Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Donkey Kong (Game Boy)

I had no intention on doing a write up on this game. But recently I had a hankering to replay it and figured I'd give it a shot but wouldn't learn anything from it as far as game design goes. But it wasn't long before this humble monochrome GB game proved me wrong.

Here we have a game where Nintendo said "what if the arcade classic Donkey Kong was re-released on Game Boy with today's standards for video games?". What we get is a shining example of just how much a game design creative process can improve through reiteration.

Mario is no longer crippled - he is slow as ever but jumping is greatly improved with moves like the backflip jump and handstand.He can stand on many enemies and pick them up/throw them as in Mario Bros 2 US.



Even with all these extra moves and features, the developers knew the original games structure was still too simple to really make the most of them. So they settled for a simple but appropriate solution : make the end of the level a door that can be placed anywhere (rather than always the top of said level), and put a key somewhere required to open the door. This adds multitudes of level design possibilities, as well as puzzle elements to the game. Levels can either require platforming skill and dexterity to get through, or be slower paced and require some brain power to get through. If the designers decide they don't want the key to be part of a particular level design, they can place it very close to the door. Modular level design is king in a game with 100+ levels.

The game strives to keep the player interested, as there is a mini boss of sorts against Donkey Kong every 3 levels (!), and each encounter is quite different, often you'll have to pick up tossed barrels and launch them back at DK. Also levels often introduce new obstacles and ideas. For example not far into the game arrow blocks are incorporated, which allow you to place timed bridges or ladders anywhere you want in the level. Stimulating ideas like this are VERY important for keeping a player interested in the game. Once a player beats a level, gets bored, and puts down the game; there is a good chance he will never come back. No matter how long or short the game is, new ideas and concepts must continuously be introduced to the player. Zelda games do this by giving the player a new weapon every dungeon for example.



What's truly amazing about this game is how far the designers managed to expand upon the original arcade concept from 1981. Makes me wonder what other older games would be like if they received the same treatment, say Ballon Fight or Clu Clu Land.As cliche as it sounds, the possibilities are endless.

Today I ask myself "What if the arcade classic Donkey Kong was re-released with today's standards for video games?" Well as cynical as it sounds : it would be overlaid with a grey gritty filter with bloom, auto save every step you take, and offer an extra DLC level pack for 10 USD. I think I'll stick with Mario vs Donkey Kong on GBA.

DO
+Look to older games (your own or others') for ideas you can iterate upon to create new concepts! Furthermore, don't be afraid to take the ideas in the game you are currently working on and iterate them by looking at them in a different light. You might be surprised with what you end up with.

+When you are playing old games always look for ways to improve your design thought process - its what this blog is all about! Even terrible design elements can be a lesson learned.

                                             What do I need 25 lives for?

44 comments:

Gifz said...

Never played this game, only played Donkey Kong Land ;)

Common said...

A thing I've noticed is a big problem for indie games and freeware/shareware games is that the player simply has too long between new elements, and gets bored. A good point to make in your review.

Malkavian said...

huh, sounds kinda cool actually

JDOGMMA said...

Wow, thats a bit out there. I think you're right though, we have it too easy these days with autosaves every two seconds.

theWhale said...

Broke my gameboy last week, I miss it so badly :(

ApocTV said...

never played this, only old school donkey kong lol :)

MarkeeTeeVee said...

awww man. i wasn't even born when this was released

game_artifacts said...

@MarkeeTeeVee - you are getting confused with the arcade release(1981) I'd imagine; the GameBoy game I am covering was released in 1994.

Noises said...

i love this game. i want to be a kid again :(

logo mess said...

nice game but i never played it :( donkey kong and mario they started out as a duo?

mindph said...

Oh yes I remember this

Matt said...

Great game, brings back memories!

Fortune said...

Wow its like I'm really in 1995.

MJ to IM said...

25 lives for players like me haha

AOmar said...

I just wish i could find the charger for my gamboy SP

TheGuy said...

That was pretty interesting, and nostalgic. Keep up the good work.

CPH said...

I remember this! I just nostalgia'd hard!

Gambling Degenerate said...

super OG game

Musicofjustin said...

Donkey kong 64 was my personal favorite, but this game was chill too!

Vav said...

Lol it's still black and white :p

Doro said...

It's real OLDSCHOOL!

Dejch said...

lol gameboy.. i totaly forgot about that.. it was sick back in the days

//Love said...

Yeah, good game

Jay Reid said...

Hell yeah! DK!

Croz2011 said...

great read bro, im a big game fan from xbox 360 mega sales like the call of duty's to games like tiny wings on the iphone so ill defo be following and checking out your other cool write ups :D

Volturno Caravaggio said...

I didn't even know that a game boy edition of donkey kong existed. Very good post, keep it up!

Lou_BRK said...

I didn't even knew it was a DK game on gameboy xD

Raizoo said...

Hell yeah ! Good old times..

fpotd said...

Takes me back lol

Prototape said...

I remember playing old school DK. Awesome game.

Magnum said...

I remember DK III on Gameboy. It was great, sadly I never finished : ( Something always distracted me and the saving system was kinda broken.

Feindbild said...

Ow, cood old gameboy time^^

Moobeat said...

old school

Grant said...

A Classic. I love all my old games

Cartoon Universe said...

Probably my favorite gameboy game!

Ephedrine said...

i love dis game.

Icepax_Nmir said...

Donkey kong =D must be one of my favorites ^^

MJ to IM said...

oh the memories...

Earl said...

Its cool to learn about the inspiration for today's hit games like Donkey Konga.

Leminur said...

Hah... you know, I used to play a lot of Super Mario and the Seven coins! That game was awesome!

Hombre Alado said...

It´s incredible how many people have played this game...

gonblater said...

This game was a classic. :)

zemzero said...

This game took so much of my time. I remember being stuck on one of the ship levels for the longest time only to find out the answer was right in my face. The rest was a breeze.

I agree with what you said about what would happen if the game was re-released. I feel games are too forgiving these days.

k2m1ru said...

Oh my god... nostalgia...

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