Do you like Donkey Kong? Well, that’s good because so do developers Drowning Monkey Games who have carefully crafted this homage to the Nintendo classic.
As soon as you boot the game you’re treated to a menu featuring a title font that does have a striking similarity to Donkey Kong. Then as soon as you start the first level, the opening sound effect sting feels like it’s just one note away from the same music used in its inspiration. Just not enough that the lawyers are going to be getting on the phone!
And on top of that, it feels like old school Donkey Kong. Or at least what my hazy memory of it was, and that’s probably the highest praise I can give to this game. You have that same, slow walk speed, and the jump feels the same, or at least very similar. That’s where the similarities end though as you have a whole host of other obstacles to avoid.
Set in ye olden times, instead of a giant ape throwing barrels you have molten lava being flung, arrows, cannons and more, while the King is either at the top or bottom of the stage. Each has a different trick in order to be avoided. So arrows have an arc that they follow, whereas the lava that falls can either drop all the way off the screen or land on a platform, become sentient and move along the level. While you can avoid these by jumping over them (gaining points) there is also the pitchfork that acts like the hammer from, you guessed it, Donkey Kong. It’s only active for a short time and can be used to stop enemies from hitting you.
With a game like this it’s all about high score chasing, but disappointingly the High Score option doesn’t have great filter options. It just shows the top 10 scores, along with your score and placement at the bottom and that’s it. It would be nice to filter out friends, maybe look at how far below the next person in the rankings you are, maybe have a separate leader board for daily and weekly runs? It’s an area of the game that needs work, and for a style of game where longevity is tied so deeply into high scores, it’s a little disappointing. It makes it hard to recommend to friends, unlike say a Bezier: Second Edition, where you could have some great high score competitions.
With an asking price of £5.99 on Switch (which is the version I played), it’s certainly on the affordable end. That said, what you get out of it is how much you enjoy original DK. It’s one of those games that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a good homage to a classic game, with new enemies, a new graphical style, but gameplay remaining largely untouched aside from some different enemy patterns. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for then you you will get some enjoyment out of Castle Kong. It’s just a shame the high score features aren’t as robust as I would’ve liked.