I'd first heard about a new Donkey Kong Country game, made by Retro Studios, via the rumor mill mere hours before Nintendo's press conference. Despite this, it was still a bit of a shock to see the game's trailer right there in living color.

Honestly, I'm not a fan of the Donkey Kong character, but I did enjoy the original Country titles (with 2 being the best one and 3 utter rubbish). This is also Retro at the helm now, maker of my favorite game trilogy. There was no question that once I hit the show floor, Donkey Kong Country Returns would be one of my stops.

It brings a smile to my face to see 2D games enjoying a bit of a revival on consoles lately. Last year supplied me with Muramasa and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Now, I have Kirby and Donkey Kong bringing the love. Donkey Kong Country Returns seems to be aiming straight at capturing the classic look and feel of the SNES trilogy and I'd say Retro's nailed it. The visual style maintains that lush, colorful, almost clay model-like visual design of the Country series, minus the poorly-aged pre-rendered sprites.

The action plays out on a 2D plane with plenty of enemies and obstacles to maneuver around. Donkey Kong is the default character in single player, but Diddy can be added as a tag-along if he's released from a barrel. In addition to bouncing off baddies' heads to defeat them, Donkey Kong and his monkey sidekick had quite a few moves. Donkey Kong's ground slap (shake the remote), which most people probably remember from Super Smash Bros., is useful for pressing down switches to open doors (Diddy fires his pop guns at the ground for the same affect). Shaking the remote while running results in a fast somersault roll.

Both characters seem to have a similar move set, but Diddy is also equipped with a jet pack for limited hovering. In single player, Diddy will ride Donkey Kong's shoulders and thus make this hover available. While I watched other people play the demo, I know I saw the characters also crouch down and blow a puff of air. I don't know if this is a regular move or situational, but I didn't find a way to do it when I played.

The levels in DKCR are loaded with things to interact with and collect. Floating barrels act as cannons, platforms move, and a page is even taken from Paper Mario by having the characters find ways to move into the background scenery, no doubt to find hidden jigsaw pieces or K-O-N-G letters. This will definitely be a game to play while fully alert, because secrets abound. The only thing I didn't see were ridable animal buddies, but I didn't play every level of the demo.

Not everything in the demo showed off a pure return to old school form; Retro has also added in two player cooperative play. A second person can take control of Diddy and join in on the big ape's adventure. If one character is scrolled off the screen, he'll be encased in a barrel and float towards the other character to be tagged back in a la New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is currently set for a release late this year and promises to be a colorful, boisterous, hop-and-bop adventure. While it seeks to recapture the classic feel of the Country games, I have high expectations of Retro, one of my favorite developers, to bring more to the table. I anticipate their take on Rare's old design to surpass its predecessors. C'mon, Retro, set a new gold standard for the old primate pair.