Re(?)Considered: Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble
Soft, strong and very Kong
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (takes deep breath) is a bit of an underappreciated and oft-maligned game. It's quite easy to see why. After the excitement of the original Donkey Kong Country and its beloved sequel, the third in the series feels a little bit like old news. It's also markedly less complicated in its level designs than DKC2, which can occasionally lead it to feel somewhat uninspired.
Oddly, considering it's part of a series about clothed primates, it feels like DKC3 is pitched young, with newcomer Kiddy Kong being the most glaring evidence of this. The simpler levels are an order of magnitude less interesting than even the most basic stages in the original DKC, with the initial wharf-set level hardly stimulating the fun-neurons in the same way as DKC's rollicking, atmospheric jungle or DKC2's creaking, sloshing pirate ship.
In what's admittedly a continuation of the previous game's creeping design ethos, every stage here seems to be built around some sort of one-off gimmick. It's an approach that definitely spurs the player to want to keep going and see what the designers will throw at you next, but all too often it's something a little uninspired. For every fun gimmick like a giant saw tearing through the treetops as you escape vertically, there's a boring underwater stage that requires you to awkwardly position yourself to feed a fish that bites you if you leave its stomach empty.
The secrets - so important in the first two Donkey Kong Countrys - are lacklustre, too. While the giant DK coins return from 2, their previously-ingenious hideaways are rather spoiled by the fact that, ooh, new idea, they're now carried by an enemy called Koin who uses them as a shield, so you have to find a keg, rebound it off a wall and hit them in the back. It really wasn't worth compromising the level design to incorporate this extremely stupid and misguided concept. Additionally, the bonus barrels are back and this time they have stultifyingly dull challenges where you have to collect green bananas as they slowly appear around a small room, usually with a single obstacle. It's banal stuff.
Now, I realise that I said it's underappreciated and then proceeded to slag it off remorselessly. It's a flawed game, but there's plenty about it that I like. For one thing, it's gorgeous - the apex of the DKC graphical style and one of the very best-looking SNES games in existence. There are also some super-neat ideas thrown into the soup, like Parry the parrot - an animal buddy who moves when you do and must be kept alive for secret bonuses. The world map is also the best it's ever been, with the different vehicles you collect allowing you to search for hidden caves in its vast mass. It's also got a lovely, richly atmospheric, bass-heavy soundtrack from Eveline Fischer (which was replaced in the GBA re-release by a heavily compressed David Wise effort).
It's a fun game overall - definitely the weak link in the series, but assuredly a good time. Be prepared to roll your eyes at a couple of its worst excesses, though. And if I never see another sodding Bear Brother, it'll be too soon.