Donkey Kong (Game Boy)

Donkey-Kong-TitleDo I really need to introduce this? It’s Donkey Kong, but on the Game Boy. Warning: some changes were made when porting from Arcade to Game Boy.

You play as Mario in the archetypical battle of man vs. damn dirty ape, because this one Donkey-Kong-Mariowon’t keep his stinkin’ paws off your maybe girlfriend (it’s assumed, until Mario later trades in this generic-lady-being-kidnapped-by-a-monkey for a princess-being-kidnapped-by-a-lizard. Based on the character art for her in Super Mario Odyssey, we know Mario’s girlfriend from Donkey Kong went on to strangle cats). You have to hop and climb your way through the stages to rescue her.

Of course the 4 stages you get are based on the arcade, though I’ve read they were scaled back a little to fit on the Game Boy. I wouldn’t know, I’ve only played Donkey Kong on two non-consecutive Atari systems and the Colecovision. I had the e-Reader version but I haven’t touched it in 15 years and probably lost most of the cards.

Donkey-Kong-25mAnyway, unlike the other iterations of Donkey Kong I’ve played, there is a timer on these stages. Once you’re past the 4 from the arcade, you go on to another 93 stages. I didn’t count; I had to rely on the internet to tell me. They predictably ran out of ideas along the way and repeat the first stage, but with a different art pattern (castle instead of construction project). Some stages also allegedly came from Donkey Kong Junior, who himself appears in this title to help his pep-pep.

The stages get more complex as you progress. Your main task after the first four, aside from in the boss battles, is to move a key from one part of the stage to another, similar to some levels in the American Super Mario Bros. 2. Each stage after the first four and excluding the boss fights also give you three items dropped by your girlfriend: her purse, parasol, and hat. It’s worth the trouble to collect all three of them in each stage, as doing so gives you a chance to get more lives in one of two minigames. One is a slot machine, the other is best likened to a roulette wheel or wheel of fortune. If there is a pattern for when you will get a certain minigame, I don’t know it.

In addition to more stages, Mario has more moves. He can swing from a thin line (a tautDonkey-Kong-Stage-1 rope or power line). Another one of the new moves would go on to show up in Super Mario 64 in a modified form- when he leaps onto his hands and then bounces very high. He can do that either stationary or in motion. He can throw barrels like Dash O’ Pepper, and when standing on his hands he can even stop barrels from hitting him, and then throw them afterwards. We also have the opportunity to see Mario swim. I was hesitant at the first such occasion, since in the original versions of Donkey Kong any fall into a pit meant death. I assumed the water pits were the same, and was pleasantly surprised when they weren’t.

Just like Mario’s Picross, Donkey Kong is enhanced when played on the Super Game Boy. Unlike Mario’s Picross, it really is enhanced. You get more than just a unique border- stages and maps are colored. Donkey Kong and your girlfriend are sometimes colored. Mario… either changes his race (it is fluid you know) or gets jaundice. While I enjoyed the SNES’ presentation, portability was needed for me to complete this game.

Most of the time, things are not so difficult. At least for me. However, there were some stages (such as the final boss) that definitely qualified as difficult. But it’s not as difficult as its successor, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong. Very similar in gameplay- no doubt in part because originally it was to be a remake of this game- but with a much greater difficulty level. I got stuck somewhere in there over a year ago and never looked back.

Donkey-Kong-Game-Boy-CartridgeUnlike Mario’s Picross, I have some criticism here- Nintendo seems to have run out of boss ideas the year this game was released, 1995 (despite the release date, this game is usually referred to as “Donkey Kong ‘94” because that was its title in development). The final boss battle has Donkey Kong taking a super mushroom or two and growing to gargantuan size. Basically, this is the Gamma battle from Mega Man 3, or the Wily battle from Mega Man IV. Donkey Kong’s head sits in the middle, and he attacks with his hands. But that’s not the real reason I cried foul. In 1995, we have another battle where a traditional Mario villain is supersized and mostly in the background: Bowser. This was the year Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island came out. And the villains are fought in a similar way too- chucking objects at their heads. Why couldn’t we have had a gigantic robot Kong of steel instead?

The game passes the time. The puzzle elements kept me coming back, because I didn’t want to be outwitted by yet another Mario Vs. Donkey Kong-style game. I managed to wrap things up in a week or two of intermittent playing, if that is in any way useful for gauging how long it would take to beat the game. At least you come away from this with more knowledge than I had going in- this isn’t a straight port of Donkey Kong to the Game Boy. Yes, I did think that when I saw it in the store (used, no box, no manual, two excuses).

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Mario’s Picross

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He’s watching…

It’s a plotless game. A plotless puzzle Game Boy game. A powerful plotless puzzle Game Boy game. Perhaps playing powerful plotless puzzlers pleasantly passes protracted periods. Excuse me.

 

What’s their game?

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Is this a picross? Image from New York Times

The purpose is to draw a specific picture using the “instructions” given. For what there is of a plot, you are playing as Mario at some Egyptian ruin “chiseling” the images because he doesn’t want ants to get at them or something. He doesn’t know, he was drunk. The screen is taken up by a grid with squares for each space (unlike a certain other “grid” for “leveling up”). The controls allow you to mark a square so that you know not to chisel it, remove a mark, chisel the square, or unchisel one (this is only useful in Time Trial, for the other modes any tiles you chisel that should not be chiseled are unchiseled automatically. Chisel Chisel Chisel Chisel CHISEL!).

You are given grids of varying sizes in the tutorial stage and easy mode. The normal

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Is THIS a picross? Original image from Village Inn

mode presents only 15×15 grids. Regardless of size, you’re given 30 minutes to finish a puzzle. My cousin picked it up, started randomly guessing spots, and was out of time inside of 30 seconds. That’s because when you chisel the wrong area, you lose a bit of time on the clock. Each wrong area takes away increasingly larger chunks of your allotted time, with the largest being 8 minutes.

The tutorial is of course a good starting point, but to me its explanation about the numbers to the left and on top of the grid was faulty. I probably just misread it. The numbers are the “instructions” for each picture- they tell you how many squares to chisel in the row or column they line up with. They don’t tell you where in the row or column that the chiseling needs to happen, just the amount that needs to be done and in what order it should be done. For example: “5” means five squares together need to be chiseled while “5 1 2” means five squares together need to be chiseled, followed by one square, followed by two squares. Each one of these sets of chiseled squares would be separated by at least one non-chiseled square, so it would look something like 55555x1x22 where x is a non-chiseled square.

Tips (I usually do 15-20%)

There are shortcuts to take, and every puzzle is solvable with the information given,

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The puzzle grid. Notice how I used my tip to fill in the 2nd row from the bottom a little bit. Chisel on, fellow players too cheap to buy stuff that lets you take a proper screenshot!

so no the game is not broken. We’re just dumb as hell. The most useful shortcut I found was that if you’re told that you need to chisel a group greater than half the number of spaces in the row or column, you can chisel the center spot safely. So if you had a row of 15, and you needed to fill 8 together, you can chisel the spot that’s in the middle (8 spaces in). If you had a row of 15 and you needed to fill 10 together, you can chisel out the center 5.

So… that’s about it. There are at least 192 puzzles, over 128 of which are 15×15. I say “at least” and “over” because once you complete the first 192 you get a Time Trial mode, wherein the mechanics change somewhat in that you have an infinite amount of time to solve a puzzle and you are not told if you chisel the wrong space. Unless my memory is failing me, the first puzzle I completed in that was unique from the previous 192, so that potentially means many more puzzles than I’ve seen so far. And to the best of my ability to determine, at this point the puzzles become impossible. Give up.

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Says right here that it’s Super Game Boy compatible. Next to Mario’s soulless, vacant stare.

Oh yeah, this game is enhanced by the Super Game Boy. It doesn’t do much. I didn’t notice any fancy colorization like some games do (and yet still can look inferior to their Game Gear counterparts as “Star Trek Generations” showed). All I saw were two different borders around the screen. I would suggest playing it using the Super Game Boy since I’d imagine whatever appears on the TV screen would be easier to see than on the Game Boy’s screen, unless your SNES is connected to your Game Gear. Sometimes exhaustion and insufficient lighting make the tiny numbers blend together.

Yup, That’s It

 

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“HAHA! Your official movie tie-in jigsaw puzzle shows a version of the ship that didn’t appear in the movie!” See? Doesn’t work. You can’t make fun of a jigsaw puzzle. Image from Fordos Models

To those expecting a scathing review like I gave to “They Were 11”, sorry to disappoint.   The material is lacking. What exactly am I going to make fun of? TELL ME! There’s no plot to put holes in, other than apparently Mario committing vandalism against Egyptian landmarks which last I heard was a criminal offense. Other than this bizarre item there’s nothing to mock, there’s no there there as our thought leaders like to say. It’d be like making fun of a jigsaw puzzle.

I find this game addicting. It has a strange effect on me, to where it puts me to sleep after I’ve done a few of the puzzles. So… I’m addicted to a sedative. Mario’s Picross is part of the opioid epidemic.

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Title Screen for a Schedule II Controlled Video Game