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Donkey Kong Review

Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Coleco
Release Date: 1982 Also On: None

The Atari 2600 era is unique among the many generations of game consoles in one distinct way: it is the only generation in which the dominant console’s competitors made games for it. Both Mattel, the makers of the Intellivision (as M-Network), and Coleco, the makers of the Colecovision (without disguise) made games for the Atari 2600. Somehow, Coleco is the company that originally ended up with the rights to port Nintendo’s arcade game Donkey Kong to consoles, and of course they, in addition to making a version for their Colecovision, made a version for the Atari 2600. Donkey Kong stands, therefore, as one of the best platformers on the Atari 2600, although it must be conceded that there is little competition for that title.

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Few and far between are the classic gamers who don’t have a version of Donkey Kong somewhere in their collection, and I would trust that fewer still are the classic gamers that haven’t heard of it. However, on the off chance that somebody is reading this and is not familiar with the game, let me say that Donkey Kong marked the beginnings of Mario, the character who would go on to revolutionize the platformer genre on the NES and, through so doing, become Nintendo’s mascot.

Mario has traditionally had two major enemies, although other forces have opposed him as well. Nearly all gamers know that Bowser is Mario’s main enemy. Bowser traditionally goes after Peach (or Princess Toadstool, whichever name you prefer). However, Peach was not Mario’s first girlfriend. Before Mario belonged to Peach, he had another girlfriend named Pauline, and it was this girlfriend that Mario’s other main enemy, Donkey Kong, kidnapped in this game to get Mario to come after him.

Donkey Kong’s attack force consists of two things, each of which attack in their own level. In the first level, Mario has to make his way up to the top of a screen with sloped platforms, ladders, and barrels that roll down at Mario. Granted, you don’t actually see Donkey Kong roll the barrels in this version of the game, but they come anyway. Mario, as is traditionally his way of avoiding problematic enemies, can jump. However, Mario is a novice hero at the time that this game takes place, so he cannot jump nearly as high or as far as he would be able to in the future after more training. His jumping ability in this game is sufficient, however, for what he has to do. Essentially, Mario must jump over the barrels and climb ladders to reach the top of the screen and move to level two, but he will die if he gets hit by a barrel.

Level two has four layers of building with a ladder on each side. Each layer has two rivets that must be removed by stepping or jumping over them. After they are removed, you can die by falling through the resulting holes. You can also die by running into the fireballs, one of which inhabits each layer of the building. After all the rivets are removed, you win, at which point you will return to the first level and start over again, with the difficulty increasing each time this occurs.

The hammer for which Donkey Kong is famous is in this game. One hammer in each level can be picked up by Mario and used to destroy any enemies that get to Mario within a certain time period of his picking it up. However, as in other incarnations of Donkey Kong, Mario cannot climb a ladder while he is holding the ladder. Also, it should be noted that the traditional “hammer themeâ€? does not play when Mario holds the hammer, since this is the Atari 2600, after all. This means that the hammer will be in Mario’s hand, and it will just disappear without warning at the end of the time limit. This could result in a cheap, unexpected death once in a while when you play the game.

So far as sound does go, there is a sound when Mario jumps, and there is another sound when he jumps over an enemy. That is about it for the sound, so I would have to say that the sound is fairly unimpressive, even by Atari 2600 standards. The graphics, however, are pretty good for the standards of a 1982 Atari 2600 game. The platforms in both levels look like construction rails, and the hammers and ladders look like they should. Even the barrels look good, although the fireballs in the second level sort of look more like ducks to me. Donkey Kong, Mario, and Pauline look okay, but they could possibly look a little better than they do. Overall, though, the graphics are above average.

Don’t let the score I gave this game deceive you. The Atari 2600 version of this game is hardly worth your time if you have even the Colecovision version, and certainly isn’t if you have the NES version. You should only contemplate getting this version of the game if you are a collector who absolutely must have every game for the Atari 2600, or if you, for some reason, do not have an NES or a Colecovision. Otherwise, I would say that either of those versions would be a better choice than this version. This version is not bad, but it isn’t the best, and if you are only going to buy one version of a game, it should be the best.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7
Written by Martin Review Guide