Happy Hump Day on week seven of our 100 reviews in 100 days, gamers!
Barreling into spot number 68…
If you’re settling in for a detailed inspection of the gameplay of Donkey Kong, sorry. You’re about to be really disappointed. Not unlike Pong, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, there’s not a lot to discuss when it comes to the actual mechanics. Jump over all the barrels. The end. Not to say it isn’t challenging and fun, but it’s basic. What isn’t basic is this games lasting impact, because it’s been massive. More than three decades later, you’re still feeling the ramifications of Donkey Kong, just like when your dad took you to the Halloween Parade in Vienna, Virginia when you were three and the clowns scared the living shit out of you and now the nightmares JUST WON’T STOP. That happened to everyone, right? Phew. I thought it was just me.
A PLUMBER AND A GORILLA: A MATCH MADE IN… WELL, SOMEPLACE.
One thing that Donkey Kong helps prove is that the people developing games in the late 70’s and early 80’s were not social drinkers. Like many of it’s contemporaries, it seems to have been put together from concepts that could only be generated by hardcore booze hounds at 3 AM, right around that point in the evening when they’ve said “screw it” and start drinking Everclear straight from the bottle. “There’s this big-ass gorilla, right? And he’s standing on top of these I-beam things, y’know? And he’s throwing barrels at this plumber who’s trying to jump up to his platform oh god I’m going to be sick ::HUUUUACH::” Stuff like that. Anyway, here’s the point: This is our first introduction to a plucky little plumber named Mario (Jump Man at the time… How original), who would only go on to be the most pervasive, famous, and beloved character in video game history. Mario has been in nearly 200 games since Donkey Kong. Seriously, he’s the freaking Christopher Lee of video games. As for our dear Donkey Kong himself, he’s enjoyed an extended life on various Nintendo platforms over the years, and even got his own series of excellent platformers during Nintendo’s superb run of games for the SNES in the 90s. Make no mistake though; Mario is what makes Donkey Kong one of the most important games in history.
COMPETITIVE BARREL JUMPING! NO. SERIOUSLY. THIS IS A THING.
So… did you know that people are still playing Donkey Kong. Like, a lot? Hell no you did not. But they are! And not only that, they’re doing it competitively. The world record high score for Donkey Kong is a highly sought after honor by, uh,… well, based on the article I read the title keeps getting passed back and forth between four or five guys. So at least five people really care about this. I kid, I kid, professional Donkey Kong players. Good for you! It does say something for a games design and mechanics that you can still build a viable world-record bracket around it thirty-plus years after it’s release. Well, I’ve run out of jokes and coffee, so we’ll leave Donkey Kong here with a respectable 3.5 out of 5.