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CONSOLE: NES DEVELOPER: Nintendo PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 1985 GENRE: Edutainment
// review by SoyBomb

You do the monkey math.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, folks. I'm just going to say it flat outright: Donkey Kong did NOT need to be subject to the unfortunate calling of edutainment. This follows the same sickly path that the Super Mario series took with games like "Mario Is Missing!" and "Mario's Time Machine", both educational games which wouldn't be missed if they were suddenly wiped off the earth with a godly facecloth. However, this game was released before the Super Mario series really took off to its eventual stardom, so in essence, this game serves as a predecessor for future Mario edutainment wares. The only big difference is that while the Mario edutainment games were NOT developed by Nintendo, Donkey Kong Jr. Math WAS. Bad Nintendo! Bad! Stop making us think while playing our Donkey Kong games!

So here's the root of the game (and no, I was not going for a math joke there). You take the role of Donkey Kong Jr.; your father, the great Donkey Kong, gives you a series of math questions, and it's up to you to figure out the correct answers. Otherwise, um... your fuzzy father will be pissed off because he has to hire a math tutor for his banana-brained son. There are three different modes of play here, although two of them are so similar, perhaps it's not even worth listing both of them on the title screen. "Calculate A" basically pits you against a friend -- yes, it's a two-player game, although if you don't have a second player, the second character just sits there looking smiley and serene to the extreme -- in a race to utilize the various numbers and the arithmetic signs on screen to add, subtract, multiply, or divide numbers until you reach the required answer. (Example: 74 = 9 x 7 + 8 + 3) I doubt you'll really need the division sign too much here. "Calculate B" is similar, except you start at a different number than zero when figuring out your answer. "+-×÷ Exercise", the last zanily-named option, has a different game, but it's for advanced mathematics buffs only! It's an unusual math game where you have to climb chains to put the correct numbers in sequence by climbing each chain underneath where each number should be. Climbing higher raises the number, from zero to nine. Honestly, it's a confusing system at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll only be mildly confused. It's good practice for more advanced math questions, such as multiplying four-digit numbers by four-digit numbers. This is not a mode for the seven-year-old NES players. Overall, this is not an entertaining charade -- although the game controls well enough (as most early Donkey Kong games tended to), the variety is so minimal that you may start disliking Donkey Kong Jr., not to mention math!

That's pretty much the entire meat of the game. There are no hidden extras to be found; this game plays more as a novelty than something entertaining (or worth what some carefree parents spent). The graphics are certainly first-generation, as the game was actually released in 1983 (as "Donkey Kong Jr. no Sansuu Asobi", no less), and features the same graphics as Donkey Kong Jr., only with some changes to accommodate, y'know, the math. Much of the music and sound and ripped directly from Donkey Kong Jr. for the NES (and when I say 'much', I mean 'most'). Only the title screen theme song seems to be newly-composed. The sound effects are exactly the same as well -- squeaky sounds for pretty much everything that happens. Why does climbing chains sound like you're dancing on a freshly waxed smooth surface? Nobody knows. Donkey Kong Jr. Math is also renowned for introducing a brand new character that will never be seen again:

There's Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and... whom? Here's an interesting hypothesis: that could be the young version of Candy Kong, who would later appear in other Donkey Kong games to provide a Save Barrel (for saving one's game in Donkey Kong Country), or as an instrument salesman in Donkey Kong 64. That might explain the more rosey complexion, but it's still anyone's guess. Usually, this character tends to do very little unless you have a bodacious buddy willing to play a MATH game with you during their precious spare time. Prepare to be stared at by this stationary fellow.

There really isn't much else to say about a game that does so little. It has been released on the Wii's Virtual Console in all markets except for North America, but I have no idea why anyone would buy an old OLD edutainment game and waste their precious Wii points (unless you are an EXTREME fan of Donkey Kong). Unless you see it for free, you may want to pass up the opportunity to snag this; it is only suited for children trying to learn math with the aid of an ape wearing a shirt. Take a crack at some simple math operations on paper instead -- it's just as amusing.


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