My latest article is up on PopMatters, Double Trouble: Flawed Multiplayer in Donkey Kong Country Returns.
A few weeks ago I named Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as one of my favorite games of 2010, primarily because of its excellent cooperative mode. For its benefit, it is not a platformer, which I have now decided do not lend themselves well to multiplayer experiences. That isn't to say it can't be done. Rather, it just becomes more difficult to ensure each player has an entertaining experience given the limitations of a two dimensional scrolling world. In fact, one of the reasons LittleBigPlanet can pull off cooperative play so well is its three layers of depth.
I briefly knock New Super Mario Bros. Wii in the article, which I hope draws Scott's attention. We have had conversations in the past regarding NSMB's difficulty spikes and how they affect multiplayer gameplay. As I see it, Nintendo fails every time someone feels they might as well not play and allow just one person to overcome a challenge. Players can counteract this by being good gaming diplomats, but the problem still stands.
Multiplayer aside, DKCR is a simple, albeit quite difficult, pleasure. The game could not be more appropriately titled, it as reminiscent of its predecessor as they come. So much so in fact, that the game feels too 'humdrum' to care about for long. PopMatters reviewer Arun rightly mourns no longer having the ability to switch between playing as Diddy instead of DK. I cannot help but wonder what sort of interesting mechanics Nintendo could have come up with had they not adhered so closely to the formula, regardless of how proven it is.