to have casted Mario in the role of the villain.

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Like Mario in the last game, Donkey Kong Jr. is able to walk around his environment and jump from place to place. However, instead of climbing ladders, Donkey Kong Jr. spends most of his time on vines, or anything that's remotely like a vine, such as chains, ropes, or poles. To grab onto a vine or other similar type of thing, Jr. simply needs to touch it, whether on the ground or in the air. Once grabbed onto a vine-like object, Jr. can climb up or down it, or jump off of it, preferably to another nearby climbable thing. One other thing Junior can do is hold onto the vine or whatever with one hand, then put out his free hand to grab another nearby vine, either to the left or right. This can be used to move from vine to vine without having to jump. Additionally, Jr. will climb upwards faster if he's holding onto two vines at once, but he goes down faster if he's only holding one. It's this new mechanic that's the primary focus of the game, which is good, because it's fun.

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During his adventure, Donkey Kong Jr. will face many dangers. Compared to the previous game, this game has a larger set of enemies, like bear trap-like things that'll go up and down vines, chomping anything that gets in their way. There are also birds that'll fly around, dropping dangerous eggs from the air. While he's unable to harm enemies directly, Jr. can touch various fruit hanging near vines, chains, or ropes to cause them to fall down, crushing any foes that may be underneath. Mario will continue to send in new baddies to replace the old ones, though. Jr. is a fragile little monkey, so hazards and enemies will kill him in one hit. Falling too far will also result in a death, in addition to running out of time. Every death exhausts one of your lives and you get a Game Over once they're all gone, forcing you to restart the whole adventure from the beginning.

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As with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. has four stages in all. That may sound like a nominal amount, but this was still back in an era when most video games only consisted of a single stage set on infinite loop. The original Donkey Kong was one of the first games to break that mold, and Donkey Kong Jr. adopts the game industry wide standard set by its predecessor. The goal of most stages is to simply reach the end, where Mario is holding Donkey Kong captive. Each stage is set in a different environment, like the first one's in a jungle with vines, stage two is in an area with floating platforms and a springboard that launches Jr. upwards, and stage three is in an industrial area with electricity traveling through wires that Jr. must avoid touching. The last stage has a different objective, as Jr. must push six keys into six keyholes while climbing chains to finally unlock Donkey Kong's cage. Due to every stage introducing a different element, they're all pretty enjoyable. There's also a two player mode, but it's akin to passing the controls back and forth.

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After you finish all four stages, you'll witness the ending and start the whole adventure over again back on stage one, except everything will be harder. Generally, the difficulty increase comes in the form of enemies and obstacles getting a substantial speed boost. However, similar to the North American version of the original Donkey Kong arcade game, the way loops work will differ depending on the version. For the North American arcade release of Donkey Kong Jr., the first loop only allows you to play the first and last stages, and each subsequent loop lets you play a new stage. This means you've got to beat the game multiple times to see all the stages. That's unless you're playing the Japanese version of the arcade game, or the NES port. Due to that, the Japanese arcade release of Donkey Kong Jr. is the ideal version, but the NES port isn't a bad substitute. While it's lacking in a few cutscenes and sound effects, the NES port is the closest to the arcade original and far more readily available, so it's the second best choice.

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Despite not being a massive cultural phenomenon like its predecessor, Donkey Kong Jr. is still a mighty fine game. This game builds upon the original with more complex mechanics and stage designs, but is still simple enough to be approachable for everyone. Climbing vines and such is plenty of fun, and while there aren't many stages, they're all pretty nice. That about sums up this game, really: it's pretty nice.

Word Count: 1,160