It’s no secret that Donkey Kong Country is one of my all-time favourite games (check out my top 5 levels of that game right here!). The game’s unmistakable visual style, excellent platforming gameplay and fantastic music make for one of the best gaming experiences not just of the 16-bit era, but in gaming overall.
In this instalment of my “Top 5 Levels” series, I take a look at the first sequel – 1995’s Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. released only a year after the first DKC title, the gameplay for Diddy’s Kong Quest remains very familiar, but this time with Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong teaming up to rescue Donkey Kong from the grips of the evil King K. Rool.
Every aspect of the original has been ramped up this time around, with all-new enemies, all-new Kong family members and some interesting new gameplay mechanics too.
The third stage in the opening area of Gangplank Galleon sees the introduction of an important new feature in Diddy’s Kong Quest; grappling hooks that both Diddy and Dixie can hang from with their tails. These add a new dynamic of timing jumps properly early on in the game, and are an interesting addition to the series.
Gameplay functions aside, Gangplank Galley is a delight to play through. There’s plenty of secrets to discover, and there’s a nice mix of interesting new items and familiar pickups to collect, including the invincibility barrel.
Red-Hot Ride sits as stage four in the game’s second area, Crocodile Cauldron. Another interesting new feature is introduced in this level; Hot air balloons that help Diddy and Dixie platform safely across the dangerous lava at the bottom of the level. These do require an element of strategy though, as they need topping up with gusts of hot steam from the lava pools.
This isn’t one of the easiest levels to get through, as players need some impeccable timing to direct the hot air balloons over the boiling lava and away from several Zinger enemies that are stationed all over the place. The challenge is a welcome one though! The remixed music from the first game’s cavern levels is also a major highlight too.
Stage six of Krem Quay is probably the most intimidating-looking stage in the entire game, with the majority of the screen being overtaken with immensely dangerous brambles. Instead of the regular platforming that we’re used to in a Donkey Kong Country game, Bramble Blast is almost completely made up of barrels that players must fire between through a thorny labyrinth.
Players that are looking for a real challenge in a Donkey Kong Country game will be very pleased with this stage, as it requires insanely specific timing to avoid landing on the spikes surrounding everything or coming into contact with the various Zinger, Flitter and Click-Clack enemies that are dotted around. Even your animal buddy, Squawk, needs to be used with caution, as one jump too many can result in a premature end to a playthrough.
Also, the music in this level is a rework of the first game’s music for Aquatic Ambience, one of the greatest examples of video game music ever. Always a bonus!
The minecart levels in sequel see the iconic minecarts replaced with Skull Carts, and this, the second stage in Gloomy Gulch, is arguably the most intense level in Diddy’s Kong Quest. Not only do players have to time their jumps perfectly on the cart rails, but Didn’t and Dixie are now being pursued by Kackles; ghostly kremlings that are very dangerous indeed. In order to keep these enemies at bay, the Plus & Minus barrels must be hit to alter how long Kackles will stay intangible.
I absolutely love levels that pile the pressure on you, forcing players to make snap decisions on the fly. It’s always an invigorating experience, and this level is no different. The constant threat of a ghost skeleton crocodile pirate grabbing Diddy and Dixie is intense and is sure to get your heart rate going.
To round things up, let’s talk about Windy Wells, the second stage in K. Rool’s Keep (and final mineshaft level in the game). Diddy and Dixie must make their way to the top of the level with the help of gusts of strong wind that blast out from the bottom of the level. At a glance, the level doesn’t seem too difficult, but the diminished control over the characters while floating around can result in clashing with the variety of pesky enemies dotted around.
The level following this, Castle Crush, is probably the more iconic level in this final stretch of the game (that constantly moving floor is terrifying and infuriating in equal measures), but having to fly around a mineshaft, avoiding Zingers, Krooks, Flitters and Kutlasses is a totally underrated experience, so Windy Wells narrowly makes the top 5 list!
It’s easy to see why Diddy’s Kong Quest is considered by many to be one of the greatest 2D platformers ever made. Almost every feature that made the first Donkey Kong Country game so great has been stepped up several notches here, and it rightfully deserves every single piece of critical acclaim that it recieved upon its release.
What are your favourite levels from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!