This is most certainly an improvement over the first game. One of the best things they did was reduce the size of the main character sprite, and subsequently all other sprites in the game. This means you have a better field of view, and are less likely to collide with an enemy unexpectedly, though it does still happen. Somehow they managed to cram 39 levels and four boss fights into this Game Boy cart. The levels are good, but slightly harder than in the first game. That said, playing with an emulator rewind-feature (which I did) makes levels stupidly easy. This is actually a great follow-up and I can understand why some people have called this one of the greatest Game Boy games ever … but in my mind it’s still not that good.
This time Diddy and Dixie are the main heroes, just like the Super Nintendo game Donkey Kong Country 2. This game borrows ideas from the SNES game, right down to having similar levels that share the same level name. Again, this game is a bit more difficult than the first incarnation, though the levels are fun to master. I really enjoyed how Rareware (the developer) used banana trails to indicate where to go next in the game. Because this is a Game Boy game, you can see only a small portion of the screen at a time, so it’s helpful that there is always a banana to point the way. If you see a banana or two leading in a certain direction, you can bet there’s something interesting that way.
The “animal buddies” from the first game make a return, and this time they are much more central to the game’s progression. Large parts of levels might have you playing as Squitter the Spider, or Squawks the Parrot. In fact, an entire boss fight has you playing as the parrot. The inclusion of these characters breaks the monotony of playing as Diddy and Dixie. Also, the game gets easier when you play as an animal buddy.
You’re going to find DKL2 a challenge, but not unwinnable. By far the hardest part of the game is the boss fight with a giant bee-like enemy. Everything else will come down to trial-and-error.
Again, DKL2 does you a graphical favor by reducing the overall size of the in-game characters, both playable and non-playable. Now there is more screen real estate to see where you’re going, but you will come across some cheap deaths still. Visually, the game isn’t pixel perfect, but the expensive CGI art is convincing, even on the aging Game Boy platform. The lack of pixel precision makes hit detection a bit of an issue; at times a safe jump will prove perilous. Music is good, with a couple of tracks that stood out as catchy. Still, the main tracks were riffed right from the Super Nintendo game, and I would have preferred original tunes.
Donkey Kong Land 2 is a solid title that would have been perfect for the Game Boy Color. Still, there’s a big game to play here and the later stages require mastery, which many gamers will enjoy. I would have preferred more generous saving, though with an emulator it’s easy enough to use save states. Just like the Game Boy game Metroid 2 got an enhanced fan remake with Another Metroid 2 Remake, I would love to see what a fan-project could do here. Widescreen graphics alone would redeem this title in newly avoided frustration. I recommend the game, but don’t be surprised if it’s a little more difficult than you bargained for.