Fifteen years ago, Nintendo blew our minds with the Donkey KongCountry series. Prerendered graphics brought out some of the best-looking gameson the Super Nintendo, and incredibly clever level design offered some of thebest gameplay this side of anything with “Mario” in the title.The last Donkey Kong Country game came out in 1999, andsince then gaming’s most famous ape has been restricted to playing drums, kartracing, rhythmic vine-climbing, and brawling. Now, in 2010, Donkey Kong Countryis back with Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Nintendo Wii.The game looks and plays just like the Donkey Kong Countrygames of yore. You play Donkey Kong and his buddy Diddy, jumping, rolling, andthrowing barrels across a tropical island in a quest to recover your preciousstash of bananas. Of course, that’s not all you do. You fight various bosses,solve puzzles, collect banana coins, jigsaw puzzles, and the letters K, O, N,and G to unlock different things in the game, and generally find many, manyexcuses to play through the game’s several dozen states several times over.Donkey Kong Country Returns is fun. It’s also hard.Painfully, frustratingly, controller-throwingly hard. It’s safe to say you’regoing to die many times in this game. It doesn’t ever feel unfair, though; justvery, very challenging. Every time you fall in a pit, or onto some spikes, orinto an enemy’s path, you can be certain it was a matter of your own timing andcontrols, and not the game’s glitches. That won’t soften the frustration whenyou die for the 20th time trying to get that elusive jigsaw puzzlepiece, though.You might occasionally waggle and shake the Wiimote toperform certain moves, but otherwise Donkey Kong Country Returns feels justlike the old Donkey Kong Country games, and that’s a very good thing. It’sdeceptively simple, remarkably challenging, and incredibly polished, and aworthy purchase for any fan of old-school side-scrolling Nintendo action.