Retro Game of the Day! Donkey Kong Jr
Donkey Kong Jr by Nintendo, released in 1982 in the arcade. The follow-up to their behemoth title which appeared a year earlier - how does this one measure up?
In the 1980s, as has been noted before in this column, sequels to arcade games often had little to do with the previous installments of games they were based on, sometimes sharing basic themes and little else - perhaps an evolution of mechanic. DKJR certainly falls into this category, as it is certainly similar to the first episode, yet the way everything works is quite different.
In the first game, the player controlled Mario, who was trying to rescue his girlfriend from the big ape's clutches. This time around, Mario is the enemy - he's captured Donkey Kong (turnabout is fair play, right?) and you control DK's son, attempting to rescue your daddy. "Such irony, Miyamoto!"
Anyway, it works. The game seems to be an evolution of the previous engine, you still have a large Donkey Kong sprite holding the top spot at screen left - of course, this time he's imprisoned - and the game as whole is a lot more tropical and colorful. Mechanic-wise, Junior can jump like Mario did in #1 - but he can also grab and ascend up vines or poles.
Like the first game, the goal is to reach the screen's top - but often you need to physically "grab" a key to represent freeing your dad, or (in the case above) push a series of keys into locks in order to liberate him. Offensively, gone are the mallets from the first game - Jr can drop fruit when climbing onto pursuing enemies below. This is pretty difficult to setup and not really worth the effort much of the time.
DKJR is a strange and confounding game - and like the previous iteration, it can be quite difficult. When it released, it was warmly received in arcades; Donkey Kong was a hugely popular game, and this followed the coattails rather nicely. Perhaps it was a bit more complex, even too much so, than the first, and so it never achieved the same popularity - all the same, an enjoyable and colorful game, and one which is still fun to try today.