When Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest closely followed its widely well-received predecessor, Rare made sure that the jungle adventure could continue on Game Boy with a sequel to portable equivalent Donkey Kong Land.
While this itself had been in essence a sequel to Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Land 2 differed in that it offers an alternate take on the content waiting to be discovered in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. The narrative is the same as the SNES adventure, where Donkey Kong has been captured by K. Rool – leaving it up to Diddy Kong and his girlfriend Dixie Kong to go to Crocodile Island in order to save him.
Each world is the same as those in the SNES version, and most of the stages are named the same also, but that’s where the similarities stop. The stages in Donkey Kong Land 2, while running with the same themes and ideas, are entirely different – presenting new puzzles, enemies, layout and so forth. That’s great news for fans of the series who don’t wish to simply replay through the same content as can be found in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, although sadly the level design in general just isn’t up there with its SNES counterpart in terms of quality and ingenuity. That said, there is still a lot of variety between stages so you’re unlikely to get tired from seeing repetitive landscapes.
Unlike its predecessor, there are various collectibles to find in the stages. As with the SNES version, bonus stages lie waiting to be discovered within each that will allow you to grab Krem Coins. These, once collected in entirety, will allow you to visit the special Lost World. Each stage also hides a DK Coin, and such collectibles provide a worthy reason to explore them fully to try to find their secrets – rather than rushing from A to B as in the previous game, and other platformers.
As with Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, there are multiple different Kongs around the world – whether that be Wrinkly Kong who helps you save and gives you tips, Cranky Kong who shares secrets and Swanky Kong who runs a special quiz. As with the SNES version, Wrinkly Kong’s save method is frankly annoying as you have to go to her each time you wish to record your progress, and it ends up costing Banana Coins to do so. Thankfully this can be totally ignored due to save states, so what was an issue in the original Game Boy outing is not as big a problem now.
Mechanically, the game works as the predecessor did. Donkey Kong Land 2 can never have both Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong on screen, so the piggyback system implemented in the SNES version isn’t implemented. Everything else works, though. It has Animal Buddies that you can transform into, each with their special abilities – Rambi can take out many enemies, Enguarde allows you to swim faster, Squitter can shoot webs that can hurt enemies or act as platforms, and Squarks can shoot nuts at enemies while flying. Diddy and Dixie are both responsive to play as, with Dixie’s hovering ability also debuting in the portable version. This can make levels easier as you can now make sure your jumps land accurately, and everything feels far more responsive in comparison with its predecessor.
Graphically, the game has improved over Donkey Kong Land. While that game had issues with the ability to determine what’s background and what’s a handy platform, Donkey Kong Land 2 has made a shift so that background features are slightly subdued, creating decent contrast between the foreground and the background. No longer are you making jumps and hoping you’re about to land on a platform. The sprites used are about the same quality as the predecessor, with them being direct conversions of the SNES sprites – just smaller and without colour. This was a technical feat at release, but now it makes the game somewhat dated and the lack of ability to see distinguishing features on the characters and enemies is somewhat disheartening.
The game’s soundscape is brimming with classic Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest themes converted to retro 8-bit, which can easily evoke feelings of nostalgia. It’s certainly nice to hear these tracks in a new form, while the accompanying sound effects are similarly decent.
Donkey Kong Land 2 is a solid accompaniment to the SNES adventure. While it doesn’t quite reach the absolute brilliance that many consider Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest to be, it is a decent enough platformer with some mildly creative levels, memorable tracks and remains somewhat of a blast to play. It’s worth trying if you’re a fan of the platforming genre, let alone one of the Donkey Kong series in general.