Review: Donkey Kong (Atari 7800)

In this review, we check out another classic video game that stars the now famed Super Mario. In this review, we check out what is perhaps one of the earliest appearances for Donkey Kong. Does the adventure game Donkey Kong have as much playability as later games? We find out.

This particular port was released in 1988. It would be one of the very few games that features Donkey Kong as an antagonist. That’s unlike subsequent games produced in later years where the famed ape was a protagonist. It pits Donkey Kong against Mario as he tries to rescue the princess.

This game, while somewhat short, has three separate levels. The first level is the ever famous level with girders and ladders. You have to avoid the numerous barrels which are constantly flying at you. To make matters more complicated, you have to also avoid the moving flames that appear at the bottom of the screen. Typically, one barrel is sent directly down to the oil drum to make one appear early on. More appear as other barrels touch the oil drum.

You can collect one of the few hammers that are placed part way up. They can defeat enemies and barrels alike, but the downside is that you can’t climb ladders or make much progress even though you can rack up a large number of points in the process of this.

The second level features two elevators and a constant barrage of spring like objects that fly down the level in a particular path. While that may make things easier, there are also some of those flame monsters that move about the screen in the process, threatening to kill Mario on his journey up to rescue the princess.

The third level forces Mario to remove a set of very particular blocks that holds the blue girders up. If you are successful in doing so and avoid even more flame monsters, Donkey Kong will fall down and land on his head. With Donkey Kong incapacitated, you’ll have rescued Princess Toadstool. If you get this far, the game starts over and you begin the next sequence. You carry the score over to the next sequence which is the exact same levels all over again. The difference is that the levels are generally harder than the previous sequence. This offers the player a possibly infinite challenge in the process.

You have three lives total and, unless you can earn them through points (I could only get about 90,000 points), they have to last you the entire game.

Quite often, this is viewed as one of the classic games to play. In fact, this game was featured on Donkey Kong 64 where you only have to play through two sequences to get all of the rewards in question. I personally can see why as there is plenty of replay value to be had in this simple game.

The downside is that by the time this port was released, there were far better games out there to be had in the graphics department. Games like Tetris and 1942 were already out an the overall graphics were better. So, unfortunately, this seems to be another one of those too little, too late ports in the graphics department.

The audio was also bare minimum when speaking on comparative terms. There’s a few jungles and some sound effects, but this only serves to seemingly date the game at this point in time.

Overall, while this is a fun game, there are games out there that have a better production quality to it in terms of both the audio and video department by this time. Still, this game is generally enjoyable once you look past those to parts of the game. So, good all around.


Furthest point in game: Died on the third appearance of the first level.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 3/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 66%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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