The Game: How high can you go? Help Jumpman (Mario) save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches by climbing ladders and avoiding barrels. (Ocean Software, 1986)
Memories: Three years after the release of AtariSoft’s Commodore 64 Donkey Kong port, European software developer Ocean Software decided it was time for another Donkey Kong remake and accepted the challenge.
It goes without saying that the more familiar programmers become with a particular platform, the more advanced their games will look and play. This is generally why games released later in a platformâ€™s lifespan often seem more advanced than earlier titles. Such is the case with Oceanâ€™s version of Donkey Kong. With an additional three years of familiarity with the Commodore behind them, Ocean was really able to crank one great looking port.
Pretty much all the items gamers nitpicked about AtariSoftâ€™s release were addressed in Oceanâ€™s. The game now appears in its native vertical mode, thanks to large amounts of black space surrounding the sides of the screen. The layout more closely resembles the arcadeâ€™s, including the timer and score windows. Multi-color shading has been added to every game element â€“ the girders are now drawn with shades of red and purple, for example. Even Donkey Kong himself appears in much greater detail and more lively this time around â€“ he grunts, he growls, he stomps…he lives.
All the sounds have been modified this time around as well, but not all of them were improved. While many of the sound effects themselves sound better that the AtariSoft port, the music sounds much less authentic. Between the two you could probably make a really good sounding port, but on their own, neither one is perfect.
Oceanâ€™s port of Donkey Kong returns to the original Japanese level order (girders, pies, elevators, rivets). One noticeable difference between the two versions is that Oceanâ€™s port runs much faster, which makes some levels easier (rivets) but makes timing your jumps on the elevator level much more challenging.
Oceanâ€™s port comes complete with a splash screen tacked on to the front of the game, done in red (as a throwback to the original cabinets, perhaps?). The only option lost between the two was the ability to select a starting level. Three extra years of familiarity with programming Commodore hardware shows on this translation which is more accurate, but not necessarily more fun, than AtariSoft’s version. Both versions are worth acquiring and playing.