The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Sucky Stages: “Glimmer’s Galleon” & “Windy Well” ( from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest )

Glimmer’s Galleon

View an interactive map courtesy o’ DKC Atlas

Today’s 1st lame stage is an easy 1: all I need to say is that this is a water level that’s dark & hard to see, 2 o’ the most widely-reviled video game gimmicks. I could also add that the original version o’ this game made it so that Glimmer, the fish following you & giving you the thin light by which to see, flashes the screen full white for a brief moment every time you turn round, which Nintendo had removed in later releases, presumably out o’ fear for causing people seizures. I could also add that this level is a maze; but I generally like mazes, so long as the controls I’m using to navigate the maze are enjoyable & I can actually see the maze.

Other bad marks ’bout this level:

This level is repetitive & is basically just a long winding path avoiding the same Lockjaws, Flotsams, Shuris you already saw quite ’nough o’ in “Lockjaws Locker” & Puftups, who you’ll see plenty o’ times in “Arctic Abyss” & the Enguarde section o’ “Animal Antics”.

Pictured: this level in a nutshell

You don’t e’en get the respite from Donkey Kong Country swimming controls most water levels offer, Enguarde, thanks to useless Glimmer getting in the way.

For Diddy’s Kong Quest this is a particularly weak level ’cause it’s the only level that takes place entirely underwater. 1 o’ the many decisions the developers o’ Diddy’s Kong Quest made that made that game stand out ’mong all the others as having the best level design is that most o’ what you could call its “water levels” break up the water navigation with on-ground sections, & oft add twists to the water sections that many players still remember. ¿Who doesn’t remember bumping seals to make them spray water into the boiling red water to make it blue & cool ’nough to swim through & then hurrying through it before it turned hot ’gain in “Lava Lagoon” or racing ’head o’ the rising water with a piranha fish that bites you as soon as it can reach you in “Slime Climb”? But I wouldn’t be surprised if many players forgot this level.

Pictured: better levels

Being a maze level, you can imagine that this level’s bonuses are just hidden in certain hard-to-find crevices that would not be hard to find if your vision was good. The 1st bonus is right ’bove the start, which is particularly cliché. The hero coin’s location is just 2 layers o’ hidden areas obscured by unmarked magical move-throughable solid material — the weakest element o’ this game’s level design that is on the same level o’ “puzzle” design as the kind o’ levels 10-year-ol’ I made in Lunar Magic.

This level’s bonuses are both the same: swim through a maze till you find the bonus coin. The only difference is that the 2nd bonus has bananas that mislead you — which is particular pernicious, as the DKC series has always upheld that following banana trails is always the best idea. For this level to break this sacred vow to add the slightest bit o’ challenge to yet ’nother maze is just sad.

The 1 thing ’bout this level that almost made it good is that its ending area being similar to the beginning o’ “Rattle Battle” would make the connection ’tween this & the next level feel seamless… if “Rattle Battle” were the next level. Unfortunately, the developers for some reason put “Krockhead Klamber” ’tween these levels.

Windy Well

View an interactive map courtesy o’ DKC Atlas

The bonus level “Animal Antics” is infamous for its Squawks section’s wind, making the already tricky challenge o’ navigating bramble mazes with Squawks e’en harder. But that wind mechanic was consistent: it pushed the same amount for the same duration before switching, going back & forth.

“Windy Well”, for some reason, ’scapes public ire, despite its windy mechanic being far jankier; & it’s not e’en a bonus level, but a level you must get through to beat the game. Rather than pushing you left or right for a specific duration, this wind slowly pushes you upward, sometimes up & down — but only @ certain points, & the game doesn’t do a good job o’ being clear where exactly these places are. Thus, it’s easy to enter a wind section only to pass just the edge o’ it or to just miss the bottom hitbox o’ it & plummet straight down to your death.

On the other end o’ the spectrum, there is a section near the middle wherein you’re s’posed to glide under Zingers while falling back down from wind up-pour… if you stupidly jump after reaching that platform. Otherwise, you can just run right under them. I’m actually not sure if this was intentional or not; but it’s not clever, since it relies on discovering a quirk to a counterintuitive mechanic rather than applying any logic. ¿Why would the wind only affect you @ all if you jump? It’s not e’en just being in the air: you reach the air a li’l when going up onto the platform in the 1st place & you can throw your partner up into the air all you want & they won’t be affected by the air. ( Note: one may think that the 1-up balloon on this platform may incite players to jump to get it, forcing them to go through the challenge normally; but you can just throw your partner up @ the balloon & still skip the challenge. So there’s truly no reason to do it. )

But truly, for a game that usually knew how to pace its elements, this level is too long & repetitive. It ne’er evolves much past dodging Zingers & Krook hooks, & there’s li’l variation. Sometimes the Zingers move in odd patterns; but you still find yourself dodging stationary Zingers e’en up to the end o’ the level — in fact, floating up through holes in a pattern o’ stationary Zingers is the last challenge o’ the level after the 2nd time you dodge Krook hooks. The level is just a bunch o’ challenges thrown together without any logical organization in terms o’ theme or difficulty evolution.

This repetition leads to ’nother problem with this level: it falls into the Donkey Kong Country 3 gimmick syndrome o’ focusing every element o’ this level on this 1 gimmick without any break to switch it up @ all. That this isn’t e’en a particularly inspired or interesting gimmick in the 1st place makes this baffling. “Gusty Glade”, ( which, don’t get me wrong, is also a shitty level with cheap wind that abruptly changes when you get near a platform’s edge, throwing you right off the edge without warning ) which you play in the preceding world, has wind, too, but it’s far less janky & has far mo’ variations: with Rattly & without, hopping on enemies, blasting up in barrels, & using hooks, none o’ which is used mo’ than 2 setpieces, & these are still broken up with regular platforming. Then ’gain, “Gusty Glade” is also not nearly so long, so it ends before it gets too tiresome. It pisses me off still; but “Windy Well” kind o’ pisses me off & bored me — & boring me is a far greater crime than pissing me off, as a’least the latter inspires some emotion in me. “Animal Antics”’s wind section, which actually is competently-designed & people who complain ’bout it are just bad @ it, has less variation, but is much smaller, & is only a portion o’ a larger level.

Pictured: this level in a nutshell

This obsession with its gimmick leads finding “Windy Well”’s bonuses to be uninspired: the 1st bonus is just falling in a hole that seems like it might make you fall & die, but has wind that keeps you from falling & allows you to float under the platform that continues the level to find a bonus barrel. Then, later, the level does something similar for a hero coin, but e’en mo’ obtuse: you have to jump, but not too high, or you’ll get hit by a Zinger, which is likely. I think you’re s’posed to roll off the edge & then jump, but e’en that will 90% o’ the time either still not give you ’nough speed & distance to clear the Zingers or make you miss the invisible wind hitbox & fall to your death. I was only e’er able to do it without getting hit with Diddy, e’en after many tries with Dixie. In truth, whene’er I did this on the many 102% runs I’ve done, I’d always just tank a hit to get this. Some may say this is me whining ’cause I suck, but I want to remind you that the hitbox is completely invisible, so it’s not strategic aiming; it’s guesswork — guesswork so anal that I’m still not e’en sure if it’s possible with 1 o’ the characters. If they were going to be so vague ’bout how the wind works, they ought to a’least give the player some leeway.

The bonus challenges themselves run into the opposite problem, having li’l to do with the level gimmick & just being generic challenges. The 1st bonus just has you use the wind mechanic to rise up to a hook, which isn’t a challenge, just pointless padding, & then challenges you to hop on a bunch o’ Flitters, which you’ve already done many times. The 2nd bonus is e’en worse: it has nothing to do with the gimmick or the level’s theme & is just a bramble room with Squawks challenging you to grab a bunch o’ stars. Much earlier levels had much mo’ interesting twists on this, such as Bramble Scramble’s bonus challenging you to hit bees in the way o’ stars. Why an end-game level would have a much simpler & easier version o’ a bonus from midgame is a mystery.

The only good thing I can say ’bout this level, other than its music, is the 1st challenge, which has nothing to do with the gimmick, challenging you to hop ’mong 2 short platforms with Click-Clacks on them, a particularly tricky variation o’ a challenge players will have done many times before.

E’en the palette for this level isn’t nearly as nice as “Kannon’s Klaim” & “Squawk’s Shaft”. This level’s black walls with green crystals feels far mo’ generic that you’d expect it to be the 1st palette for the mine-shaft theme, while “Kannon’s Klaim”’s brown walls & purple crystals & ’specially “Squawk’s Shaft”’s red walls & golden crystals are far mo’ colorful & exotic. Usually this game uses the mo’ exotic palettes for later levels, such as the bramble levels saving the autumnal sunset palette with purple sky & brownish gold brambles for the last regular level o’ the game or the swamp levels starting with typical green, but using the far mo’ exotic purple palette for their last level.

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Posted in Sucky Stages, Video Games