Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Time Warp: DKC3

Didn't expect to find myself back into Donkey Kong Country 3, but after re-experiencing the first two games in the series, I was only going to play a few levels of DKC3, now I find myself halfway through the game.

Since DKC3 seems to be the easiest game in the series, as kids we'd race against each other to see who could finish DKC3 in the fastest time. (Of course at the time, we didn't know about the HARDR and TUFST codes to make the game more challenging...)
I'm sure while searching for bonus levels, most of us stumbled upon a few of these mysterious invisible barrels that will teleport you to the end of the level. Not referenced anywhere in the instruction manual, in a time before the Internet, I was fascinated by these warp barrels. Most involve Kiddy Kong tossing his lighter cousin Dixie up in the air to reach an invisible barrel that materializes when touched.
In retrospect, Funky Kong may offer a clue at the start of the game... Sure, "reach the stars" is probably just an expression... But there are clearly stars on the warp barrel. Oh yeah!

Definitely didn't find all the warp barrels back when I first played the game. Turns out there's a warp barrel hidden in every single one of the game's first 10 stages (first 2 worlds) in both DKC2 and DKC3... Allowing you to be defeating DKC3's second boss in 4 minutes of game play.


Anything from the Lost World automatically comes to mind when considering the most challenging levels in Donkey Kong Country 2. Everything you've learned is put to the test, forcing your skills to be sharper and your reflexes quicker than ever before as you explore five mysterious worlds of jungle, fire and ice.

As if the levels themselves weren't difficult enough, each stage contains a bonus level that's easy to miss, and considerably hard to get to. In the Lost World, DK coins are awarded for completing bonus stages instead of Kremcoins.

The big goon Klubba lets you pass into the fabled Lost World areas for fifteen Krem Coins per stage. What a ripoff. I'd kick his ass if it wasn't for that club.

Jungle Jinx (accessed via Crocodile Cauldron)
Wonder where all the manufactured tires came from... Not only are you required to bounce along the huge monster tires as they roll over pits of spikes, but the things will also bowl you over and crush you into a wall. Bonus level is snagged relatively easily ; When you find the letter "O", roll off the cliff to the left and perform a mid-air jump into the bonus barrel.

Black Ice Battle (accessed via Krem Quay)
Who doesn't love a snow and ice level? This one's actually pretty tame compared to other Lost World locales. Not too far off the beaten path is a canon ball inside a chest. Carrying the canon ball with you until you meet the Zingers that are guarding the "G" letter, and a bonus room.

Klobber Karnage  (accessed via Krazy Kremland)
Many consider Klobber Karnage to be the most difficult stage in the entire game... Klobbers everywhere, speedy and agressive. The trick is to be quicker than they are, know which ones you can just jump by, and which Klobbers you need to stomp - In order to use their barrels as weapons against the Klobbers waiting ahead... And know that one bad move and they'll bump you into a spike pit.
An easy to miss bonus at the end of the level. Cranky Kong does offer a clue to it, and it is marked with a lone banana.

Fiery Furnace (accessed via Gloomy Gulch)
A bit of precision barrel blasting that takes some practice. The real challenge here is making it to the bonus barrel with both Kongs intact, while avoiding Cat-O-Nine Tails and Kutlass. It's a fairly difficult bonus level, requiring you to navigate a barrel through a narrow thorny bramble maze full of Zingers. After the bonus game, you're automatically sent to the end of the level, and gotta restart from the beginning if you failed the bonus game.

Animal Antics (accessed via K.Rool's Keep)
Most players will have the Animal Antics stage near - or at the top of their list for most difficult stages in the entire game. Five segments, each played as a different animal buddy. The bonus is hidden in the part with Squitter the spider, just past the save barrel. Unlike most levels in the lost world, you can retry the bonus if you fail. Helps offset the fact that the rest of the stage is so frustrating.
Navigating Squawks the parrot through the windy bramble maze is when things start to get crazy... And just when you think you're done, you gotta take Rattly the snake through some Zingers and spike pits.

One more battle against Kaptain K. Rool before you'll finally get some respect from Cranky Kong...

I truly had an amazing time conquering the Lost World in Donkey Kong Country 2, and enjoyed seeing the game's real ending for the first time in two decades... That was back when games were games.

Monday, January 8, 2018

DKC2: Most Difficult Levels

Donkey Kong Country 2 is a great game with so many amazing worlds... Lots of favorites, but somehow it's the ones that you get stuck on that you seem to remember most.
Many people despise any stage with barrel blasting.... Others aren't crazy about levels where you play as Rattly the snake. Snow and ice locales are never popular. But the most disliked stages seem to be ones where the game dictates the pace by forcing you to climb higher and faster to avoid being crushed, burned or eaten... Or if there's a fierce wind that's tossing you around.

Bramble Blast (3-6) was incredibly frustrating as a kid, but took me two attempts as an adult. Bramble Scramble (4-3) is consistently challenging during every play through. Both feature the lovely melody of the Stickerbrush Symphony track, which I truly believe helps you from going insane with rage when you repeatedly die in the bramble patches.

Gusty Glade (5-3) is another fairly disliked level. The sporadic wind can present some challenges, and can leave you cursing and swearing as you get tossed down a pit. Arctic Abyss (6-1) gets a mention, as many players despise it. Not a fan of snow and ice in any game that doesn't involve a puck.

Windy Well (6-2) gets votes from many players. Leaping over, under, and through Zinger wasps is never fun, especially with the wind thrashing you around. I completed the level and got the DK coin, but died a bunch of times getting the bonuses. The game doesn't allow much backtracking here, which means a trip back if you missed something.

Toxic Tower (6-5) makes the top of many players' lists as the most challenging level in the entire game, which is rather fitting as the last level in the regular world. Requires lots of quick jumping and patience to charge up Rattly's super jump while the acid is continually rising. Last bonus level is found using Squitter. It's fairly well hidden, as the lone banana clue is hidden behind a Zinger bee that you might not bother to kill as you're frantically trying to escape the tower.

Some levels are ridiculously hard until you figure out how to beat them... Others remain challenging even afterwards. Sometimes, it's the bonus games or DK coins that give you a hard time.
In selecting the following levels as "most difficult", I've tried to balance all things into consideration - the stage itself and the extras. Here is my short list for "most challenging level" in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest:

Web Woods (5-5)
Patience is the key in web woods. Lots of enemies and pitfalls, but as Squitter the spider, you can fend 'em off with webs and climb yourself anywhere... But a few things make the level a bit tricker than most. 
First off, is a rather unconventional bonus area unlocked by following one of Kannon's cannonballs back towards where you came. There's a familiar banana arrow to guide you, so it's not that hard... But having to navigate ALL the way to the end of the level target again for another chance to snag the big shiny DK coin as it flickers on screen for an mere instant is absolutely infuriating.

Chain Link Chamber (6-5)
I find this level to be a bit like Web Woods in the sense that you gotta carefully make your way through the level again, re-enduring the tediousness of dodging all obstacles and hazards to snag everything.
Got through the level OK... Managed to snag the DK coin hidden by the letter "N".... But the bonus levels seem to be well hidden. Especially the bonus area hidden between these two Kannons.

Screech's Sprint (7-1)
The last stage before you go on to fight Kaptain K Rool, so naturally, it's gonna be a tough one. Getting past Cat-O-Nine Tails and Zingers, a nearly impossible jump unless you're using Dixie, plus a jump over thorns to an overhead bonus cannon that's fairly well camoflagued behind the leaves, just before the save barrel.
Racing as Squawks the parrot against Screech through the thorn maze is no easy task, but just like the craziest Mario Kart tracks, you memorize the tight spots, and find ways to shave seconds off your time until you can burn the competition.

These two "gems" from the DKC2: Lost World get honorable mentions:
*Klobber Karnage (8-3): Fast and aggressive, one wrong move and Klobbers will run you into a spike pit.
*Animal Antics (8-5): Particularly the part where the wind tosses Squawks all over around the thorn maze.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Gettin' Down with DKC2

Some memorable moments from Donkey Kong Country 2... Always got a kick out of Krazy Kremland (World 4), the ridiculously dangerous and evil amusement park.
A bit bummed that 4 of 6 levels take place on the outskirts of the park. Still, the whole world is really fun to explore... Despite the fact I was cursin' like a sailor every time I died in the bramble patches and beehives.

Hornet Hole (4-1)
Took me a while to locate an elusive bonus area in Hornet Hole... Turns out, there are two bonus areas hidden near the ceiling at the very beginning of the level. I found one, and simply did not enter the other door, assuming it would take me back to bonus area I had just came from.
 When you venture into a bee hive, it's always more fun if you've got your own spider... The trademark lone banana beneath this Zinger invites you to explore a hidden area to uncover the DK coin.

Target Terror (4-2)
An awesomely unsafe amusement park ride! The Kremling riding his own cart offers a clue to a bonus area... After Klank tosses a few barrels at you, he drops down and off screen. If you follow him, you'll find a bonus room hidden on a lower section of track.

Bramble Scramble (4-3)
Some rules can be bent... Others can be broken. I remember it took me forever to figure out how to reach this lone banana on the other side of the wall to the right of the save barrel. Seems they thought it would be clever to add a few invisible passages in the thorny maze. Just gotta hop through the prickly wall to find Squitter and the DK coin, a move that would normally lead to your death.

Rickety Race (4-4)
Failing to locate the DK coin yet passing the level with a third place finish, I figured that uncovering the elusive coin involved getting first place... Sure enough, the Kremling that you need to overtake to finish first in Rickety Race is carrying the coveted coin.

Mudhole Marsh (4-5) 

The DK coin here is is up for grabs at the end-level target...
Only catch, is that you have to NOT kill the Kannon (aka Klump) who's firing the barrels, and perform a skilled jump off a flying barrel and onto the target. If you time it right, you'll be rewarded with the DK coin. This is the first of two coins found at the end level target, second one being in Web Woods (5-5).

Rambi Rumble (4-6)
As much as I prefer not to be stuck in a beehive, I absolutely love the atmosphere of the hive levels, especially, with the ominously epic music. I was sure that the Zingers watching from the walls were suddenly going to come out and swarm me. Not to mention the creepy, pulsing sacs of larvae. Honey everywhere... It's even dripping off the screen.
The DK coin is collected before transforming into Rambi, by climbing over the Rambi room.

King Zing Sting (World 4 Boss)
I believe this is the first time in the DKC series that we've had an animal buddy involved in a boss battle... King Zing gave me more trouble than any boss in the series so far, and I gotta say I was relieved when he and his minions finally bit the dust. Where's a can of Raid when you need one?

Gloomy Gulch (World 5)

Haunted Hall (5-2)
Jumping off the tracks onto another section of track with a hidden bonus area seems like the norm now... But this time, they've hidden a bonus room ABOVE the other... The game actually lets you enter both rooms, provided that you get the top one first. Once finished, you'll roll back down the track, and automatically roll forwards into the lower bonus room.

Parrot Chute Panic (5-4)
Definitely not a simple level, but has a bonus room that's easy to miss. After dodging a bunch of Zingers, it takes a hard and deliberate left to drift over to this hidden ledge with a bonus room.

Interestingly, Parrot Chute Panic also contains a room with bananas in the shape of a Rareware logo. It's broken into with a crate like many bonus areas, but it does not count for anything.
Some banana coins upon exit, but pretty much a hidden room just for the sake of a hidden room.
  It's one of two banana "Rareware" logos that I know of in the game... (The other being found in the Enguarde portion of Animal Antics in the Lost World)

Web Woods (5-5)

A Rare logo in the "Collect the Stars" bonus game. I could have sworn that there was another Rareware logo made of stars somewhere else in the game, but can't seem to locate it at the moment.
Considered one of the most difficult stages in the game, Web Woods is a slow, cautious crawl using Squitter's webs as both platforms and projectiles... A rather unconventional bonus level is found here, where you follow a slow moving cannonball back towards a wall that exposes a bonus area.

It's a tedious trek to get to the end, and the DK coin is available as a prize at the end-level target. Only problem is that it only flashes on screen for a fraction of a second, requiring impeccable timing to snag it. You're bound to miss it your first few tries, and because you hit the target and finished the level, the game forces you to start the level all over again for another chance at the cursed coin. (If you can manage to rapidly pause and unpause the game four times while the preceding lone banana is displayed, you can immediately hit the A button when you unpause to stack the odds in your favor.)

Kreepy Krow (World 5 Boss)
Mortally wounded in his first fight against the Kongs, it look's like Krow's spirit has returned for revenge. Kreepy Krow gets a bit out of hand with his egg chuckin', but he's not quite as tough as King Zing.