Castle Kong by devs Drowning Monkeys, in a nutshell, is a homage to the legendary classic Donkey Kong and features 22 levels set across 4 stages of platform leaping action. Initially released on PC back in 2019 the game has just been launched for the Nintendo Switch and I have been lucky enough to obtain a copy.
Castle Kong – You have no power here checkpoints!
Come join me as I take a trip back in time to when games were unforgiving and skill was required in order to progress! While you are here check out my last review here!
Donkey Kong was originally released in 1981 by Nintendo and went on to be one of the most challenging games of its era. Enter 2021 and here we have a new game to test hardcore gamers across the world!
Castle Kong has a simple story behind it. You play as Pauper-Boy as you try and save Princess-Girl from the evil Baron-Man. Beginning by scaling the castle walls it is up to you to carefully climb ladders, traverse platforms and make perfectly timed leaps while avoiding other dangers such as archers, molten lava blobs and fry guys.
As you play each of the 22 levels you will learn through trial and error the best way to take on each one. It is very easy to get trapped by wandering enemies and your only form of defence is a pitchfork that you can pick up and use for a short time to keep them at bay. Platforms that break are helpful to create a gap between you and the baddies however do not think that dropping down through the void to the level below is a clever way to sneak past them, the ladders do serve a purpose and you will be punished by losing a life!
Being a homage to Donkey Kong, Castle Kong has been designed using elements that made the game great. For example, in order to complete the game you must do so in the 3 lives that you have been given. Yep, you heard that right, we are going old school arcade. 1 coin that is it, no continues. Castle Kong is hard but fair and it took me a while to even successfully navigate the first couple of levels without losing a life. There are patterns to learn in how monsters and platforms move and timings are crucial.
Although Castle Kong is set in its retro ways there are some additional more modern features that have been implemented with a choice of Widescreen 16:9 mode and a classic Arcade vertical mode (don’t try this on a switch lite though as you end up playing with your hands at the top and bottom of the screen lol). Another good addition is with the high score system, you can replay how other players achieved their score in order to understand how to get past certain parts of the levels. It makes it feel a little like the old arcade days when you would be watching over the shoulder of someone in order to learn new tactics!
So how far can you make it in Castle Kong? There is not much in the way of a tutorial so it is a ‘find your own way’ kinda journey of fun and frustration. I haven’t got far yet but I am slowly progressing!
Graphics & Audio
Castle Kong has been made in retro 8-bit style graphics to give it the feel of a time old classic and it all looks amazingly good leading to pixel perfect jumps required due to the visuals of the level design. There is definitely an immersive arcade quality that leaves you with no element of doubt when you are either shot by an arrow, caught by lava or a canon ball thanks to the pause on the screen to highlight your mistake!
Castle Kong features classic arcade beeps and boops with an electronic synth soundtrack by Chirp-Chirp Sounds. I particularly enjoyed how the music briefly changes to a rapid loop when you pick up the pitchfork, increasing the panic as you try and take out as many enemies as you can before the time is up.
When it comes to longevity, Castle Kong will take a long time to beat. It is by no means impossible however level progression comes at a big cost due to the repeated trial and error in your gameplay to navigate the platforms and objectives. With no checkpoints or saves, you will need to complete the game in the same playthrough. How long it takes is down to you, just don’t throw the switch at the wall in frustration!
At first, I found Castle Kong really tricky however after an hour or so I began to get further into the game albeit with the odd silly mistake at times which just makes you curse a little at your stupidity. What Drowning Monkeys have done is fantastic and while I appreciate that it may not appeal to players with short attention spans or those that are easily frustrated, Castle Kong is a true nod to what made Donkey Kong great while putting their own spin on it at the same time.
I found myself truly engrossed and determined to keep furthering how far I got in each playthrough and feel that Castle Kong thoroughly deserves the Thumb Culture Platinum award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.