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Donkey Kong Jr. Review

Developer: Coleco Publisher: Coleco
Release Date: 1983 Also On: None

Nintendo’s success with Donkey Kong made almost inevitable the fact that a sequel would be forthcoming. Donkey Kong Junior was that sequel. And Coleco’s success with their 1982 port of Donkey Kong to the Atari 2600 made just as inevitable the fact that Donkey Kong Junior would follow, as was the case in 1983. And, although it is drastically stripped down from the arcade version, the Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong Junior is a decent game worth a look if you can’t find any other version of the game.

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The concept of the game is fairly simple. Mario is out for revenge on Donkey Kong for kidnapping Pauline, so he kidnaps Donkey Kong and locks him in a cage. Now Donkey Kong Junior must get to said cage and let his father go. He does this by climbing vines, as well as dodging klaptraps and birds, and eventually by pushing keys up to where his father is locked. A simple concept, the game is actually more difficult than it seems.

Aesthetically, the Atari 2600 version of this game is significantly less impressive than the arcade version. Although there is something to be said for the technical limitations of the system, one must also remember that this game was made by Coleco, the company that made the Colecovision, so there may be some element of trying to make the Colecovision look good by making the Atari 2600 look bad here.

Graphically, most of this game is pretty competent by 1983 Atari 2600 standards. The vines are pretty thin and Mario in particular looks very good. Sadly, Donkey Kong Junior and his father don’t look quite as detailed or impressive as Mario. Overall, everything’s fine graphically. In terms of sound, there’s a brief musical bit that plays before the game begins and after you lose. The sound effect of Donkey Kong Junior climbing the vines gets annoying fast, and it is the only sound effect you’ll hear much other than the sound of Donkey Kong Junior dying. The sound, then, would be below average if not for the bits of music, but they can only pull this game up to a sound score indicating decency.

In terms of gameplay, the controls seem a bit over-responsive at times, resulting in some very cheap deaths through long falls, but that could just be me, or it could be a issue caused by the fact that I use a Master System controller instead of a joystick. This is one of only a few two-dimensional games that I’m aware of that declare you dead when you fall too far, and too far seems to be about a fifth of the height of the screen. That adds to the realism but also adds to the challenge of an already hard game.

And let’s talk about cheap attack strategies. This game has that one covered also. More often than not, I’d have to wait through three or four straight klaptraps coming down the very vine I needed to climb before I’d get a chance to start climbing it. And then, to top that off, sometimes I’d start climbing only to have to slide back down quickly before the next one reached me. This is more an exercise in patience than challenge, as there is rarely any chance of you running out of time because of it, even though the game is timed.

On the bright side though, the jumping and the climbing mechanics do work fairly well, and so does the pushing of the keys in the second level. And, just so I’m clear, the game isn’t over if you beat the second level. It just goes back to the first level and you keep playing until you lose. Either way though, this is a reasonably entertaining game, but the lack of the middle two levels is a major blow to it, and I’m sure the Atari 2600 could have handled all four levels.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good version of Donkey Kong Junior considering the system it was released on, but the version on the NES, and probably the one on the Colecovision also, are superior. That being the case, there is no logical reason for you to own this version unless you do not have any other system that the game is available on or you are a collector of Atari 2600 titles.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6.9
Written by Martin Review Guide