Anyone pick up Donkey Kong Country Returns yet? I'm already up to World 4, and aside from a few niggling quirks, it's been a barrel blast full of fun. (What's that you said? "She would use that pun"?)
Control-wise, Donkey Kong does feel a little heavier and floatier than his SNES counterpart. It's sort of like going from Super Mario World to the recent New Super Mario Bros. titles. Now, before you NSMB downers cry foul, know that the transition is a lot less jarring. It only took me about two levels to get used to the new physics.
I'm still iffy on the new 'shake the Wiimote to roll' scheme. It works well enough when you're anticipating a direct run-roll into a group of enemies, but less so when you're trying to pull it off in a pinch, like say, when an enemy is walking right next to you or is about to fall on you from the ledge above. The shake simply doesn't register fast enough in cases like those. (For the record, I've only tried the horizontal 'mote setup so far; maybe it'll work better with the nunchuck combo?) All the same, this is yet another one of those instances where it feels like motion controls were an unnecessary tack-on. Ground-pound? Fine. Blowing? Somewhat irksome, but I'll take it. But I see absolutely no reason why they couldn't have just designated rolling to the run button as usual.
But the biggest problem I have is with the new jet pack. Like most action-platformers that use the temporary float-in-midair mechanic (like Yoshi's Island and Peach in SMB2), the jet pack works by holding down the jump button. On its own, it works well enough -- but recall that DKC had always allowed for an extra jump boost by leaping on top of an enemy. In the SNES games, this was accomplished by simply HOLDING DOWN the jump button as you made contact. Now, it's like the Mario games, where you need to hit the jump button RIGHT AT THE POINT of contact. "The change couldn't be that bad," you'd think. But it is when you consider how the floating can seriously mess up your timing. It's just plain awkward holding down the jump to hover over an enemy, and then suddenly free fall so quickly, only to have to precariously time the jump button again to get that extra boost. It was the cause of a few unhappy deaths, and it's actually made me think twice about even getting Diddy to avoid the jet pack altogether. At least DKC2 had the sense to map Dixie's hair spin to run instead of jump.
Aside from that, the game so far is a great return to form. The level designs are terrific, with the Klonoa-esque foreground/background planes allowing for some nice set pieces. Barrel blasting segments are, of course, back in full force, and the bosses are a throwback to the old pattern-based fights of yesteryear. The game's overall challenge lies somewhere between DKC1 and DKC2. The length of the stages feel more akin to DKC1's; nowhere near as long (or as difficult) as DKC2's were.
The music's a mixed bag. While the many DKC1 arrangements on display are excellent, the newly composed stuff is tepid, forgettable, and entirely throwaway. It's a horrifying contrast. I saw World 2, which is pirate-themed, to be a missed opportunity. Would have been awesome to see a couple of pieces pop up from DKC2.