Gaming With My Girlfriend: New Years in the Smokey Mountains

silentkongEven though it was only 7:30 it was pitch black outside. The fog was so thick you could bottle it up. We had lost cell service 20 minutes earlier.  With our headlights being the only thing that cut through the smokey darkness outside we slowly drove through the woods on a dirt road that was covered with snow. As we approached the incline the car started to skid out a bit, but Kathryn was able to steer through it and keep us on the road. We finally arrived at the hill, only a steep mile incline to the cabin, which was covered with snow and ice. We attempted to drive up, but couldn’t make it more than a foot before gravity took over. We had to ditch the car at the very bottom, take what we needed from the car, and start up the hill. Thankfully our cellphones did have flashlights built in, so with bags in hand, we started our icy trek up hill.

At every noise I flinched, staring deep into the dark as though I’d be able to see something. My flash light couldn’t cut deep into the darkness, no matter where I’d shine it eventually everything would be black. Kathryn seemed unphased by everything, probably because she has had to walk this before and knows the sounds are nothing to be scared of. But that’s exactly what the monsters want us to think.

We had to keep a slow pace or else we could lose footing at a moments notice. The further we ascended the hill, the greater the incline became and the more difficult it became to hold on. The sweat was freezing to my forehead, there were voices in the woods, but we had to continue on.

There was a huge sigh of relief when we finally made it to the cabin, but it was a quick one. There were perishable foods in the car that needed to be rescued, so Kat found a wheelbarrow, I changed my pants, and we went down the mountain. The trip down was decent, mostly slipping and sliding down the trail until we arrived at the bottom. The easy part was over, it was time to load up the wheelbarrow and begin our journey to the top again.

I did not want to come back down again, packing everything we could possibly fit into the wheelbarrow was my main concern. In retrospect it wasn’t the best idea. The trip back up was more grueling, there was even less traction and the weight of the wheelbarrow kept us moving at a snails pace. As we came to a relatively flat area Kat wanted to take a few of the bags up the mountain and then come back down to lighten the load. At first I resisted but she insisted it was the only thing to do in order to make the rest of the journey as painless as possible.

“What if something grabs you in the woods??” I asked panicking.

She just looked at me bewildered and took off up the mountain. And I stood there with the wheelbarrow.

Alone.

In the dark. If  I didn’t hold onto the wheelbarrow it would start to slide down the mountain, I would try to push it up but would rarely make any progress before losing all traction and starting to slide again. So I had to stand there. My cellphone in my hand shining a light into the darkness as best I could. Waiting for something to come out of the dark. Hearing all the noises I was told were nothing more than the wind. I didn’t believe it. There was something out there and it was waiting for me. For this moment.

In this distance I could see Kathryn’s flash light. I watched the light fight its way through the trees and the darkness until Kat emerged from the shadows. Another sigh of relief before we were off again. And so our trek continued. I would constantly hear noises from the woods, I’d shine a light every time I heard one, which made it all the more difficult to see the trail in front of us.

There was never a killer,  a misunderstood outcast, a rapid bear, there were only noises. That was more than enough for me. When we finished unpacking and were finally resting Kat wanted to play Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

“NO FUCKING WAY,” I exclaimed, “I couldn’t watch you play Cooking Mama right now let alone Silent fucking Hill.”

“How about Donkey Kong Country Returns,” she tried to compromise.

“Okay, but first I want to see what marathons are running.”

And after checking out the Dr. Who, Twilight Zone and Iron Chef marathons I was finally able to leave the outdoors where they were and play some DK. What a great game. If you’ve played the original Donkey Kong Countries then you know exactly what you’re in for with this game. 2D side scrolling tough ass platformer. This isn’t Kirby, there’s no hand holding to be found in this country. That’s what is so fresh about it. Nothing was compromised to make this game. This isn’t a game to try and bring people in, when making this game they must have been thinking “Don’t worry, they’ll come.” And we have. This is a game series that hasn’t has a new game on a console  since the SNES back in 1996 (not counting the GBA ports).

Developer Rare has done a fine job with this new installment of a classic franchise. They’re not exactly strangers to the game though seeing as how they were the ones responsible for the GBA ports of the originals and Donkey Kong 64 for the N64. They have taken everything that we loved about the original DKC‘s and brought them over to the Wii, and the Kong boys look better than ever on the Wii, though it’s not difficult to have a decent face lift after a 11 year absence. It strikes me as very weird and almost out of character for Nintendo to have sat on the DK property for so long without bringing it back. The franchise was a favorite on the SNES with more than a few “Best game on the SNES” props given to each game from different people and DK64 is also considered one of the top N64 games. DK64 was a much more roam around, Mario64 style of play, where as DKCR is much closer to the original trilogy and I appreciate the return to the roots of the game. There isn’t anything wrong with a more open world, but honestly there was no need to make this open world, the game plays perfectly and it gives a great sense of nostalgia. I wasn’t playing the Wii for this game (in my mind, not actually) I was literally (not literally) playing an SNES, in my old room (nope), in my old house (not even close), getting ready for 7th grade midterms the next day (this is true).

There has been a retro-resurgence lately, and I’m usually weary about the games because I will  end up not liking them. Sometimes they will just be needlessley hard, sometimes they will try too hard to be retro. There wasn’t any trying to make a game seem retro back in the days, developers were trying to make the best game possible within the limits of the technology they are using. DKCR does everything right. 2D platforming isn’t a thing of the past, it’s just something that people have forgotten about, seen as archaic by some, but that’s definitely not the case as DKCR proves.

And even more than that, it’s a game you can enjoy with your significant other. Even more so than Little Big Planet (2), if your partner happens to fondly remember some of the earlier games, this is a game that anyone can enjoy. It can be frustrating at times though, so it’s good to take breaks, play one person at a time and switch on and off if necessary, or you can play the 2-player co-op and try your best. There’s no one trying to obtain the best time or highest score, you’re a team (as Donkey and Diddy Kong will always be) and you have to play like a team or the game will just eat you alive, literally (not literally). Kathryn happens to be much better than me at DKCR and the whole DKC franchise, there will be times when I’ll just stop playing and let her continue on the story because I will just be holding her back. I’m still there for support and for when a level becomes too frustrating, I can take control fresh and chipper.

DKCR is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (yeah, that’s right I said it) whether you are playing solo, duo, or just watching. If you have a Wii this is a must-buy game, one that you won’t be disappointed with.