Donkey Kong Adventure DLC
Developer: Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Paris
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review by Jay Borenstein
Prior to the E3 2017 reveal of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, the rumors of a crossover game between Mario and Ubisoft’s Rabbids gave plenty of people palpitations (including myself). It just seemed so unnatural, the Rabbids are annoying – it felt like a throwaway. So color me surprised when Kingdom Battle was revealed to be an isometric turn-based tactical shooter, a genre previous untouched by Mario, and actually turned out to be FUN.
Given the game’s positive reception, Ubisoft Milan pulled out all the stops on their story-based DLC, Donkey Kong Adventure, deciding to make it half the length of the original game. Donkey Kong Adventure expands upon the original Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle scenario and gameplay with a whole new DKC-themed island, mission modes and, of course, playable characters. Rabbid Cranky Kong is my spirit animal.
Welcome to the Jungle
Donkey Kong Adventure is unlocked as long as you’ve completed the first chapter of the main campaign. The story is fairly basic: Rabbid Donkey Kong is upset after being trounced by Mario and his pals at the end of Chapter 1. He gets sucked into the time-traveling washing machine, and gets shot by an alarmed Spawny armed with a brand-merging ray, the originator of the Mario and Rabbid crossover madness. Rabbid Peach then tries to recharge her phone at the washing machine and gets sucked in as well. Spawny’s beam creates a new DKC + Rabbids island, and the washing machine breaks. Now with the help of the OG (Original Gorilla) Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky, Rabbid Peach and Beep-0 must find the broken pieces of the washing machine and triumph over a stronger version of Rabbid Kong to return to the Mushroom Kingdom.
The new mission modes are well thought out and add some much-needed variety over the original campaign. There are missions where you have to prevent specific enemies from reaching an area in the level, where you need to destroy banana caches, and where you need to eliminate specific enemies to retrieve washing machine parts. Gone are the slightly obnoxious escort missions, but of course you still have the standard “destroy them all” fare. All the new mission types feel unique and take advantage of the new abilities Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky bring to the table. One thing to mention is that I did feel like the challenge in Donkey Kong Adventure DLC was a little easy, I got a perfect on almost every mission on the first try. As long as you understand the game mechanics, you won’t find acing the missions difficult. Once you beat the DLC campaign however, you can bust your chops on the additional and super-hard bonus levels.
In between the missions, you’ll explore the island and solve puzzles to find secrets. Some of the puzzles in the expansion were fairly mind-boggling but fair, and I actually found them more interesting and rewarding than those in the main game The choice prize for solving these puzzles are tablets that allow you to level-up your character’s abilities, taking over for the orbs in the main game. The level-up progression is fair and offers enough choice to customize how you want to approach the challenges ahead, and just as in the main game you can respec at any time. You’ll also find timed platform puzzle stages to earn new weapons to buy that are reminiscent of a DKC bonus barrel stage, and a welcome activity in between missions and block puzzles.
It’s The DK Crew!
Unlike the main game, you’ll be playing as the same three characters for the entire campaign: Donkey Kong, Rabbid Cranky, and Rabbid Peach. Though this does feel a bit restrictive, Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky’s insane movesets more than make up for the lack of variety. The only real disappointment is that Rabbid Peach’s moveset doesn’t change at all from the original missions, which makes her feel a bit weak by comparison (although her healing still remains her primary appeal).
Donkey Kong is extremely mobile, as he can climb up any ledge, and use new launch platforms designed only for him to swing across gaps to move swiftly across the stage. His main weapon is a banana boomerang, which can chain to hit up to five enemies (after some upgrades) who are in the line of sight. The boomerang can also be activated by his reactionary ability that targets an enemy within range and will similarly chain to other enemies if they’re close enough. He is also the tank of your trio and has a bongo ability, which draws enemies towards him so he can maximize use of his secondary attack, a brutal area-effect ground pound.
The biggest change to the norm in Donkey Kong’s moveset is that rather than be able to team jump, he instead has a grab-and-throw ability. This allows him to pick up almost any cover block or status effect block, enemy, or friend, and throw them a solid distance. This ability is one of the most important ones you’ll need to take into consideration when planning your turn. You can chuck an enemy into another enemy, doing damage to both. You can pick up a status effect block and hurl it at a group of enemies. Or you can take one of your friends and use your insane mobility to transport them across the map or enemy cover. The sheer possibilities that arise from this one move alone are enough to differentiate Donkey Kong Adventure DLC as a small standalone game, rather than a basic DLC.
Rabbid Cranky similarly has some gnarly new moves that mix things up. His primary attack is a crossbow that acts similar to the shotgun-like attacks in the main game, but with more distance and less wide. He also has a reactionary ability that can unleash up to three blasts of his crossbow after upgrades, which can absolutely decimate tank enemies. His secondary attack is a grenade launcher, which allows you to target a small group of enemies behind obstacles. He also has a status inducing move, which puts enemies within the radius of Cranky to sleep for one turn, provided they’re not attacked before the player’s turn ends.
Rabbid Cranky also has an attack that will automatically activate after performing a team jump. Wherever he lands, he will shoot the ground with his crossbow, damaging all enemies and applying status effects. This nifty trick can actually happen twice per turn – once if he does a team jump, and then if he gets tossed by Donkey Kong.
All these abilities are key to succeeding in the new mission types. Need to prevent an enemy from reaching the goal point? Get Donkey Kong to grab them and hurl them backward, and use Rabbid Kong’s shotgun blast to enrage and further pull them back. Want to keep Donkey Kong free to attack, but need to destroy a banana cache on a high ledge? Have Donkey Kong grab Rabbid Peach and toss her on the ledge so he can deal with the baddies. Every strategy will be unique and allows players agency in how they want to complete a mission.
Beats by Kirkhope
The expansion’s aesthetic is as charming as a jaunt through Donkey Kong Country 2‘s Bramble Scramble. Everything oozes Donkey Kong Country, and the music here and in the main game was composed by the original DKC composer, Grant Kirkhope. His soothing and energetic jungle beats will accompany you throughout your journey, with remixes from DKC tunes from SNES, N64 and beyond.
The little touches definitely add a healthy dollop of nostalgia, from the weapons that are themed after DKC animal companions, to Rabbid Kong’s ranting and raving. The whole package is crisp and energetic, and the jungle aesthetic is unique enough to once again set Donkey Kong Adventure DLC worlds apart from the main game.
Verdict: Buy it!
If you enjoyed the main campaign of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, you owe it to yourself to purchase this DLC, as the sheer amount of additional content is more than worth the price. I was delighted from start to finish, and though the challenge wasn’t quite as robust as the main game, the new mission types and character battle mechanics make Donkey Kong Adventure feel more like a sequel than DLC.