Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Game Review - Atari 2600 Donkey Kong


Even Donkey Kong Looks Like He's Trying To Escape From This Game

Donkey Kong - 1/10


There were some huge arcade game hits in the Eighties. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Punch-Out, Dragon's Lair, these were the games everyone wanted to play when they went to the arcade (Spy Hunter too). But Donkey Kong was THE game. A giant ape steals "Jumpman's" girlfriend and runs up a set of girders and throws barrels at the little guy.

Mario didn't have a name going into this game, he was just called Jumpman, but this game was the start of a huge franchise for Nintendo and Mario is at the center of the whole shebang. The game itself has only 4 levels of play. Each level getting progressively harder, even when you start over after getting through those first 4 levels, the game gets difficult. The stand-up arcade version had it all, cool sound effects, good music and compelling gameplay.

The Atari 2600 version is, in a word, awful. With two levels of gameplay, the graphics, the sound and the music (when and if it's played) are terrible. Taking advantage of the market at that time, Atari (and Nintendo) wasted no time in getting this game onto the popular 2600 console. Why not. As I've said in previous game reviews, almost everyone had the 2600 and making cartridges from popular stand-up arcade games was like printing money.

Even the bad games sold a ton of cartridges. Donkey Kong being one of them. The ape looks like a badly drawn gingerbread man, Mario (Jumpman) looked ok, but everything else about the game was bad. The game feels like it was rushed to take advantage of consumers and the developers should have taken the time to just produce a game that could have been a monster for the 2600. The Colecovision game was almost spot on, the Intellivision version at least had the music and some of the sound effects from the stand-up game.

Atari seemed like it just didn't care about its product and it sure felt that way when it came to these games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man. The idea that they would just put out crappy product to make money is not so far fetched. It's short sighted, like a lot of these companies were in the Eighties. The didn't have a long term plan and they didn't care.

Atari Donkey Kong was a waste of time for most of us and Atari (and Nintendo) reaped the rewards of a terrible game. I mean, good for them, they knew their market and their consumers, except it was things like this that ultimately tanked the Atari 2600 and it would be a few years until we got a console system that at least tried to get the games right.

It's too bad this game was awful, such potential.

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