The first time I saw the Game & Watch was during the early ’80s when I was in Grade 6. But it was when I was in first year high school (equivalent to Grade 7 today) that I got my own Nintendo Game & Watch. It was also about this time when Donkey Kong, a multi-screen Game & Watch was released.
I don’t have any idea that this game was originally an arcade game. According to a source, the gameplay of this Game & Watch version is the first stage of the arcade version.
The unit comes in orange frame with a gold tin plate on its cover. The logo of Nintendo Game & Watch, the name Donkey Kong, and the word multi screen are printed on the gold tin plate.
Once you open the unit, it will show two screens. All the buttons are on the bottom screen. There are 3 buttons on the upper right: Game A, Game B, and Time. Beside these three buttons are two small depressions which you need to push with a pointed object like a pen. One is for you to set the alarm and the other is the reset button (ACL).
On the lower left side is the controller button which you use to move up, down, left, or right. On the opposite side is the jump button. This is the first video game system to feature this kind of game pad which becomes characteristic of future Nintendo gaming systems.
It operates on two pieces of LR44 button cell batteries that we usually use for calculators, watches, penlights, and laser pointers. Depending on how much you use the unit, the batteries last for months.
The player controls Mario throughout the game. Mario has to climb up to reach Donkey Kong at the top in order to rescue the woman the ape keeps hostage which is almost reminiscent of the ’70s movie King Kong.
Mario starts on the bottom and he has to climb his way through those girders and ladders. Donkey Kong, throws barrels down on Mario which the latter should avoid by jumping over. For every successful jump, Mario gets 1 point on the first girder, and 2 points on the second.
Aside from the rolling barrels, the moving steel frames on the second girder are additional distractions Mario has to avoid. You only have 3 lives to play the game or else it’s over.
Upon reaching the top landing, Mario has to turn on the switch to make the crane hook swing. Then he has to jump to catch the hook so he could remove one of the wires supporting the girder where Donkey Kong stands. Depending on how fast you reach the top, you get 5 to 20 points for every wire you remove.
After successfully removing all four wires, the girder will crash and Donkey Kong falls. You receive a bonus of 20 points and you’ll see hearts coming from the woman.
When you reach every 300 points, you gain 1 life back if ever you missed during the round. But if you’re free of misses, you get a chance to double up your points for the next 60 seconds.
There are times when the game moves too fast, especially when you’re about to reach a hundredth mark. You’ll know it because you’ll hear the sound go fast as well.
Once you reached the highest possible points of 999, it reverts back to 0 but the game still continues.
There is nothing much different between Game A and B. Game B is a little bit faster than Game A, that’s all.
When an alarm is set and the time comes, a mini Donkey Kong appears and starts ringing the bell. If you’re not playing, the unit will start making an alarm sound. But if you’re playing, you’ll see the mini Donkey Kong shaking the bell.
Since this is one of the early video games, it tests the hand and eye coordination. To succeed in this game, you just need to take your time and have that kind of good timing. Just be patient, and don’t rush.
However, just like other Game & Watch units, this game does not have a pause button. So if you’re interrupted, or would like to pause, you don’t have a choice but to miss and let the game be over.
Compared to my Game & Watch Snoopy Tennis, I find Donkey Kong more exciting and engaging. Maybe because it has two screens and the game play is not too boring.
Or maybe it’s the competitive side of me that wants to beat my previous record and the desire to finish the game.