Game: Castle Kong
Genre: Arcade, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developer|Publisher: Drowning Monkeys Games | PR Hound
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $6.99 | UK £5.99 | EU €6,99
Release Date: February 25th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound
It’s on Like…..
There’s no denying the huge impact the arcade classic Donkey Kong has had on the gaming industry and culture. An original concept where Jump Man (who soon became Mario) saved the Princess from a giant gorilla, Donkey Kong, by navigating tricky single-screen platform stages. It was a huge hit in arcades which at the time were becoming overpopulated with space shooters. The story of Donkey Kong as a game didn’t end there. It ended up being something of a cultural phenomena thanks in part to the hit documentary film ‘King of Kong’ which showed that arcade games still have a dedicated fan base that appears to be going strong even today.
But this article isn’t about how awesome Donkey Kong is. This is a review of Castle Kong, a game created by people that clearly love Donkey Kong. But is this enough to give this game it’s own legs?
How Low Can You Go
Castle Kong takes you right back to the arcade days of old. You play a little pauper boy on a quest to save the Princess from Baron Man, a fella with an oversized head that wants to stop the two going on a potential date and quoting The Princess Bride to each other all night (at least that’s what I would do under these odd circumstances). It’s a dead-simple concept that doesn’t need any depth, as the main feature here is the gameplay. It’s a decent enough graphic style, with simple colourful pixels in a medieval setting with sound effects that mimic the arcade era. It’s not particularly stand out or memorable but does the job.
Castle Kong’s controls and gameplay deliberately mimic the old arcade days. You can only move and jump. Movement feels a little slow and the jumping is clunky and unnatural deliberately mimicking the design of Donkey Kong in the arcade. The game can generally be very tricky and unfair and of course, you only get 2 lives and no continues – that’s your lot. I don’t have an issue with this myself, as this was clearly designed in mind but people coming into this game expecting some modern improvements may struggle to adapt to this formula.
Being hit by anything or even just falling from the ledge will cause you to lose a life and retry the current level from the start. This is a game you need to learn via trial and error to attain the best score possible.
Four Looping Levels
The game features only four platform style, single-screen levels exactly like the game it takes inspiration from. You will loop through these over and over again as they becoming increasingly harder until you lose all your lives. The first level has the pauper boy start from the bottom, climb his way to the top of the castle avoiding a variety of hazards on the way like arrows and fireballs. You can also pick up a pitchfork which will temporarily allow you to attack enemies for a score bonus. Unlike the original Donkey Kong, you can climb ladders with this, making it more enticing to grab. You still can’t jump with the pitchfork though. Well, guess that makes sense, garden equipment is heavy after all.
The levels are simple but do feel once again a bit too similar to Donkey Kong. Even the final level has you running around finding switches to drop a chandelier on the Baron’s head similar to how the final level of Donkey Kong plays out. While I enjoyed playing Castle Kong I felt I had seen this formula before.
The game also includes a ‘Kill Screen’ if you progress far enough. This is a homage to the old arcade game where due to a programming error the game would show gibberish on-screen and abruptly end. Of course, I wasn’t good enough at this game to see it myself. Needless to say, if you find yourself getting hooked on this game it’s certainly a nice nostalgic touch. You can also play the Switch version in TATE mode where you can flip the handheld onto its side and play it like a sort of mini arcade.
The game feels best enjoyed in small bursts. Ideal if you don’t have a lot of gaming time on your hands. The main incentive to replay is to get a higher score by competing against yourself or the online leaderboard. But, I also had fun just trying to progress as far through the game as possible. For the small price on offer here you get your money’s worth. After all, if you were lucky to enjoy arcade games back in the day as I did you probably spent more money there than you would on the single fee for this title. A title that also features no DLC or microtransactions.
Barrels of Fun
Castle Kong is a decent arcade game for those looking to scratch that nostalgic itch. It unapologetically mimics the arcade design, warts an all, which will appeal to purists but possibly put off gamers looking for some modern improvements to the formula. But by being so similar to the game it takes inspiration from, Castle Kong doesn’t feel like it has its own identity. This makes me wonder if those looking for a nostalgia kick will just end up playing Donkey Kong instead (also available on eShop).
What I would like to see is the developers take this concept and produce their own original arcade-style game. Until that happens though we have Castle Kong to enjoy, and it’s pretty good.
Final Verdict: I like it