Donkey Kong is one of the first examples of the popular platform game genre, and its just as playable now as it was when it first appeared in the arcades back in 1981. It is also a bit of a landmark in videogame history because it was also the first of many adventures for Nintendo mascot Mario, although in typical Japanese style he was originally called Jumpman! His name may have been different, but the player character certainly looked like Mario, and given that Donkey Kong was created by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, its pretty safe to say that it was Mario to all intents and purposes.
The aim of the game is to rescue damsel in distress Pauline (nope, it wasn’t Princess Peach, Mario had yet to become an inhabitant of the Mushroom Kingdom at this point) who had been kidnapped by Donkey Kong, a giant ape in the style of King Kong. Donkey Kong got his name thanks to a Japanese to English dictionary. A word meaning stubborn was required, and donkey was the suggestion, presumably in relation to the phrase “stubborn as a mule”. Mario’s, sorry, Jumpman’s task was to try and rescue Pauline by getting from the bottom of the screen to the top, running along girders, jumping and climbing ladders.
The game was split into four distinct levels, the first of which involved running up a set of girders joined by ladders. To try and stop you Donkey Kong was hurling barrels down the screen, which could either be jumped over or smashed with a hammer. The problem with the hammer was you couldn’t climb ladders whilst holding it, so I always used to ignore it. Reaching the top before the timer ran out completed the level, but Kong would grab Pauline and head up higher.
The next level consisted of some conveyor belts with custard pies moving along them, that you again had to jump over. The belts changed direction occasionally, so you had to be careful in case you were dropped into the flaming barrel that was in the centre of the screen. The third level added lifts to the mix, and you had to avoid some fireballs that moved around randomly. Kong was also throwing girders down the screen at you.
The final level allowed you to defeat Donkey Kong by making the girders topple down, trapping him in the middle. To do this you had to remove rivets holding the level together by jumping over them, avoiding more fireballs at the same time. Of course, this being an old school videogame, the game was never truly completed after all that, and you were sent back to the beginning of the game to try again with an increased difficulty level, and new features such as ladders that moved up and down to create gaps that you couldn’t climb over.
The game also allowed you to increase your score by collecting gifts for the lovely Pauline such as hats, umbrellas and handbags (all favourite items of women everywhere – well maybe not umbrellas) but since you got a bonus for completing the level quickly it was often best to forget about collecting these completely.
From these humble beginnings Mario has obviously progressed to star in a great many other games, and so has Donkey Kong for that matter as well. Both characters feature in games such as the Mario Kart, Mario Party and Super Smash Brothers series, as well as in their own games.