There’s something truly special about what Ubisoft have done with Mario + Rabbids. It’s TT Games’ Lego adaptations in some ways, as Ubisoft took a beloved franchise from another publisher and blended it with their own to create something completely different. Of course, when worlds collide there’s always space for more stories and spin-offs. Now it’s Donkey Kong’s turn in the spotlight.
Donkey Kong’s cameo in Mario + Rabbids came in the form of the huge, oversized Rabbid Kong that appeared as the boss of the first world, but where most of the other Rabbid mash-ups then met with their Nintendo originals, some players may have been left scratching their heads as to where the real Donkey Kong was. It takes yet another barmy incident involving Rabbid Kong and the Time Washing Machine in the DLC’s intro for us to discover that DK was actually back home on his island.
Naturally the best and worst characters from the main game get dragged along for the ride. Rabbid Peach stole the show in practically every scene of Mario + Rabbids, and she returns here to team up with DK as the party’s healer. They’re joined by Rabbid Cranky, who gives Rabbid Peach a run for her money as the best character here, shaking his stick angrily at things, gesticulating wildly, and riding Beep-0 around the world. Considering that Beep-0’s attempts at humour are as dry as ever, at least he serves a meaningful purpose now…
The trio make for a great team in the game’s distinctive high-speed turn-based tactical gameplay, each offering something very different to the other. Rabbid Peach is basically how you remember her, but Rabbid Cranky and Donkey Kong provide something really quite different.
DK can grab pretty much anything in the world, whether it’s a piece of cover, an elemental box or even allies and enemies, and then keep running and throw them at things. He’s not got the largest movement range, but can use new DK-specific jump pads where he swings from magically appearing dandelions to get to different parts of the map. It adds a huge amount of mobility when you chain these together. His main attack is a boomerang banana, but it’s joined by some violent ground slapping, which pairs well with his ability to pull out a pair of bongos and draw enemies closer with his funky groove.
He works especially well in tandem with Rabbid Cranky. Grab Cranky and throw him near enemies, and he fires his shotgun-like weapon down from above. He can then do this again in a turn with his move if he jumps off an ally, and tie this together with a slide attack and a regular attack, dealing a staggering amount of damage in one turn. You’ll need these complex tricks to succeed on several occasions.
If anything, the way that Donkey Kong speeds around the level and can combine with Rabbid Cranky makes this expansion even more fast-paced in battle. That’s a good thing, because some of the new enemies here are stupidly fast as well, and many of them will run away immediately after taking damage from a main attack. As you’re trying to fix the Time Washing Machine and get back to the Mushroom Kingdom, some battles have you hunting down Collectors and getting parts back off them, but they can run from one side of an arena to the other, forcing you to think about where they might go and how you can deal the most damage.
There’s some new twists to the battles and your objectives, leading to inventive new mid-bosses and challenging, if a little disjointed battles with Rabbid Kong, who’s been souped up by Time Washing Machine infused bananas. If the main game started to feel like a bit of a slog at times, as each of the worlds dragged on a bit too long, Donkey Kong Adventure keeps things much more to the point. Each area leads to a boss battle after just a handful of battles, which are linked together in the game world alongside environmental puzzling. It’s a bit formulaic perhaps, but it keeps things moving along nicely. Once you’re done, there’s plenty of challenge missions to take on as well, and a standard (if unexciting) array of collectables to hunt down.
This is a separate story to the main game, so you’re starting from scratch with Rabbid Peach’s skill tree and weapons. Thankfully it’s been nicely streamlined for the DLC, so you start off with all the base abilities for each character and earn a more straightforward upgrade token after each battle. You’ll also want to buy new weapons, which are bought with bananas instead of coins, because Donkey Kong likes bananas.
While the battles are taken to the next level, the game world that wraps them together hasn’t really evolved. It’s certainly pretty to look at, clearly taking inspiration from the Donkey Kong Country games, but the way it’s structured doesn’t really try to improve on what was there before. There’s another load of button pressing and block pushing puzzles, and only a couple of more unique puzzles that stand out. It’s somewhere that more ingenuity and variety would have been great to see, but it’s a minor complaint when these puzzles are optional.
If you enjoyed Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, then picking up Donkey Kong Adventure is a no-brainer. In some ways it’s even better, with Donkey Kong and Rabbid Cranky two great new characters that work so well together and even more flexibility in battle. If the main game’s main meal was a lovely mushroom risotto, then Donkey Kong Adventure is a large serving of banoffee pie for dessert.